Lessons & Ramblings of a Veteran Real Estate Broker
I have been heavily invested intellectually in the Real Estate Industry for over 48 years, having had a Real Estate Broker’s License in New Jersey for several years in NJ, in the early to mid 70’s, and since then, a Broker’s License in Florida since the late 70’s, to the present time. The evolution of the Business world in this Country has brought so many great changes and advancements throughout those years, but unfortunately, with it came corruption, greed, gouging, and a tremendous overall deviation from integrity, honor, and fair play.
It is interesting that I have witnessed over my career such dramatic change, both in the electronic age, computers and massive intellectual information storage, and in the industry with such wonderful advancements in construction materials, engineering, infrastructure improvements, financing methods and new vehicles to increase the amounts of funding available to develop our land and create housing that is available to a large segment of our population. Creative financing alternatives have been designed to address the affordability of America’s dream, home ownership. Great things have been done to provide homes to those who need but cannot afford down payments and carry costs. My 48 years in this industry has spanned numerous recessions and international changes in investment strategies, a much “smaller” world and significant challenges in managing it all.
One of the biggest disappointments that I have witnessed in our industry is the downfall of Individual and Corporate Integrity. We all know what integrity is and where it comes from within us. A sense of moral correctness was always a basic requirement for our lives as we emerged from World War II. We had defeated the Great Evil in the World and settled in to a path of building lives, building homes for those lives, and directing our public officials to do good for the World, create jobs for our residents, safety to our roads and vehicles, ingenuity to our machines, communication devices and our research capabilities.
However, somewhere along the way, we lost our sense of what is truly right and wrong, our Moral Compass if you will. As the financial opportunities became more accessible to all of us, it became apparent that too many of our constituents would prove out the adage that “almost everyone is a thief, just depending on how much money is involved, to be gained”. It is a sad story, one which will be plaguing us for many years to come.
As a real estate instructor for the South Florida Real Estate Schools, my mission is to educate our industry participants on all of the ways in which we can lose our license and nullify our ability to work in this industry. It is fascinating to me that it is so necessary to remind our constituents of the meaning of INTEGRITY. It seems so simple to address that subject, but so complex to understand why this is such a basic requirement of our licensing laws.
While I am not a religious individual, I am very spiritual and do believe that it is the responsibility of each of us to police our industry and to always strive to treat people with respect and honesty; to use our creativity and knowledge to do good things and do business ethically. I am amazed at the stories that I hear and the behavior that I witness of people behaving so badly, with no remorse, or sincere excuses for their bad behavior. The financial numbers that we now deal with have escalated to big amounts of money and make the temptation to deceive, misappropriate, cheat and steal so inviting that people truly believe that it is “ok” to do so.
There is no excuse for this bad behavior. Integrity should be constant and not be challenged by the amounts of money involved, but examples of cheating and lying in our industry are everywhere. And, our politicians are leading the way with obvious misdeeds, biased behavior, misdirected ambition and lying to anyone for the purpose of advancing their own agendas.
The Florida Real Estate laws were created to fight the extreme “wild west” mentality of selling real estate in Florida. “Buyer Beware”, “Caveat Emptor” behavior has been attacked by laws requiring FULL DISCLOSURE and a professionalism to be attached to our licensees. We strive to make sure that all of our industry professionals conduct themselves and their businesses with an understanding of our responsibilities to the unknowing public. Yet, the deceptions continue because money will corrupt if we are not fully aware of consequences and punishments.
There are too many distractions to challenge our levels of integrity and a stressful world that emphasizes the glory of having lots of money over the gratification that we made our money lawfully and honestly. We have to teach “Ethics” to our industry, making it a requirement every two years to take a mandatory Ethics Course to re-establish our understanding of what is “right and wrong”, something that in my youth was inherent in all of us. This is something that our parents, educators and religious leaders used to drill into us. Missing today is the innate feeling of a Moral Code to guide us in our everyday experiences. Sad!
We must not give up on this attitude to attempt to rid our industry and our government of activities that border on illegal, unethical, and immoral behavior. I constantly preach in my classes: “if it appears to be wrong” it probably is and you should avoid that behavior. If we all work toward that end, we may be able to stem the tide and move our industry to a better place. It is everyone’s responsibility to report bad behavior and personally police our industry. Otherwise, chaos will prevail and people will get hurt. We must strive to be honorable and show the buying public that we care and want to do business ethically and honorably.