Saturday, April 30, 2011

421. Twelve Golden Rules

Friday, April 29, 20911
REAL ESTATE AGENCY (REA) PAPER 3. Real Estate Agency Practice & Regulations
Ethics & Client Care

I remembered this lecture more than the 12 Golden Rules of the CEA (Council for Estate Agencies). The lecturer was showing a power point presentation slide to illustrate Rule No. 8 which is Ethics & Client Care - Advertisement.

The slide showed two advertisements of an agent before and one week after the CEA was formed. The advertisement showed the agent's photo on the left and her viewings of the HDB flat.

The lecturer said: "This is a top agent. Every 15 minutes from 5pm to 7.15pm, she had an apartment for sale viewing. There were 10 viewings every 15 minutes on one Saturday afternoon."

The mature students would have been exhausted by this 3-hour-long lecture of power point slides and after slides did not comment. 7 Golden Rules had been preached and must be memorised for the dreaded examinations. We had several housing and property rules to remember too.

To lighten the solemn mood, I asked: "Is she good-looking?". What I meant to communicate to the class was that this was a well posed professionally taken photograph (angle of body slightly tilted unlike most agents' face-direct photography), long hair to below the shoulders and a comely smile.

"What do you mean," the lecturer turned and looked at me with atomic eyes that could annihilate me. "I am already so old! She can be my daughter!"

I was shocked at his response. Had I implied that he was having some hanky panky? Or was there a clash of cultures, he being nearly 7 decades old and deadly serious in affairs of the heart?

I kept silent but it seemed the classmates paid more attention.

The lecturer said: "See the heading of the first advertisement. It says 'XXX International Top All Around No. 1 Achiever For Year 2009 - XXX USA.'"

We focus on this impressive claim. In the second advertisement one week later, the heading was not presented. What was the reason? I checked my lecture notes of Estate Agency Act & Practice, Ethics & Client Care, 8/12 Rule:

CEA Regulation of Rule 8:
"ALL FORMS of an advertisement must be supported by proof".

Then the lecturer pointed to the bottom of the first advertisement which stated:
"Senior Marketing Director" and then to the second advertisement which stated: "Senior Team Director". Why?

CEA Regulation of Rule 8:
ALL FORMS of an advertisement must be supported by proof
If necessary, VETTED/APPROVED by the Estate Agent.
I would infer that the Estate Agent did not now approve of the position of "Senior Marketing Director".

The 3rd change he showed was "Just Sold by ..." in the first advertisement was replaced by "My Achievement for the Year 2010". Why?

CEA Regulation of Rule 8:
All advertisements to be REMOVED if withdrawn/sold/rented e.g. website. The lecturer's notes did not give newspapers as an example but this type of trumpet-blowing advertisements of past properties that had been sold had been a common practice by the more successful agents.

Going into more details as I write this report to attempt to retain some knowledge for the exam, there is another CEA Regulation of Rule 8 which states:
Advertising/Promotion/Letter MATERIALS must have
1. Name/Contact number same as in the CEA Register
2. Registration/Licence NUMBERS
3. If necessary VETTED/APPROVED by estate agent.

The 2nd advertisement did not show the Registration/Licence Numbers. So, is the R and L numbers compulsory in every advertisement?

If we cannot remember all the 12 Golden Rules, I hope my classmates can at least remember Rule No. 8 due to the reaction of the serious lecturer who would be their father for many of them, due to the age gap.

To summarise for my revision for the May 2011 exam, here are the 12 Golden Rules:

1. Knowledge of and compliance with applicable laws, practice, circulars and guidelines (laws of agency, contract, tort).
2. Due diligence and compliance with law and statutory requirements.
3. General duty to clients and public (mislead, misrepresent, lack of integrity and honesty, unethical practices).
4. Not to bring discredit or disrepute to real estate industry (I will write on an case of touting in a lawyer setting up a real estate referral company, as reported recently in the Straits Times)
5. Duty to clients in relation to signing of documents (explain meaning and consequences, seek professional advice).
6. Obligations in respect of agreements (all in writing, no blank spaces and accurate recording).
7. Conveying offers, counter offers etc. (Counter offer is not legally an offer or part of a contract).
8. Advertisement
9. Interpretation or translation if necessary (record interpreted by...).
10. Duty to avoid conflict of interests
11. Recommending professional advice where appropriate.
12. Safeguarding confidential information (e.g. distress sales).

Many of the rules of ethics and client care can be applied to the veterinary practices too. For the real estate agent, he or she must be careful of mis-communication between clients and agent (all relevant contracts and services to be in writing- Rule 6). In particular, regarding Rule No.8, there should be no misleading advertisements (property not accurately described), misrepresentation (impersonating as buyer in flyers and newspapers) or advertise without proof (e.g. claiming to be a HDB specialist).

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