REALTORS® code of ethics ensures they do the right thing

By Geoff Kirbyson

When in doubt, disclose.

That’s the business mantra of Catherine Schellenberg, president-elect of WinnipegREALTORS®.

If she’s ever not sure whether to tell a would-be buyer something about a property they’re looking at — even if it means it might scare them off — she doesn’t hesitate to spill the beans.

For example, if she has been told that the person who lives across the street from a house she is showing recently got out of jail, she’ll do some sleuthing to verify it, and tell her client what, if anything, she discovered.

Or if there used to be a grow-op next door and the owner gets lots of traffic at all hours of the day, that’s the kind of thing a young family would like to know.

“If there are possible legal implications, disclose it,” she said.

For example, there was a case in Eastern Canada where one resident in a particular neighbourhood was bi-polar and used to run down the street completely naked on a regular basis. This wasn’t disclosed to one of his new neighbours who was naturally shocked when they saw it. They were even more shocked when other neighbours shrugged it off saying it had been going on for years.

The REALTOR® who failed to disclose this pertinant information took a gigantic hit to their reputation, costing them more than a financial hit in the long run.

(The moral of the story? Don’t ignore the naked truth, it could cost you the shirt off your back and possibly blow your pants off and knock your socks off.)

Every REALTOR® in Canada is supposed to abide by the industry’s code of ethics. ( The vast majority do, but the select few who break or bend the rules ruin it for everybody else because those instances tend to end up in the local newspaper.

Schellenberg recommends every new REALTOR® familiarize themselves with them not just for themselves, but for all of their colleagues in the industry.

“Everybody is self-employed and we’re all running very similar businesses. We need that guide in place and available to us to ensure we’re all doing what we’re supposed to do, which is run an ethically-sound business. Ethics is what you do when nobody is looking,” she said.

Even though a negative headline can knock REALTORS® down a peg in the eyes of consumers, some good can come of it as any indiscretion can be a signal to governing bodies that changes are needed, she said.

Schellenberg said a good rule of thumb is to treat every client as if they were your best friend or a close relative.

“Then you’ll do the right thing,” she said.

There’s another pay off, of course, and that’s ethical REALTORS® invariably lead the way in word-of-mouth referrals.

“(Those clients) are going to be your biggest voice going forward, they’re the biggest supporters of your business,” she said.

If you’re still unsure of whether a particular piece of information should be disclosed to a potential buyer, Schellenberg recommends searching out the opinion of another REALTOR® or an official at the Manitoba Real Estate Association.