The 1913 Code of Ethics and Historical Context

What did the first Code of Ethics look like, and what was happening in America at the time?

Take a look back at the ethical duties of 1913 and other world events from that year. View this page as a PDF. Special thanks to CJ DelVecchio, REALTOR®, Ithaca Board of REALTORS® (NY), for developing this document and allowing NAR to share it on

The 1913 Code of Ethics

(Pearl Janet Davies - "Ten Decades" 1913 through 1919 Chap. IV., Part 1. Page 34.)

Text of NAREB's Code in Earliest Form (1913)

The rules in full as presented at Winnipeg and unanimously adopted, are as follows:

The Duty of Real Estate Men Toward their Clients

  1. The real estate agent should be absolutely honest, truthful, faithful and efficient. He should ever bear in mind that he is an employee that his client is his employer and is entitled to the best service the real estate man can give his information, talent, time, services, loyalty, confidence and fidelity.
  2. A real estate agent should be conservative in giving advice and where he is not reasonably well posted should refrain from giving his opinion of value.
  3. A real estate agent should inspect his client's property, if possible, before offering it for sale, and he should always inform the buyer if he has not done so.
  4. An agent should not depreciate the price of property unless the price is too high; he should ask that the price be reasonable and tell the owner that it must be so if he expects his agent to make an attempt to sell it.
  5. An agent should have the sole agency, in writing, if it is property he is willing to make a special effort to sell.
  6. An agent should advocate either the real consideration to be shown in a deed to property, or one dollar and other valuable considerations.
  7. An agent should not give special information to inquirers over the telephone or otherwise, unless they are willing to give their names and addresses. Let them understand he deals in the open and expects them to do likewise.
  8. An agent should not ask for a net price on property, unless he intends to buy it himself and so notifies his client.
  9. An agent should request his client not to discuss price with the prospective buyer, but persuade his client to refer the matter to the agent, thus strengthening the agent's position with the buyer, and thus helping the agent to make a better deal for his client.
  10. An agent should always exact the regular real estate commission prescribed by the board or exchange of which he is a member, and should always give his client to understand at the beginning that he is entitled to such, and expects it.

The Duty of a Real Estate Man to Other Real Estate Men

  1. An agent should respect the listings of his brother agent and cooperate with him to sell, provided the other agent has the most suitable place.
  2. An agent should advise an owner to renew a selling contract with some other agent rather than solicit the agency himself, provided the other agent has made a reasonable attempt to sell the property during the life of his contract.
  3. An agent should always be loyal, square, frank end earnest in the matters that require the cooperation of brokers, and should always speak kindly of his competitors, refusing to pass judgment on others from hearsay evidence.
  4. An agent should not advertise anything but facts, and should be careful not to criticise by any method a competitor's proposition.
  5. An agent should give an honest opinion concerning a competitor's proposition when asked to do so by a prospective purchaser, even though such opinion will result in a sale by the competitor.
  6. An agent should refuse to put a "For Sale" or "For Rent" sign on property on which his competitor already has his sign, providing the placing of such sign was through the authorization of the owner.
  7. If an agent can not efficiently handle a proposition he should refer the matter to some competitor who can.
  8. An agent should solicit cooperation of the members of the board in selling sole agency listings unless he has a deal on or has some particular buyer in sight to whom he expects to make a sale, and he should always be ready and willing to divide the regular commission equally with any member of the board who can produce a buyer for any of his clients.
  9. An agent should invoke friendly arbitrations by the real estate board, rather than action through the courts of law, in settling differences between himself and other agents.
  10. He should not disregard the rights of other agents. He should never take the position with an owner that he will not work through his regular agent, or that he will not try to sell his property to a live buyer he may have unless he handles the entire deal and gets all the commission.
  11. He should not put his name in the newspapers in connection with a deal unless really representing at least one of the parties and receiving a part of the commission, for such publicity is a sham, and the result is to the disadvantage of all.
  12. When a sale or exchange is handled by two agents each agent shall be given due credit in the report of such sale or exchange.
  13. He should not relay property, which means he should not submit to one agent that which he obtains from another agent, unless in exceptional cases and then he should let the third agent know that he does not have the property directly. For in case he relays, he represents neither side, and is not entitled to the same consideration as either of the other agents.

What Else Happened in 1913?

Jan 9:  Richard Nixon is born

Feb 3:  The Sixteenth Amendment is ratified (allowing Congress to levy an income tax)

Feb 4:  Rosa Parks is born

Mar 4: First Inauguration of Woodrow Wilson as 28th US President

Mar 10: Harriet Tubman dies

Mar 10: Quebec Bulldogs win Stanley Cup

Mar 17:  Franklin D. Roosevelt sworn in as Assistant Secretary of Navy

Apr 8: The Seventeenth Amendment is ratified (transferring Senator selection from each state's legislature to popular election)

Jul 14:  Leslie Lynch King Jr. (Gerald Ford) is born

Sep 12: James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens is born

Nov 6:  Great Lakes Storm of 1913

Dec 23: President Woodrow Wilson Signs The Owen-Glass Act creating the Federal Reserve System