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It Should Be A Hard Career!

Who’s Industry Is It?

There are a number of challenges facing our the industry and chief among those is the inability to shed our archaic and self-oriented practices. Countless times and in countless platforms I’ve heard practitioners refer to the real estate industry as “our business”. The career maybe yours, but the business is that of the consumer. The focus still seems to be by industry leaders, to keep the MLS books under the duty desk at the office and demand the consumer meet us on our terms. Far too few individuals have seen the writing on the wall – be client focused.

Your Time is Now

I’ve been watching the financial talk shows and hearing more and more consumers calling with questions, only to referred back to their financial consultants. So, all those “babies” (referencing teh e-trade commercials) who have been buying stock online are now trying to figure out how to handle their financial portfolio during this time of financial upheaval. Now that the world is a mess everyone is looking to their stockbroker and financial adviser’s. This should be the same sentiment for Real Estate Agents. However, now when consumers need a good agent to help them in a distressed market, agents are running away from REO, Foreclosure and Short-Sales. There is a ton of whining about how “hard” the job is. Really??? I mean, isn’t that they point? Shouldn’t an agent have the training and skill-set to help the consumer in their time of need?

Almost anyone can get a real estate license, put a sign in the yard and a listing in MLS. The consumer doesn’t need you for that. They need you for the times when things aren’t easy. It’s not about you – too many agents get upset at the consumer’s lack of loyalty, exaggerated expectations and desire for transparency.

What’s Your Focus?

Too many agents are setting their sites on surviving the marketing, instead of working in it. There is a number of people yelling for less competition. I would recommend that agents start using that energy to increase their customer service abilities and being prepared for the clients that are out there. Time and again we’ve seen those agents, who have turned their focus toward learning about their clients needs and turned away from concerns about other failing agents, dominate their markets.

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Major Changes

The industry needs to make some hard decisions and move toward change. The elimination of conflicting agency relationships, the increase of educational requirements, the implication of required agent mentoring programs and things we haven’t yet thought of; are all eminent changes. The largest obstacle for many is the ability to combine the emerging requirement of technological prowess with the customer service that was lost long ago in almost all other industries. The next largest, is the fear of industry leaders, to make these necessary changes. However, an agent or Broker can make these decision without industry regulation. An agent can choose to exclusively represent one client in a transaction; a Broker can choose to not allow a rookie agent to represent a client without a senior agent assisting. It just takes a small group to show that these changes can have positive effects – from there, it’ll be hard to argue the validity of the changes that many of us wish to see.

Written By

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



  1. Joanna

    October 4, 2008 at 2:08 pm

    Thank you for saying what so many consumers think: The real estate business is NOT the business of agents… but of the consumers who are putting so much on the line.

    Yes, agents often know much more about the market than consumers do. And they tend to make more money off it than the average consumer/homeowner/homebuyer will.

    But consumers are the ones searching the MLS for their next beautiful home. The consumers are the ones driving through the neighborhoods they’re thinking of buying into.

    The agent is the mediator of the real estate transaction. Much like priests taking confession, agents bring us ‘closer to Heaven’ but are not, actually, the gods of the real estate world. 🙂

  2. Bob

    October 4, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Someone once said of real estate, “It can be the hardest high paying job you can have or the easiest low paying job”.

  3. Steve Simon

    October 4, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Your last paragraph is your post’s best…
    The problem is these were changes that some were talking about when I first started teaching real estate license law in 1986!
    I would add another that would have readers here flame me, but the change would help a great deal:
    Limit the number of agents any one broker can have underneath them. They just cut the number of registered trainee appraisers a certified appraiser can have under them from 4 to 3 in Florida.
    It is silly at best to think that these agent mills with one broker and over a hundred agents provide any over sight at all. For all practical intents and purposes you have the new, and the ethically challenged working on their own. What’s worse in my neck of the woods they are allowing down line revenue streams to be created. This cannot be good in the long run for anyone…
    Just my thoughts 🙂

  4. Jim Gatos

    October 4, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Blogging is a good way for an agent to show the public of their credentials, personality, and knowledge of the real estate market, locally and on a national scale. What other way can any professional reach out to the “masses” on a personal level?

  5. Karen Highland

    October 4, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    You are so right, this is a customer service business first and foremost. Unfortunately many realtors were spoiled by the boom of the last 7 or so years, when a monkey could sell a house. Now we are in a market where we do have to work hard, we have to get the training to handle short sales and REO’s. When we make the effort to become better at what we do, we gain business for ourselves. When we really serve people, they appreciate it. Becoming the best is the way to build a business, any business. We helped ourselves to some great commissions when the market was hot, I say, if we can’t help people in a tough market, we ought to go find something else to do.

    P.S. We got a CDPE certification that has really equipped us to deal with short sale situations. I highly reccomend it.

  6. Matthew Rathbun

    October 4, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Joanna: I think that we got accustomed to being in charge, instead of being responsible. There is a difference.

    Bob: that is a GREAT saying.

    Steve: I don’t think that’s inappropriate at all. In Virginia, our appraisers have to study under a senior appraiser for 2000 hours before they can do appraisals on their own – why could agents have to go through a similar program? The fundamental problem is that your good and experienced agents typically will not share their skills and techniques – so what incentive is there for the mentor? Once I’ve found that answer, I’ll be happy to try and make it happen.

    Jim: I do think that blogging is a good way to project how a practitioner wishes to be seen. Unfortunately, with ghost writers and those who are stealing content I think the technique is getting diluted. Other ways? More community involvement from agents would be helpful, but you’re otherwise right: Writing articles on blogs, doing radio shows or writing for local newspapers are all good ways to get the word out.

    Karen: I’m not familiar with the CDPE designation, but I will take a look. RealtyU has release it’s CSP certification which is an outstanding program, as well. We’re making a push in our pre-licensing classes to better prepare agents for the distressed market sales. I don’t think they are going away anytime soon. I wish we had better prepared ourselves through education on financial and economic impacts for our clients with some of the tactics and loan programs that were used over the past several years.

  7. Teresa Boardman

    October 5, 2008 at 5:59 am

    I like this post. You have a point. I have worked some foreclosures and short sales and to be honest I am finding that I don’t have what it takes. It really is a lot more work and I don’t know how to do it under my current business model and make a profit. If I have to show a buyer interested in foreclosures 40 or 50 houses and write 4 offers before a bank accepts one and the home is priced at 25% of the median value in my market my earnings come out to less than minimum wage. I represented a seller on a short sale recently because a friend asked me to. I can not afford to do many transactions like that. The time commitment was horrendous. The problem is how and when I get paid. It doesn’t work as well as it used to.

    You are right about the licensing requirements and CEO. Agents should have more training and the bar should be higher.

  8. Missy Caulk

    October 5, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    Matt, I for one certainly don’t mind good hard work. The question is time vs money. Do I have the hours to sit on the phone with short sale, loss mitigation specialist, be passed around, have them loose documents, fax them, over-night them three or four times and then be turned down because the seller has PMI on it and the bank will take that and let it go to foreclosure? I think I just answered my own questions.

    Now I know some ( 2-3 agents) who have embraced this market and are doing well. So there is money to be made, but I personally am too busy.

    I have no problem with forclosure’s it is the short sales that I hate.

  9. Matthew Rathbun

    October 5, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    T / Missy: I understand that Short Sales and Distressed Listings are not in everyone’s business plan, in my market they are about 36% of the current listings. It’s hard to avoid and in Virginia, the pursuit of a short sale by the seller is confidential. So, the Buyer’s agent may not even know until there is a delay or problem.

    I get your point and kudos for being in the minority of agents who actually have a plan and know your business well enough to sort through issues.

  10. Bill Lublin

    October 5, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Matt; I’ve always told people that real estate was the worst job and the best career that a person could have. But short term commitments and expectations that its an easy job that pays well are the path to failure as you point out.

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