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Question. I'm a former elementary school teacher who now sells real estate. I've been in the business about a year now and am doing quite well. I really enjoy working with people, but frankly, I'm a little disappointed at some folks' attitude toward realtors. I'm sometimes treated as though I have a highly contagious social disease when people find out I sell real estate. Am I being overly sensitive or is this a widespread problem?
Answer. Unfortunately, the real estate profession traditionally has not ranked high in public esteem. An article that recently appeared in national publications tracked the public view of real estate agents as reflected in polls conducted by the Gallup organization, starting in 1976. In the most recent, 25 professions were rated. Real estate agents came in 20th, besting only labor union leaders, lawyers, insurance salesman, advertising practitioners, and (last on the list) car salesman. Even more depressing was the fact that senators, congressmen and state officer holders were held in even higher regard. Is it a bum rap?
The Heart of the Matter. In most real estate transactions the agents get paid when the transaction is successfully consummated. There are other business arrangements, but that remains the dominant model. It may not appear to pose a problem, but in some instances it could mean that an agent could be tempted to get a transaction closed when it might not be in the best interests of the client. That could obviously created circumstances that could result in long term animosity if something surfaced after closing that the client believed should have been disclosed before a final decision was made.
Within that context, here are some specific suggestions...
Look Inward. The only person over whom you have more or less complete control over is you. Your challenge then is to become the consummate professional in everything you do. You will find plenty of positive role models to emulate, probably in your own brokerage, and your experience as an elementary school teacher has given you an outstanding background.
Look Outward. Look also at the standards of conduct of other occupations that are clearly regarded as professions, such as the clergy, physicians, and nurses. What have they done to deserve a comparatively high public esteem they enjoy? And what practices cause certain other professions to be held in such low regard? Incidentally, after having recently spent a short stay in a local hospital, nurses are number one on my list of the most admired professions.
Look Upward. If you haven't really studied the Realtor Code of Ethics, take time to do that soon. You will notice that the basis of the Code is the Golden Rule. Not a bad rule to follow. When I teach my real estate licensing classes I tell my students we role play and that I am their supervising broker. The name of our company: Golden Rule Realty. No theological implications. Just a great business strategy. Even if your not a realtor, their code provides a great model.
Pitch In. The Realtor organization has been the national leader in promoting professionalism and upgrading the general level of business practices among real estate practitioners. You have a ready made the vehicle right at the local level to participate in a variety of activities that will clearly demonstrate to everyone in the community what a principled organization you belong to.
Get Thee to a School Room. Professional education offers incredible opportunities. If you have not started the GRI sequence, do that immediately. If you stay in residential sales, follow with the CRS series. If you specialized in another area, there are equally attractive offerings. The great thing about professional education is that you will enhance your own professionalism while learning things that will help you make more money. You will also encounter some great role models. Perhaps most importantly, you will also be supporting exactly the type of activity that is bound to upgrade the professionalism of the entire industry.
Every country on the globe that has a free enterprise real estate market will have professional organizations which aim to accomplish the same ethical goals as the Realtor organization.
A War Story. Let me tell you a little story from my own experience as an Air Force officer. At one point early in my career officer prestige was a hot topic. I recall a meeting of officers at which a grizzled old two star general of World War II vintage was presiding.
During the session a fuzzy cheeked young second lieutenant (not me) asked a question that went something like: "General, why don't we officers get more respect?"
As I remember, the essence of the answer was: "Son, my guess is that you are going to get about all the respect that you deserve." It's hard to quarrel with that logic.
The Kindest Cut of All. In talking to one veteran broker about this topic she related this from her early years as a realtor: "The biggest compliment a customer or client could ever pay me was to tell me that I had handled my responsibilities in a highly professional manner." When that becomes every real estate agent's sincere goal, I expect we will move considerably up on Mr. Gallup's list.
Best Regards, Ken Edwards