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Is Smart Sexy?




The problem is…

Recently I perused an article on where Joseph Ferrara was blogging about selling real estate with sexy ads. It got me thinking about the marketing I have to do now as a real estate educator, as opposed to what I did as a practicing broker. The problem is that I can’t make education “sexy”.

There are very few folks who get excited at the opportunity to learn. I love it! I’ve always enjoyed the opportunity to learn. Ok, I’ll be candid, I love the opportunity to know more than someone else! Really, to be the “one” that knows the answer when no one else does, is an awesome feeling. My ability to recall facts and pertinent information in a transaction has served my clients well in many circumstances where the co-operating agent didn’t know what to do.

Agents are employed for many reasons

Agents are employed for a variety of reasons, in some cases it might be that the agent has the lockbox key and the MLS access, but for many other consumers it’s because they simply need help navigating the complicated process of buying or selling real estate.

You’re hired for your brains and frankly, not everyone who has a license has brains. I’ve heard the complaints that pre-license requirements are too easy and too few hours, for most states. I’m not convinced that increasing the hours in a lot of states would be a deterrent. Having taught new agents, I know that many of them think (regardless of how much we pronounce otherwise) that there is a pot of gold at the end of the pre-licensing process. Many will walk thru the fire to get there. Why? Too many brokers are out there telling these folks that they can make $100,000 their first year and make their own schedule. We’ve got tons of “motivational” real estate folks still selling books by telling agents how to take weekends off and make six figures. It’s hard work, many times it’s unappreciated and to do it well, requires true perseverance.

How about making the examination process more exigent? I do agree that this would help, but I know lots of folks who are great with tests and have virtually no commonsensical diligence. This career requires a lot of critical thinking skills and that is a difficult skill to instruct. Sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t.

Continued education

So, where does continued education have it’s place? There is framework and skill sets necessary to be successful in this career. That framework is evident in our Code of Ethics (which in many states is the premise for statutory legislation) and the Real Estate Board regulations. This is a exceptionally legislated industry because of the consumer protection that is needed. RESPA, Fair Housing, Real Estate Boards, MLS rules, Lockbox rules, Code of Ethics, State Statutes, all not only impact our business, but change almost annually. Someone needs to bring this information to you.

So, we’ve all read the advertisements pleading with you to take a class and expressing that Realtors with designations, make 60% more than those that do not.

Courses are difficult

I think this thought process is a case of Post hoc ergo propter hoc, Latin for “after this, therefore because of this.” It’s rarely true. I surmise that professionals take designation courses because this is their career and they know that they have to know their craft well to succeed. Some of the designation courses are unrealistically difficult to achieve and costly. Only those who are succeeding can usually achieve them. If we (we being educational leaders) want folks to take our classes, we’re going to need to make them more appropriate to the market and today’s practitioner. We’ll also need to make them more cost effective and readily available.

Complicated formulas and overpriced courses that a leaner has to hunt down, and then get a home equity line to take, aren’t going to be effective. Knowledge should be easy to access and meet needs. Eight hour courses on print-media-marketing isn’t really a good use of most educational hours. Catering to “how we used to do business” and dwelling on desk duties and open houses don’t astound most people and honestly, how much training does it take to do these tasks?

Do designations help you?

Do designations help you in your career? Yes, I think designations help, if the Realtor knows how to use them in their marketing plan. Just having some letters after one’s name means nothing to most consumers. Remember that many consumers still use the first Realtor that they encounter. So, knowledge gained in education is more important in serving the client, than it is in getting the client.

Many people have repined after classes that the course did not meet their expectations. Why, because they were looking for the silver bullet. Education is a process of learning and developing that never ends. There is no one class that will make you rich. Don’t believe the hype. It’s important for the practitioner to be well rounded, have a good balance of seeking information and being open to receive it from others.

It’s a mess

My state has recently increased the post licensing credit hours to 30 hours in the first year. This is going to be very difficult for many new agents. The courses are difficult to find, as we’ve only offered post licensing for a short time. The hours must be in specific categories and cannot duplicate each other. There is a different segment for experienced agents after their first renewal and the agent has be to be careful to really look at the class to ensure it’s mandatory and offering the correct hours. Honestly, even as elitist as I am about education, it’s become pretty complicated to keep the license in the first year. So, what do most agents do? They take the easy way out and go take a 30 hour online class, that ends up being just a review of the same pre-licensing program that they started out with. It’s a mess…. The end result will be that the agent will be no better educated than day one.

Is knowledge sexy?

Knowledge without wisdom is ineffectual. Agents need to be able to appropriately use what they know and study to know what’s necessary to protect themselves and their clients. Educators have the responsibility to help the leaner build a bridge between the two. Anyone can read a PowerPoint presentation, but it takes a real Educator to bring the information together for the Agent.

Do I think smart is sexy? I certainly hope so, it explains why my awesome wife married me! I “ain’t got” much more going on…

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is

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  1. jf.sellsius

    March 28, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    You’re right Matthew– smart is sexy. And so is a short skirt 🙂

  2. Faina Sechzer

    March 28, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    Education has the most effect when it’s used in daily practice. Today I may not even understand my MSEE thesis:)

  3. Mariana

    March 28, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    Smart IS Sexy. I find intelligence to be way more appealing than most other things.
    I also think that designations are importnat – maybe not for marketing, but for the education BEHIND the designations – making better agents.

  4. Cyndee Haydon

    March 28, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Matt – I must admit I find smart very attractive – maybe that’s why I married my husband 23 years ago after meeting at work 🙂 – I also love learning which is why I think I enjoy blogging as well as the blogosphere so much – so many people like you to learn from – so little time. Always needing more time!! Hmmm so if learning takes so much time just realized being Smart Sexy makes you “high maintenance” in a new way- lol

  5. Bill Lublin

    March 28, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    matthew – I agree with the gang so far – smart is sexy –

    I have to tell you that I found designations to be well worth the expense when I took then (GRI,CRS,CRB) I took all three of them during a recession that is still a classic (1979) completing all three in one year- I saw that the market was going to be a challenge (when interest rates went from 8 to 12 percent in four weeks and the discount fees on mortgages were higher then the real estate commissions – and I was a young associate broker with a 2 year old son and a stay at home wife – so it wasn’t cheap or easy (though I find that an enticing combination) –

    The marketing I did later was helpful, but I actually learned stuff that I could use in my daily business- and that was what made money for me – the market was destined to go to 18 and 9% interest rates, but in the words of Frederick Nietzsche- “That Which Does Not Kill Us Makes Us Stronger “- and I came out of that market with more skills then I went in with

    I agree that agents sometimes struggle to afford the educational choices, but even so, sales in general is a huge return for the expense in learning the skill sets and improving on them – and we have the Pablo Picasso’s words to comfort us “I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”

  6. Matthew Rathbun

    March 28, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Bill, my intent was not to put down designations, per se. I hold ABR, ABRM, AHWD, ASR, AHS, e-PRO, QSC, RECS, SRES, etc….. but, it’s up to me to know how to use them to work with clients and not rely on them to get me the clients.

    Education is very important, but educators aren’t necessarily packing it in a manner that makes it easy to acquire. CRS for example is difficult to get. The classes are expensive, spread out all over the country and not easy to get all the necessary points to acheive if you’re busy with other things. With my current designations, I am sure that getting CRS isn’t going to increase my skillset. I use this designation as an example only because I think it proves my point, that we should do a better job of making it accessible and relevant.

  7. Carson Coots

    March 28, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    I just hired an agent… and I have know idea whether or not she is smart and/or how she is going to list our house. I’m really into real estate marketing, yet I didn’t feel it was appropriate to drill her about what she does. All I know is that she is very nice and polite, and has been in the business for many years.

    My point is, at the time when I met her, she could have added a feeling of security and elevated credibility if she were to bring up some of the tactics she uses. Extra points if she referred me to a blog, so I could “get to know her” outside of our conversations… and give me an outlet to communicate with her (other than over the phone or email).

    All the acronyms do not matter to me at all, and they look like fluff. Who ever told the public what these letters mean? Nobody I know is aware. People are aware of the role of a realtor, but as far as certification tags, I don’t know if I know one person who knows (or would be impressed if they knew) what these tags mean.

    She had a great opportunity to stand out and make me an evangelist (by being my realtor) I mean, what if she started emailing me all kinds of stats and info? I would think “she is a go getter, I’m glad I have her” and then, refer her as “my cool realtor that is smart” to my friends.

    As of now, I want to love her and act like I have the bomb agent working for me. All she needs to do is make me beleive it. How can I blame her for how fast the house is going to sell? I have no way to compare her performance… I trust that she is the best.

    So in the case of branding/customer service, record of her expertise and experience on a blog would solve all of the problems, not only for me but for all of her clients now and in the future.

  8. Carson Coots

    March 28, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    I am so not sexy when I use the word “know” instead of “no”

  9. Jim Duncan

    March 29, 2008 at 6:07 am

    I have found that the designations themselves – letters after a name – are mostly worthless to the public, as they have no idea what they are. Just like anything else – what matters is the knowledge gained in the classes and how you use them.

  10. Bill Lublin

    March 29, 2008 at 6:32 am

    @Matthew – I agree with you completely , the educator is a huge part of to the impact and delivery –

    @Carson – I think you can be sexy when you use “Know” and “No” – For instance my wife “knows” that I married over my head, and when I ask if she’s disappointed with being married to me she says “No” 🙂 And your point about the acronyms is well taken – we use a tremndous amount of abbreviations – heck, even my car has the AWD designation – Matthew’s original point – that any of the designations need to be marketed if they are to be effective in your interaction with the consumer is right on target (and I think reinforced by Jim’s later point) – My point regarding skillsets is still, IMO valid (and also reinforced by Jim’s post) – but then I guess the question is do you need that additional designation if you don’t think it increases your skillset?

    @Matthew “I hold ABR, ABRM, AHWD, ASR, AHS, e-PRO, QSC, RECS, SRES, etc…..” OK you got me 🙂 AHWD (Amazingly Handsome & Well Dressed?) and AHS? (I thought that was a Home Warranty Company?) So I guess Jim’s point might be valid if I don;t recognize those after 37 years in the business 🙂

  11. rockson

    March 29, 2008 at 6:46 am

    There is a reason I do not put my picture on my card. My wife says I would have to beat all the clients away with a stick!

    However, knowing what your market is doing, the niche you serve, and how you apply that to maximize your sellers proceeds, or save your buyer thousands is what really makes you sexy.

  12. Matthew Rathbun

    March 29, 2008 at 6:48 am

    @Bill, see that’s why I originally left my designations out, I didn’t want to “one up” anyone, but letter realized that I needed to show that I had some practical concept. AHWD is the NAR’s At Home With Diversity program and AHS is the Accredited Home Stager from RealtyU. And I am glad that using them proved our collective points. I still get asked about certain designations that I haven’t a clue about.

    @Carson, thanks for giving us a consumers thoughts. It’s awesome to get that kind of feedback. An experienced agent who has gained wisdom and knows how to use it is invaluable. To me that various levels of training should really have all been minimum training for an agent, but what do I know. It really does come down to getting the job done and working with the client. Meeting expectations should be all of our goals. I will say however, that in a traditional market the agent can have a great deal of influence on how quickly a home sales. So, in many cases the agent can be “blamed” for days on the market. Right now, there simply aren’t buyers in a lot of areas, so it’s not an accurate assumption currently. Again – thanks for visiting and commenting!!!!

  13. Andy Kaufman

    March 29, 2008 at 11:02 am

    Smart is hawt with an ‘aw’, but you’re right, CE is a joke & I’m over designations.

    Go and find the real forward thinkers in your area, doesn’t matter what industry they’re from. Use meetup, upcoming & twitter to find or organize events and meet face to face. That kind of smart is definitely sexy.

  14. Bill Lublin

    March 29, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    @ Matthew – Nicely done! 🙂 Point well made Sensei!

  15. Missy Caulk

    March 29, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Yes, smart is sexy, I use the designations I have put I always spell them out in my signatures, because consumer have no clue. GRI Graduate Real Estate Institute, looks better and maybe they get it. But, bottom line…they don’t know or care.

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