Ethics is About Common Sense & Common Courtesy

Smart Ethics

The smartest woman in the world may be the former senator from New York, but there’s no question in my mind that the smartest man was indeed a Hilo boy. He wasn’t a judge, the former Civil Defense Administrator, or even my Miles (indeed a genius for having married yours truly). 

Nope, smart as they all are, in my book, none competes with the former custodian of Hilo High School. Watch this. When Hilo High was stymied as to how to keep kids from hanging around outside during dances, it was his common sense suggestion that led to merely turning on the water sprinklers! When no deterrent to girls leaving lip prints on bathroom mirrors could be found, the careful demonstration of his cleaning methods using only a squeegee and a good dose of toilet water broke the cycle! Sometimes we get so caught up in the problem that we lose sight of the obvious. And so it is with real estate. 

An Ethical Dilemma

Before license renewal every other year, REALTORS® (and real estate licensees) must complete 10 hours of continuing education. Also, formal ethics training is required every four years. Most commonly, ethics disputes among agents surround representation. Competing agents claim to either have been the procuring cause on a purchase or to be the chosen representative of a buyer. Absent a preferred written representation agreement, the agent writing the contract is generally assumed to have introduced the property to the buyer. When this is not the case, an ethics complaint might arise. Agents are not supposed to involve buyers and sellers in commission disputes. Most agents happily respect established relationships. You should be hesitant to work with an agent who “forgets” to ask if you are working with another agent. 

The Golden Rule

Historically, most experienced agents have more business than they can handle. One hypothetical used in an ethics class I attended dealt with procedures an agent should follow when another agent’s buyer wanders into an open house. The buyer wanted to buy the house, but their agent was out of town. Solutions suggested by agents attending the class varied. I favored allowing a buyer to proceed with their purchase while maintaining the relationship they have with their agent even if the agent never showed the property. Common sense and common courtesy, right? The fact that our National Association feels we need such reminders is a bit disconcerting. While useful, it took a four-hour continuing education class to convey what, if asked, the custodian could have expressed in two shakes; just follow the Golden Rule!

It’s like I told you, the man was a genius!

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

Comments (1) Show CommentsHide Comments (Remember)

Cool. Add your comment...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private, this form is secure and we never spam you.


July 25, 2019

The former custodian of Hilo High School was indeed a genius – thinking outside the box! As I always say, the most uncommon sense is common sense.

More Articles from Hawaii Life