Alienation or Amelioration?
It’s been a catch phrase since my first day of licensing class… I remember distinctly the instructor saying, “We need to increase professionalism in this industry and good education is the key.” He then proceeded to ask each student to read a section of the proceeding chapters out loud. And that’s what we did for sixty hours. We read out loud, had some nominal discussions about agency and then took a test. All the while being reassured the the licensing program had little to do with actually practicing Real Estate – great. What a waste of potential time to influence the next wave of practitioners…
Now I am an educator and have also served clients both as an agent and broker. I have worked with some of the best and the worst the industry has to offer, but all the while I’ve heard and participated in talk about “Raising the Bar”. This is almost always on the heals of an agent getting scorned in some way. At some juncture an agent finds something unfair or unsettling about a transaction or practice and shares it with anyone who will hear. Will they gossip and complain about it? Yes. Will they reduce it to writing and put their name to it? Rarely.
The concern I have today is that many people who declare that the “Bar” needs to be raised aren’t utilizing that tools that are out there to actually bring some change to the practice of another agent. I’ve heard the rationale of inaction, but sometimes I don’t think it’s justified. Could it hurt your future dealings – maybe. Could it label you as a tattle-tale – probably. Will it make you any friends – never. Regardless, the real aspiration to change is usually in direct proportion for potential repercussion of indiscretion.
Therefore I am left with the question: Why would a group of people who have the ability to pursue justice desire to not do so and then ask for more regulation? Wouldn’t more requirements simply be just more rules to infringe upon with no real deterrent? Or is it that many would simply like the requirements of education to be higher in order to dissuade individuals from getting or keeping a license thus eliminating competition without the need for actual action?
How High(or low) will You Go?
Mandatory Education as a tool against nefarious action is myth. Mandatory Education as a tool to increase professionalism is a scheme without foundation. People will swim across dry deserts if they think there is an easy reoccurring six figure income at the end. You can increase pre-licensing education all you want, but without actually using the time to teach something of value it’s pointless. Mandating excessive educational requirements in the hope that problematic people will go away, is a waste of good legislation. We can mandate 100’s of hours a year of education for REALTORS®, but all you will have are weary and bitter practitioners in your classrooms… Yeah, that’s a great learning environment. Covering Fair Housing for three hours every year, when it hasn’t changed in my state since 1988, is a great waste of time. Look, I’m not knocking Fair Housing training. Frankly, I think it’s one of the most important issues we sometimes face – but, it hasn’t changed. If you limit someone’s right to live peacefully, because of their color – you’re an idiot and nothing in my lecture is going to change that. This point is compounded by the fact that only 2% (according to some reports) of Fair Housing violation deal with Residential Sales (83% of practitioners) and deals mainly with rentals (4% of agents). Only enforcement of the rules will dissuade you from acting that way, not laboring that point with people who aren’t misbehaving.
Giving educators more time in the front-end of licensing will help to better prepare the agent, if we’re allowed to use that time for budgeting, marketing, business planning, professional development etc. I’m all for that. That better prepares the agent to go serve the pubic – but it wont’ make them more responsive, more ethical or change their desire to put money before people.
At what point do we stop ‘Raising the Bar”? Is it when there is such a high requirement of mandatory education and manure to wade thru that you can’t possible have time to actually find and work with a client. This industry is highly regulated – it’s simply that no one is initiating the process.
The Case Against Mandatory Education
I am all for education – it’s the silver bullet that sets us apart from one another. However, some jurisdictions have taken this too far and have enacted or proposed regulations to make education something agents will resent and not embrace.
Some of the worst white collar offenders are highly educated people. That education just gave them the tools to steal more money, than those who weren’t as highly educated. Way back when I worked in IT, my primary clients were schools. I remember vividly the conversations amongst the teachers talking about the crappy performance of most of the teachers in the system. In one long conversation the teachers pointed out that those educators with Masters Degrees and PhDs were so full of theories that there were no longer relevant to today’s learners. (I don’t think that’s always the case, but I’ve personally been bored more often that not with the uber-educated.) Every industry has good and bad employees…
There is something in people that makes them ideally suited for jobs they do well. It’s the perfect aggregate of personality, intuitiveness and desire to do well. Without the desire to do well, REALTORS® will continue to give poor service – that is not something we can change.
The higher the demands on mandatory education, the more it will push agents to take the path of least resistance. They will go to the online schools that allow you to get 10 hours of credit for 25 minutes of reading and a quiz. What will that accomplish?
No REALTOR® Left Behind
It dawns on me that Public School system as given the “No Student Left Behind” edict and has taken the actually learning process out, in order to ensure passing a test. We’ve done the same with vocational education. Many educators no longer even try to teach Critical Thinking Skills. They simply read or lecture what’s given, never trying to help the REALTOR® actually put the pieces together.
Doesn’t the Infinite Monkey Theorem tell us that given enough time and enough monkeys that they could type the works of Shakespeare? I don’t want to be trapped into to actually getting the attention of an agent in a learning environment, and then have to drill drivel about basic agency theories every year. Let’s make education count and not use it as a broadsword to sweep away competition. Let’s use it as a tool to mold learners.
The Real Answer
So as not to be accused of not wanting to increase professionalism, I want to be very clear. I am of the opinion that professionals need to be held accountable and that we have a lot of growth to be done in this industry. That said, the answer in my opinion is enforcement. No one knows better than an agent what is legal and acceptable practices. Why shouldn’t they also be the primary defense of the consumer against those agents who do not adhere to regulations?
If agents do not want to be accountable to hold others accountable than the only other option is to increase licensing fees and hire people to do field reviews of transactions – but warned… It’s been my experience that virtually no agent has practiced without a mistake somewhere. The issues with investigators is that the will hunt to find something that will justify their existence – you’ve been warned.
I think clearer regulations, more agents holding others accountable and Brokers being made to suffer the same consequence as an agent who causes malice are all better steps to improving the industry than simply making people hate to get training…
What do YOU think will make a difference?