This is what I get from other Real Estate (RE) Agents when I try to engage them in conversation about what is wrong with our industry and our need to advocate for higher standards and different ways of doing things. I don't think many of them actually realize that RE Agents have a bad reputation (or they are simply in denial). They don't realized that the average agent is seen as an unscrupulous pestering "sales men” and beggar.
I have to be careful what I say when around other agents, as most of them have drunk the Koolaid and have been doing so for years. The Harris Poll publishes polls each year, listing the most (and least) trusted professions. Real Estate Agents are chronically at the bottom of the list, alongside stockbrokers, auto mechanics, lawyers and insurance agents.
Why is that? Why is Real Estate not a very well respected industry? Why are they often seen as little more than pestering salesmen? Why does no kid say that they want to be a Real Estate agent when they grow up? Amongst agents, it's often joked about how this is a career that people fall into, it's almost never a intentional choice or goal. It happens by accident.
I feel like there are 3 main reasons that Real Estate Agents get a bad (though often deserved) rap.
1. They won't stop talking!
They won't stop talk about themselves, how awesome they are, how successful they are, how much better than other agents they are, how much money they make... need I go on?
And the inverse of this... being a poor listener.
When I talk with my friends who bought homes before I got into this business, I like to ask about their experience with their RE Agent and the most common criticism I heard was that their agent didn't listen to them.
Now of course, there could be many reasons for this:
The agent heard what the client said but didn't understand their client or their expectations, so they mis-interpreted what they wanted.
The agent was more concerned with "up-selling" their client into a more expensive house, so kept showing them properties outside of their price range.
They were too busy talking and trying to prove how smart, knowledgable, successful, etc, rather than listening to and serving their client.
Or they were simply too busy in general, to provide quality time and service that their client desired and deserved.
I have found that there are 2 main reasons that agents are "too busy":
1. They are disorganized and inefficient in how they run their business.
In my observation, this is the biggest culprit of the "too busy" agent. They simply have never bothered to develop a system or get organized and they spend all their time scrambling from one task to the next, in a flurry of inefficient and un-prioritized busyness.
2. They can't say "no".
In order to say "yes" to the right clients, you need to be able to say "no" to the clients who aren’t a good fit for your business. "No" to tasks that suck your time but provide no benefit. "No" to the demands of the "tyranny of the urgent", which are constantly trying to draw your attention away from what matters, to that which doesn't.
Reason number 2 that RE Agents get a bad rap:
2. They are viewed as unscrupulous.
It's hard to look at the industries commission structure and wonder how it's not a conflict of interest. The more a home sells for, the higher the commission an agent receives is, so how is it that part of the buyers agents job is to negotiate on the buyers behalf for the lowest possible price? He is negotiating for a lower financial compensation for himself. If your agent is less than ethical and more concerned about his bottom line then doing his job of serving your best interest, this could prove to be a problem.
If you don't have it with your agent, you don't have anything. You need to find an agent that you trust to do their very best for you, advocate for you and serve YOUR best interest... even in the rare situation where your best interest is not theirs.
There are many factors to why an agent could come across as incompetent.
The most obvious reason would be that they are only doing Real Estate part time. Maybe they have a day job for the security of the paycheck, or maybe they are a stay-at-home mom or simply don't want to work full-time. Either way, as real estate agents we are handling the sale of our clients largest assets, being an expert is critical. An expert in the market. An expert in navigating the complex buying and selling process. An expert negotiator, etc. And how does one become an expert at something? Experience. They do it all the time. And frankly, Part-time agents typically don't have the experience necessary not to make basic mistakes (which could spell large financial liability for the client). On an even more basic level, they likely won't be available when you most need them. Maybe they'll return your call during their lunch hour or after they get off work or check their messages. But with today's fast-paced real estate business, an agent being unavailable is unacceptable and could cost you the deal.
There is also just the factor of laziness. There are lots of good agents but then there are those who become complacent and just expect to make big money but no-longer care to put in the work and hours to do their due diligence and take proper care of their clients.
Where is the agents focus? What do they spend the majority of their time doing?
So much of the focus is on where is the agents next transaction is going to come from. The "accountability questions" from the broker are often along the lines of, 'how many homes do you want to sell this year?', 'how much money do you want to make?'. It's no wonder most RE Agents are 'transactional' in their focus and just move from one client to the next as any sales person would, versus doing the hard work of developing legitimate and long lasting relationships with their clients.
RE Agents are told that this job is all about relationships but then at the same time told that our main job and most of our time should be spent "prospecting"... which in many cases, is a nice way of saying begging for business. We are taught to "ask for business" at every opportunity. We are told that "every 'No' is closer to a 'Yes'..." setting up the expectation that rejection is normal, just keep bugging people until someone agrees to work with you.
It's really should be no surprise to me that agents prefer to bury their head in the sand regarding the reputation of our profession. The industry as a whole is very inward looking. Always giving kudos and pats on the back to each other for a great sales year, 'Top Producer' status, 'golden circle awards' and other meaningless awards for making the brokerage firm money. The agents and firms alike think that they are pretty great and are so entrenchment in the status-quo that I don't think they genuinely see how most people or society at large views them. On top of that blindness, the industry resists change at every turn, even change that would be best for our clients. Change that would result in increased efficiency, saved money for clients or revolution how the industry works... they all see it as a threat to the system and their livelihood. A threat to how 'things have always been done'. I understand being scared of the unknown but in no other industry have I seen such resistance to new technology, resistance to new ways of doing things or new models that may actually serve our clients better than we are able to do now.
In the end, I think the industry has largely done this to themselves by fighting to maintain the status quo and not policing up the 'bad apples'. Organizations like the National Association of Realtors (NAR) lobby to keep the bar for becoming a RE Agent, nice and low (The more agents there are, the more dues can be paid to them and the more money and power they have). You need more credit hours to become a hair stylist then you do to get your RE License... Kind of crazy. And the engrained sales culture and brokerage model lends itself to bringing in "go getters" who are more focused on the numbers and size of sales, rather than the quality of each transaction and conducting the business in a way that is best for their clients and the industry as a whole. Brokerages know it's a number game - get as many agents in your office as possible and some of them will end up making them money... the quality of the agent are rarely a factor.
These are just a few of the issues I have with the industry as a whole and why I'm committed to doing things differently... doing it better!
But in all fairness... I do believe there are more good agents out there then bad ones and as is the case with many things in our information age, it's the bad news and "horror stories" that spread the fastest and furthest. It's the bad experiences everyone hears about, not the trusted agents who are quietly doing their job with integrity and competence, leading to well served and happy clients.
So while I don't doubt that the reputation for the industry as a whole is largely deserved, it doesn't mean that all agents fall into this camp. It's critically important that you know what makes a good Real Estate Agent and that you engage one as part of your trusted team when it comes time for you to research your options in buying or selling your home.
Does any of this resonate with you? Do you have a real estate "horror story" to share with us Tell us in the comments below... we want to hear from you!
Now when your ready, you know who will tell it to you straight and who you can trust to serve you best.
Until next time, be well.