Thirty-five years ago, a classmate of mine got kicked out of Naval Nuclear Power School. We were about two weeks from the end of the six month course and if you hadn’t flunked out by this time – the attrition rate was whopping 35% – you could feel pretty confident that you might actually reach that light at the end of the tunnel.
But this particular shipmate of mine wouldn’t make it, because he broke a rule and got caught. He was literally there one day and gone the next. I would never see him again.
The remaining students in my section questioned one of our instructors about it. The sailor that got bounced was the smartest guy in our group. Everybody liked him and the rule he broke was so minor as to be almost meaningless.
The Chief’s reply has never left me. He reminded us that nuclear power was crucial for the Navy submarine force and was under constant scrutiny ever since Three Mile Island. “The Navy has to be able to trust you,” he said. “And if we can’t trust you on little things that don’t matter, how can we possibly trust you on big things that do?”
Years later another mentor of mine would tell me, “Integrity isn’t something you can coach. People either have it or they don’t. It’s their choice.” And finally, good words from my mom: “Your integrity is one of the few things that no one can take away from you without your consent.”
All real estate agents voluntarily agree to adhere to a strict code of conduct, the basic rules of which are laid out in fine detail as part of the N.C. real estate licensing program, so when it comes to integrity, agents are very familiar with the terms “Misrepresentation” & “Omission”, as well as “Willful” & “Negligent”.
The former group describes what was done; the latter describes how it was done.
In a perfect world, this would be the end of the conversation. But the world isn’t perfect, and sometimes people give their consent for things that they shouldn’t. So, to continue:
“Willful Misrepresentation” essentially means I flat out lied to you – verbally or in writing – and I did it on purpose. “Willful Omission” takes the opposite tack; there is something that I am aware of that you should know too, but I’m not going to tell you what it is.
Both of these actions are a conscious choice. Both are done with the specific intent to deceive. And both can result in a real estate agent permanently losing their license.
The other class of deception is the negligent kind, or more specifically “Negligent Misrepresentation” and “Negligent Omission”. Like their willful counterparts, both of these also involve stating something that isn’t true or not stating something at all, with the difference being that they weren’t done on purpose, just in error.
On the surface that sounds a whole lot better, but if the road to hell truly is paved with good intentions, negligence makes for a fine sidewalk, because regardless of intent, the consequences of Misrepresentation and Omission – whether Willful or Negligent – are the same.
In other words, if a car drives onto the sidewalk and kills you, do you really care whether the driver did it on purpose or if it was a complete accident? Either way, you’re still dead.
So, when you’re choosing a real estate agent to work with, it’s important to get one that is both honest and competent. How do you do that?
Take your time. Shop around. Ask questions. Talk with past clients. Trust your gut. If you feel like nothing more than the latest transaction, you probably are.
Please let me know if you have any questions by calling 252-876-8267 or sending an email.
By Contribution Author, Blaine Staat, Weichert Realtors At Rivers Edge, 220 Front St., Suite A, New Bern