Code of Ethics Pop Quiz: Duties to Clients and Customers

Ethics pop quiz 2

A friend asks for your help selling his family farm, stating he would like to work with someone he knows. You have never sold a property like this before, but you want to be there for your friend. Do you:

a.) Proceed with helping him sell the farm, researching best practices along the way.

b.) State that you don’t have the knowledge to help him sell that kind of property, but you will connect him with someone else who is experienced in that area.

c.) Tell your friend you can help, but that you need to bring in another REALTOR® who has more experience with these types of properties.


If you answered B, then you are correct!

The BEST thing you could do in this situation is to connect your friend with another REALTOR® who has knowledge of the area and type of home or property being sold. (Plus, it’s a great opportunity for a referral!) Although option C may be acceptable, it would be best to avoid any conflicts of interest and excuse yourself from the situation, especially since it’s outside your area of expertise. If you decide to work with another REALTOR®, be aware of your own biases and be sure to promote an equal working relationship between your client, yourself, and the other REALTOR® involved.

What does the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics say?
Article 11 states that REALTORS® shall not take on a listing that is outside their realm of understanding. You can take on listings outside of your scope only if you employ the help of someone more knowledgeable about the listing in question:

“REALTORS® shall not undertake to provide specialized professional services concerning a type of property or service that is outside their field of competence unless they engage the assistance of one who is competent on such types of property or service, or unless the facts are fully disclosed to the client. Any persons engaged to provide such assistance shall be so identified to the client and their contribution to the assignment should be set forth.”

Article 1 of the Code of Ethics also states that REALTORS® must act in the best interest of their clients and treat all other parties honestly. In this case, it is in the best interest of your client, and friend, to help them find an expert in this area. It is also important to inform any other party you bring on or decide to work with of your relationship with the client so they fully understand the situation before they agree to help:

“When representing a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant, or other client as an agent, REALTORS® pledge themselves to protect and promote the interests of their client. This obligation to the client is primary, but it does not relieve REALTORS® of their obligation to treat all parties honestly. When serving a buyer, seller, landlord, tenant or other party in a non-agency capacity, REALTORS® remain obligated to treat all parties honestly.”

Resources for Duty to Clients and Customers

NAR Code of Ethics

Code of Ethics Article 1

Code of Ethics Article 11