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REIA looks to tackle real estate ethics score head-on

The Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) has taken a proactive approach to the industry recently being perceived as the least ethical occupation, teaming up with the Governance Institute of Australia (GIA) to brainstorm ways to change the public’s views.

The REIA called in GIA Chief Executive Officer Megan Motto to address industry professionals in a live webinar today as a part of what it says will be a positive, collective push to elevate the standing of real estate agents in the community.

The webinar comes after the 2023 Governance Institute of Australia Ethics Index listed real estate as the least ethical occupation with a score of -19, based on a survey of 1000 people.

The real estate institute fared slightly better with a score of five.

Ms Motto said ethics was important as it is what allows humans to function as a seamless society.

“Ethics really is at the basis of all decision-making because it’s the backbone of what creates trust and trust creates transactions and relationships,” she said.

Ms Motto said there were a number of things the real estate industry could consider doing to improve the public perception of the industry.

She said transparency could be the key to easing several possible pain points the public may have and something as simple as having marketing photos of every room in a property, not just the best rooms, could assist.

“Could there be some industry standards about telling the whole truth, warts and all, and being a little bit more transparent,” Ms Motto said.

Ms Motto said more transparency around pricing properties for sale and helping the public understand the science behind things such as agents’ negotiation skills could potentially help change their perception as well.

Similarly, better educating prospective tenants about how property managers and landlords consider applications could create better transparency as well. 

Ms Motto said the ethics index had also uncovered that the public generally thought that people who get paid a lot of money, irrespective of what industry they work in, are more unethical. 

She said reality TV shows that showed agents driving in expensive cars didn’t help that image.

“It’s not helping because it goes to that, ‘It doesn’t matter how good you are, we think it’s unethical for you to get paid a lot and for us to not understand what it is that you’re doing to deserve that money’,” Ms Motto said.

“So perhaps some more transparency around salaries and commissions could be something that you might do to help yourself there.”

Ms Motto said it was also common for people to like and trust their personal real estate agent but to be more distrusting of the profession as a whole.

But she said individual agents could use their relationship with their clients to build the entire profession up in the eyes of the public.

“Think about how you can use the trust of that individual relationship to heighten trust in the industry as a whole,” she said. 

“(Say)’I’m not just ethical, actually I adhere to the code of ethics of the real estate industry through the Real Estate Institute of Australia, and here it is’ and attach it (the code of ethics) to the term sheet to show that the whole industry is ethical, not just you.”

Ms Motto pointed out that her suggestions were just that, but that agents, individually and collectively, did have the power to change public perception.

“You’ve got to band together because the rising tide lifts all boats,” she said.

REIA President Hayden Groves said the real estate industry had some fundamental challenges relating to how it is perceived but the clear aim was to work together to change public sentiment.

“If we want to improve and if we want to get ourselves from -19 to looking better, from a practitioner perspective, and building on our +5 from an institute perspective, I think if we’re looking to do both of those things, I think the transparency piece is really important about what it is we actually do, why we do it and how we do it,” he said.

“What things can we moderate and change in those processes collectively to improve the perception of what we do?”

Mr Groves said the institute would continue to devise ideas to help change public sentiment and to work with the GIA on that going forward.

“I don’t think we’re doomed to be at the bottom of the list forever,” he said.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.