The Truth About Realtors

Recently I read that an annual poll taken among Americans rated Realtors as one of the least respected professions in the country. For the first time in history, Realtors fell not only to the bottom of the list, but even below non-licensed, non-governed professions. Yes, we finally beat out used-car salesman as the least respected profession. Different polls have yielded different results, but this particular poll focused on ‘the trust of a professional to give good advice.’

Now, for me herein lies a particular conundrum. To start, certain significant differences exist between professions. For example, Realtors are licensed, and as such, they are governed by three governing bodies: their local board of Realtors, their state board of Realtors, and the National Association of Realtors. To be licensed, each Realtor must pass a number of significant signposts. For example, in Texas, a minimum of three college level courses must be completed to obtain a license. Of course, this only applies to college-degreed individuals: more courses are required if the candidate does not possess an accredited degree. Next, they must pass the licensing exam.

Once their license is obtained, continuing education is mandatory to retain the license, as is common in many professions, such as Accountancy, Law, etc. This requirement is strictly enforced and must include a minimum amount of real estate law. Thus Realtors stay relatively abreast of changes in real estate and law, and, in particular, nowadays, of the growing problem of mortgage fraud, which can in some instances, implicate the seller, even if the seller is ignorant of the law, they can potentially face criminal charges and substantial fines as an accomplice. (Ignorance of the law is no excuse).

A Realtor, as a seller’s agent, can usually spot the red flags related to mortgage fraud and alert their client to the possibility and possible sources of relief to avoid an undesirable outcome (like jail). In short, the Realtor is a professional, and, in some cases, can not only sell your house, but keep you out of legal troubles.

Additionally, Realtors, per the National Association of Realtors, are bound by a code of ethics, which they must agree and abide by, for if they do not, they can (and usually are) brought before a court of inquiry through their local or state boards to determine their guilt or innocence and receive appropriate disciplinary measures. In short, if a Realtor is unethical (not just operating outside the law, but operating within the law unethically), they can (and will, if found guilty) lose their license to practice.

Did you know that a real estate agent is governed by the same body of law that governs attorneys? That’s right; it’s called the Law of Agency and it varies a bit state by state, but fundamentally, it says that a Realtor is required by law to put your interests above their own. The point is this: Attorneys and Realtors are bound by the same set of laws. Yet, somehow, Attorneys rate MUCH higher in the poll.

Ever consider what it cost just to practice real estate? Between the expense of joining the local, state, and national boards, as well as the local MLS dues, showing service fees, website fees, errors & omissions insurance, advertising costs, AND broker related fees and dues, a Realtor pays thousands of dollars (even tens of thousands) each year just to be a Realtor.

And we’re not finished yet. Once a Realtor is licensed, they must find a Broker to sponsor them. Now, this really isn’t that hard, but if you have a bad reputation in the field (and in real estate, everyone knows everyone), this might be much harder than you might think. In these cases, where reputations are poor, no broker will touch them, so a Realtor’s only choice is to become a Broker (which means more classes, more expense, more training, and another licensing test) in order to continue to practice real estate. This isn’t saying that all small brokerages are probable crooks, in fact, in most cases, small brokerages are just entrepreneurially oriented individuals trying to build a legitimate business, but there are cases where this is the last opportunity for some Realtors to practice real estate before being run out of town on a rail, so to speak.

I know this seems like rambling, or I’m complaining over something small, but I’m really not. I have an MBA; I am a Certified Management Accountant; I am Certified in Financial Management; I spent 23 years in banking and as a business consultant. Two years ago I got disgruntled with the internal political machinery that constitute ‘success’ in corporate America and quit in order to look myself in the mirror at night. So I joined my wife to build a credible, honest business based on integrity. I became a Realtor.

What I found was that no one trusted me and that somewhat astounded me. People thought I took a listing, sat back, watched TV, drank beer, and waited for someone to sell their property. I’m not making this up – they really thought this. They complained about the fact I wasn’t doing anything for them.

Wow! If they think I wasn’t working for them, they should take a long look at corporate America!

Now, get this, I would receive these complaints around 8:30 p.m. while I was still in the office working. For some reason, these clients didn’t add it up that it was 8:30 at night, and I was still at work. I have found that to remain competitive in real estate, I work seven days a week starting around 9:00 a.m. and end the day somewhere between 9:00 p.m. and midnight–every day, and I am usually so busy, I forget to eat lunch (I used to tease my wife how she could possibly forget to eat lunch, but now that I’m in the business, I understand). That’s just what it takes to get all the phone calls answered or returned, the negotiations put to bed, the inspection issues resolved, the photos and virtual tours taken and posted, the newspaper ads ordered, the just listed cards sent out, the just sold cards sent, the monthly newsletter and other marketing materials in the mail, the website and MLS updated, the flyers designed, printed, and delivered to the property, the books balanced, the supplies replenished, the equipment fixed, the computers/printers/fax kept operational, the emails read and processed, the mail read and processed, all the paperwork completed perfectly and processed (the then verified for accuracy), the prospecting done, the client follow-ups finished (time permitting), the closings attended, the closing gifts purchased and delivered, the listing presentations prepared and made, the comparative market analyses done, potential homes identified for buyers, the potential homes shown to buyers, the bills paid, the mandatory education completed, the 800 numbers recorded, all amendments signed and filed correctly, putting out ‘for sale’ signs/lock boxes/flyer boxes (or picking them up after a sale), the open houses held, the flyers prepared and distributed in every broker’s office in town for the open house, holding realtor luncheons, flyers prepared and distributed at every broker’s office in town for the realtor luncheon, buying and preparing the food for the realtor luncheons, talking to other agents to get feedback on home showings, and talking to others agents about our listings, fending off frivolous lawsuits, AND telling our clients that we ARE working on selling their home even if they don’t hear from us every day or even if they don’t see us doing anything.

That covers some of what our day is like. Every day is different, but that covers some of it.

My point?

Well, if it isn’t obvious, how are Realtors rated so low? We are we at the bottom of the list of all professions? How is this possible? With all due respect to used car salesman (and I mean that – I’ve met a few wonderful used car salespeople), how can a licensed, governed profession, subject to stringent ethical and educational standards, that costs thousands of dollars per year just to practice (our costs to practice exceeded $50,000 last year), how can a profession that requires about 80+ hours of work per week — all week — well, how can this profession possiblly be less respected than a profession where NONE of these items are required? It boggles the mind. Are there licensed used car salespeople? Are they held to ethical standards? And — think about this — do they pay thousands to tens of thousands of dollars per year to be a used car salesman?

This isn’t to say that every Realtor walks on water. No. Not even close. But neither does every attorney, doctor, engineer, or accountant. There are levels of skill related to all professions, including Realtors.

So, what I want you to know is that the polls aren’t justified. Yes, they reflect that Realtors are one of the least respected professions in America, but the justification for this is MIA. I know, I worked in corporate America right next to hundreds of CPAs, engineers, systems analysts, programmers, and I lunched with CEO’s, COO’s, and multi-millionaire entreprenuers. I’ve seen it all, I’ve worked with them all, and truthfully, the best bunch (by far) I’ve ever been associated with is the 130 agents in the Ebby Halliday Office in Arlington, Texas.

Are Realtors really one of the least respected profession in America?

Get real, folks.

Use a licensed Realtor. I recommend you find one by getting a referral from someone you trust, but for heaven’s sake, use a licensed professional.

Per National Association of Realtors statistics, you stand a 46 times greater chance of selling your home through a Realtor than on your own, and on average (if you listen to your realtor’s advice) you’ll end receiving a higher price for your home.

Oh, and you just might keep yourself out of jail in the process.