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Steer Clear of "Steering"
“Steering” is the practice of influencing a buyer’s choice of communities based upon one of the protected characteristics under the Fair Housing Act, which are race, color, religion, gender, disability, familial status, or national origin. Steering occurs, for example, when real estate agents do not tell buyers about available properties that meet their criteria, or express views about communities, with the purpose of directing buyers away from or towards certain neighborhoods due to their race or other protected characteristic. If a client requests a “nice,” “good,” or “safe” neighborhood, a real estate professional could unintentionally steer a client by excluding certain areas based on his or her own perceptions of what those terms means.

Despite being illegal under the Fair Housing Act, a recent investigation conducted by the newspaper Newsday has shown that steering continues to be pervasive. Newsday had real estate agents show properties to one white tester and one minority tester (either African American, Hispanic, or Asian) with similar housing needs and financial capabilities. The investigation revealed that in 24% of cases, the real estate agents directed the white tester into differing communities from the minority testers, suggesting evidence of steering.

The following best practices will help you steer clear of steering:
· Provide clients with listings based on their objective criteria alone.
· When a client uses vague terms such as “nice,” “good,” or “safe,” ask impartial questions to clarify their criteria, such as property features and price point.
· Only communicate objective information about neighborhoods and direct clients to third-party sources with neighborhood-specific information.
· Learn to pay attention to your unconscious biases. When evaluating what a client objectively wants, ask yourself why you have eliminated certain areas, if you have.
Pathways to Professionalism
While the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice of the National Association establishes objective, enforceable ethical standards governing the professional conduct of REALTORS®, it does not address issues of courtesy or etiquette.

Based on input from many sources, the Professional Conduct Working Group of the Professional Standards Committee developed the following list of professional courtesies for use by REALTORS® on a voluntary basis.

Respect for the Public
1.       Follow the "Golden Rule”: Do unto other as you would have them do unto you.
2.     Respond promptly to inquiries and requests for information.
3.      Schedule appointments and showings as far in advance as possible.
4.     Call if you are delayed or must cancel an appointment or showing.
5.      If a prospective buyer decides not to view an occupied home, promptly explain the situation to the listing broker or the occupant.
6.     Communicate with all parties in a timely fashion.
7.     When entering a property ensure that unexpected situations, such as pets, are handled appropriately.
8.     Leave your business card if not prohibited by local rules.
9.     Never criticize property in the presence of the occupant.
10.  Inform occupants that you are leaving after showings.
11.    When showing an occupied home, always ring the doorbell or knock—and announce yourself loudly before entering. Knock and announce yourself loudly before entering any closed room.
12.  Present a professional appearance at all times; dress appropriately and drive a clean car.
13.  If occupants are home during showings, ask their permission before using the telephone or bathroom.
14.  Encourage the clients of other brokers to direct questions to their agent or representative.
15.  Communicate clearly; don’t use jargon or slang that may not be readily understood.
16.  Be aware of and respect cultural differences.
17.  Show courtesy and respect to everyone.
18.  Be aware of—and meet—all deadlines.
19.  Promise only what you can deliver—and keep your promises.
20.        Identify your REALTOR® and your professional status in contacts with the public.
21.  Do not tell people what you think—tell them what you know.

Respect for Property
1.       Be responsible for everyone you allow to enter listed property.
2.     Never allow buyers to enter listed property unaccompanied.
3.      When showing property, keep all members of the group together.
4.     Never allow unaccompanied access to property without permission.
5.      Enter property only with permission even if you have a lockbox key or combination.
6.     When the occupant is absent, leave the property as you found it (lights, heating, cooling, drapes, etc.) If you think something is amiss (e.g. vandalism), contact the listing broker immediately.
7.     Be considerate of the seller's property. Do not allow anyone to eat, drink, smoke, dispose of trash, use bathing or sleeping facilities, or bring pets. Leave the house as you found it unless instructed otherwise.
8.     Use sidewalks; if weather is bad, take off shoes and boots inside property.
9.     Respect sellers’ instructions about photographing or videographing their properties’ interiors or exteriors.

Respect for Peers
1.       Identify your REALTOR® and professional status in all contacts with other REALTORS®.
2.     Respond to other agents' calls, faxes, and e-mails promptly and courteously.
3.      Be aware that large electronic files with attachments or lengthy faxes may be a burden on recipients.
4.     Notify the listing broker if there appears to be inaccurate information on the listing.
5.      Share important information about a property, including the presence of pets, security systems, and whether sellers will be present during the showing.
6.     Show courtesy, trust, and respect to other real estate professionals.
7.     Avoid the inappropriate use of endearments or other denigrating language.
8.     Do not prospect at other REALTORS®' open houses or similar events.
9.     Return keys promptly.
10.  Carefully replace keys in the lockbox after showings.
11.    To be successful in the business, mutual respect is essential.
12.  Real estate is a reputation business. What you do today may affect your reputation—and business—for years to come.
We hope you enjoyed the August 22 Issue of Ethics Exchange 2022 brought to you by the Greater Milwaukee Association of REALTORS® (GMAR). The GMAR created this newsletter, each issue dedicated to a unique issue, because the REALTOR® Code of Ethics, on which our industry is built, is the foundation of what it means to be a REALTOR®.
Your proactive support of the Code of Ethics will assure your fellow REALTORS®, as well as members of the public, that every member of GMAR operates under the highest ethical standards.
Questions, comments or concerns regarding this issue can be directed to
Scott Bush at the GMAR Office (414-778-4929 or [email protected]).