If You Don’t Care, I Don’t Care

Over on Facebook, there’s a group dedicated to Raising the Bar in Real Estate.

It’s far from a new concept; many agents frustrated by what they see from their so-called peers find themselves turning to the idea of “raising the bar” in hopes of improving our standing as a profession.

Unfortunately, there are two major issues standing in the way of truly raising the so-called bar: money and public apathy.

Let’s start with the cash.

It may surprise you to learn than in the vast majority of cases, agents interview brokers and not the other way around. There are rare exceptions to be sure, but if an agent wants to come aboard, most brokers will welcome them to the team regardless of knowledge, competency or qualification.

Why? Because for brokerages that charge monthly desk fees, it’s still profitable to hire a non-productive agent as long as those monthly fee checks come rolling in and then collect a portion of whatever rare transaction ever gets completed.

For those who don’t collect desk fees and still hire brand new agents … well, that’s just plain stupid.

Money extends beyond the brokerages, though.

In Arizona, an agent needs only complete 90 hours of training and pass the state exam. In my case, I was able to complete the training over a three-week period back in July of 2004. I started real estate school on the 5th and was licensed by the 28th. Done and done.

It could be argued that the requirements should be higher but there’s a flaw. Two, actually. First, the state has no incentive to increase the requirements because doing so would reduce the revenue generated from real estate license fees. And second, there’s virtually zero information of worth in the real estate training as it is outside of 43,560 – the size of an acre. Increasing the amount of useless information is pointless.

Real estate schools don’t teach people how to sell real estate competently. They teach people how to pass the test, and then the onus falls on the brokers. Some take it seriously. Some don’t care.

Money also is an issue when it comes to the National Association of REALTORS. Yes, there’s the obvious idea of more members meaning more annual dues income. But when you’re a trade association lobbying in D.C., there’s also power in numbers – the more members you have, the more gravitas the arguments for your particular position carry.

There’s zero incentive for NAR to have fewer members.

Lastly, there’s the concept of public apathy. I touched on this the other day during my mini-screed about part-time real estate agents.

You, collectively as the public, just don’t care about whether the bar is raised in real estate. If you did, you wouldn’t use your hairdresser’s brother’s cousin’s sister-in-law’s daughter’s third-grade teacher’s cousin to help you buy a home. You wouldn’t rely on the neighbor’s son who never has sold a home before to be the one to sell yours just because he’s a good kid.

We are interchangeable to you. Much of the fault falls on us and our industry. Some falls on you, the public, for not caring enough to discern between different agents.

Some of you ask questions but they’re often the wrong questions.

It doesn’t matter if an agent has sold in a particular townhouse complex in the past, not if they have sold dozens of homes in other areas and can get a sale done.

It doesn’t matter if they live in the same neighborhood as the house you want to sell because, more often than not, your agent never is going to talk to a buyer about how special the annual yard sale is – the buyer will have his own agent who may or may not live there.

It doesn’t matter what commission the agent charges – you get what you pay for.

USAA is famous/infamous for giving its homesellers a checklist of questions to ask agents when they are interviewing someone to sell their home. The questions, quite simply, are a joke.

Ninety percent of buying a home boils down to whether the agent is willing to tell the seller what they need to hear when it’s not what they want to hear, and whether they can get the home priced realistically. The rest is window dressing.

Which, now that I think about it, also makes moot the idea of raising the bar. Because competency isn’t about hiring a professional photographer to take pictures of that 900-square-foot condo. It’s about getting it sold, or getting a buyer into their next property.

Photo credit: grahamc99 via Flickr Creative Commons

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at allphoenixrealestate.com.