Real estate business

Why integrity is essential in the real estate industry (and everywhere else)

In real estate, facts are facts. As the country watched the drama unfold over the past week, first on Capitol Hill and now, perhaps, in state capitals across the country, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle (and members of the press) have made statements about the truth or lie from their point of view, while vilifying that of their opponents. In our job, we can’t do that.

As New York State Department licensed real estate agents, we need to know the difference between the truth and the lie. Pilotage laws and Fair Housing issues are not fundamentally fungible. When real estate agents decide which neighborhoods to promote based on skin color, religion or gender identification, it is against the law. It’s wrong. There are no “good people on both sides”.

Likewise, the Department of State monitors real estate agents to determine that the listings we place accurately describe the property we are listing for sale. We cannot describe the room we list as “the biggest apartment we have ever seen.” It’s HUGE ”if it’s actually only 500 square feet. We cannot describe an apartment as a four bedroom if two of those bedrooms have no windows – without windows they are not legal rooms.

The numbers don’t lie. If we are promoting a 2,000 square foot property as containing 3,000 square feet, that is not an alternate fact. This is simply not true, and the law does not allow us to do so. The methods for calculating square footage vary (most condos measure exterior wall to exterior wall, which results in significantly more square footage than just calculating interior space), but they vary reasonably. Many years ago, a New York-based company lost a lawsuit over this reason: a disgruntled buyer was able to prove that the real estate agent had inflated the square footage of the unit beyond a reasonable extent. Square feet, like inaugural crowds or election votes, can only be pushed up to a point.

Individual preferences and decision making play a central role in consumers’ choices regarding real estate and real estate agents. Buyers and sellers so often select their agents based on personal recommendations because they believe their friends and family will not deceive them about the professional offering the highest level of knowledge, the most in-depth understanding of local conditions. and the most honest reflection on the pros and cons of the different alternatives. These consumers depend on real estate agents to act as trustees, putting the interests of their clients before monetary or personal gain.

Opinions will always be a gray area and will slide along a spectrum; any agent who has worked with a buyer whose final purchase bears little resemblance to their original criteria knows this. The facts are different. In our business, like in most businesses, we need to be able to trust what others are saying – and what others need us to do. We must believe that their business interactions with us are carried out in good faith and that their statements are truthful. Words matter, and in business, as in the rest of our lives, we need to use them with care. Nothing can change the importance of always taking the correct and honest action.


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