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The Real Estate Code of Ethics (Must-read for Realtors)

by Tan Tason
Real Estate Code of Ethics

The real estate Code of Ethics is an essential framework that guides real estate professionals in their commitment to ethical conduct, trustworthiness, and professionalism. At the heart of this code lies the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Code of Ethics, which outlines the expectations and responsibilities of realtors. Real estate professionals demonstrate their commitment to upholding the highest standards of ethics and transparency by following the rules outlined in this Code. The NAR Code of Ethics is an essential compass for the real estate industry. It emphasizes ethical principles such as fiduciary duty (actions taken in another person’s or entity’s best interests), professionalism, honesty, fairness, non-discrimination, confidentiality, and privacy. By following these principles, you can increase your clients’ trust, improve your professional standing, and, essentially, add to the legitimacy of the real estate industry. Understanding and embracing the Realtor Code of Ethics is essential for real estate professionals at all stages of their careers.

This article explains the fundamental principles of the NAR Code of Ethics and explores their impact on the real estate profession. Also, We’ll look into how ethical conduct helps create client relationships and a successful real estate business.

Table of Contents

What Is the Real Estate Code of Ethics: History and Purpose

The NAR Code of Ethics has a long history dating back to the founding of the National Association of Realtors. It was first adopted in 1913, making it one of the oldest codes of ethics in the real estate industry. Since its establishment, the Code has been refined and expanded to address the ethical challenges of real estate professionals, reflecting the changing world of real estate and increased professionalism expectations. It has been revised and updated according to societal shifts, legal developments, and the industry’s dynamic nature. The Code’s ongoing growth highlights the NAR’s commitment to maintaining the highest ethical standards in the real estate industry.

Objectives and goals of the Code

The NAR Code of Ethics serves many aims and goals that help to enhance ethical behavior in the real estate business. Its primary goal is to guarantee that realtors maintain honesty, professionalism, and fairness in their interactions with clients, customers, and colleagues. The Code protects the public’s interests and promotes clients’ best interests. It provides a framework for real estate professionals to act as trustees, putting their client’s needs before their own. Realtors that follow the Code commit to giving honest and dependable information, guaranteeing transparency throughout the real estate transaction.

Furthermore, the Code of Ethics promotes cooperation and collaboration among real estate professionals. It encourages fair and ethical competition while maintaining a professional and respectful environment. Realtors are expected to treat one another with respect, professionalism, and honesty to foster a pleasant atmosphere within the business.

Influence and impact on the real estate industry

The NAR Code of Ethics has significantly influenced the real estate industry. The Code’s influence extends beyond the behavior of individual realtors. It has affected legislative efforts linked to real estate ethics and formed industry practices and regulatory structures. The Code’s principles have become integral to professional training and education, emphasizing the importance of moral conduct in real estate practice. Additionally, the NAR Code of Ethics has helped resolve disputes and conflicts within the industry. It provides a framework for addressing ethical violations through established complaint procedures and disciplinary actions. By enforcing the Code, the NAR ensures accountability and upholds ethical standards, maintaining the integrity of the real estate profession.

Realtor Code of Ethics Preamble (Prologue)

The Realtor Code of Ethics preamble sets the foundation for ethical conduct expected of real estate professionals. It emphasizes the role of realtors in promoting public interests, preserving property rights, and protecting clients and customers from fraud and misrepresentation. The Preamble highlights the importance of professionalism, integrity, cooperation, and mutual respect between real estate professionals. Realtors display their commitment to ethical conduct by adhering to the values described in the Preamble, boosting their credibility and contributing to the excellent reputation of the real estate profession.

Who Enforces the Code of Ethics in Real Estate?

The real estate Code of Ethics is enforced by the professional associations and boards that have adopted it, such as the National Association of Realtors (NAR) in the United States. These associations have established procedures and policies to enforce the Code and address potential violations. The association or board initiates an investigation when a complaint is filed against a real estate professional for alleged violations of the Code of Ethics. This investigation typically involves gathering relevant evidence and testimonies from the parties involved. The association may have a selected ethics committee or a similar body that oversees the investigation and judges the case. If the ethics committee finds that a violation of the Code has occurred, disciplinary actions can be imposed. These actions may include reprimands, fines, mandatory education or training, and, more severe cases, suspension or termination of membership. The specific disciplinary procedures will differ based on the association and the degree of the violation. Notably, the Code of Ethics operates within the context of professional standards and ethics, as opposed to legal regulations. While the associations and boards enforce the Code, legal matters and violations are typically addressed through legal channels and government agencies.

What Is Included in the NAR Real Estate Code of Ethics?

The NAR (National Association of Realtors) Code of Ethics is a comprehensive set of guidelines that outlines the ethical standards and responsibilities expected of real estate professionals who are members of the NAR. The Code consists of seventeen articles that cover a wide range of topics and principles. Here are some critical components of the NAR Code of Ethics:

Duties to clients and customers

The Code emphasizes the realtor’s fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of their clients, provide competent and honest service, and maintain confidentiality.
Duties to the public: Realtors must promote and protect the interests of the public, avoid misrepresentation, and provide accurate and truthful advertising.

Duties to other realtors

The Code promotes cooperation and fairness among realtors, encouraging them to treat fellow professionals respectfully and avoid engaging in unethical practices that could harm their colleagues.

Duties to clients and customers Duties to the public Duties to realtors
Article 1: Protect the best interests of the client Article 10: No denying services based on Discrimination Article 15: No false or misleading statements about other Realtors
Article 2: No misrepresentation, exaggeration, or hiding of facts Article 11: Provide competent services within the scope Article 16: Don’t solicit clients with the exclusive listing agreement
Article 3: Cooperate with other Realtors Article 12: No false or misleading advertising Article 17: Contractual disputes mediated/arbitrated by the board
Article 4-5: Disclose personal interest in a property Article 13: Follow the law in real estate activities
Article 6-7: No kickbacks or undisclosed financial arrangements Article 14: Cooperate with the board’s investigative proceedings
Article 8: Keep client funds separate
Article 9: Present transaction documents in understandable terms

Principles of the Realtor Code of Ethics

These principles guide real estate professionals to ensure ethical conduct. Explanation of principles:
Principles Explanation
Fiduciary duty Act in the best interests of clients, avoiding conflicts of interest.
Professionalism and competence Maintain high professionalism, continuous education, and provide accurate information.
Honesty and integrity Be truthful and transparent, and avoid misrepresentation or misleading statements.
Fairness and non-discrimination Treat all parties fairly, and avoid discrimination based on protected characteristics.
Confidentiality and privacy Safeguard client information, obtain consent before disclosing, and maintain confidentiality.

Violations of the Code of Ethics

Violations can vary in severity and may result in disciplinary actions. Here are some common examples of Code of Ethics violations:


This occurs when a realtor provides false or misleading information about a property, transaction, or market conditions. Misrepresentation undermines trust and can harm clients or customers.


Discrimination based on protected characteristics, such as race, religion, gender, or disability, is a severe violation of the Code of Ethics. Realtors must provide equal services and opportunities to all individuals.

Breach of fiduciary duty

Failing to act in clients’ best interests or prioritizing personal interests over clients’ needs is a breach of the fiduciary duty. Realtors must always act in the utmost good faith and loyalty towards their clients.

Failure to disclose

Realtors must disclose all relevant information about a property or transaction to their clients. Failure to disclose material facts can mislead clients and may be considered a violation of the Code.

Unfair advertising practices

Violations may occur when realtors engage in false or deceptive advertising, exaggerate property features, or make unsubstantiated claims. All advertising must be accurate and truthful.

Breaking of confidentiality

Sharing client information without authorization or failing to maintain confidentiality can violate the Code. Realtors must protect client confidentiality even after the client relationship ends.

Violations of the Code of Ethics are investigated by the professional association or board responsible for enforcement. Realtors should be familiar with the Code and uphold its principles to protect client interests and maintain industry integrity. Ethical conduct contributes to the professionalism of the real estate industry.

Ethical violations in the real estate industry can sometimes happen unintentionally or due to a lack of awareness. In such cases, the official board hearing can be an educational opportunity. However, depending on the seriousness of the violation, the following consequences may be imposed:

  • Loss of board or association membership
  • Suspension from the board or association for a specified period
  • Imposition of fines, which can range up to $15,000
  • Directives to refrain from or cease certain conduct
  • Mandatory attendance at seminars or courses
  • Receipt of letters of reprimand or warning


The real estate Code of Ethics is a crucial framework that guides ethical behavior in the real estate industry. It establishes clear expectations for professionals to prioritize client interests and maintain professionalism, honesty, fairness, and confidentiality. Adhering to the Code helps build client trust and upholds the industry’s integrity. Violations can lead to severe consequences such as membership loss, fines, suspension, and mandatory education. Embracing ethical practices contributes to a reputable industry that benefits clients and the wider community.


Real estate professionals can ensure compliance by familiarizing themselves with the Code, staying updated on revisions or amendments, and integrating the principles into daily practice. Regular training and education can help professionals stay informed about ethical standards and best practices.
While the Code of Ethics is not a legally binding document in the strictest sense, it is an enforceable set of standards within the framework of the professional association or board. Violations can lead to disciplinary actions and potential consequences for the real estate professional’s membership.
Real estate agents, not professional association members, may not be bound by that association’s specific Code of Ethics. However, they are still expected to adhere to legal and ethical standards as required by applicable laws and regulations in their jurisdiction.

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