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Should Realtors be required to have a college degree?

In Texas alone, barbers are required to have seven times more education hours than Realtors, and most licensed professions require more continuing education. This got me to thinking about what I did and didn’t learn in college, and what “raising the bar” really means.

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We’ve been discussing for years how to personally improve the practice of being an individual agent as well as how to improve the profession overall so that consumers have a better experience from industry insiders. Everyone has a different idea of how to raise Realtors above used car salesmen in the eyes of consumers and while social media has helped America see the personal side of real estate professionals, it hasn’t quite elevated the profession.

You’ve been to Starbucks this month, right? Everyone can spot the Realtor in the room- the hair is a little too big, the cell phone conversation is too loud and self important and the knock off Louis Vuitton bag is so far from the wrong brown it’s not even funny. As a Realtor, you roll your eyes and think “if only there was SOME way that it was a little harder to get licensed.”

We all know that gal or guy- they make the industry look horribly and in a single second undermine the entire industry. What should be done?

Any time we have this discussion, since the beginning of time, most people simply say that a college degree should be required. Really? That’s the answer? If you’ve been to college, you know that a lot of really, really, really painfully stupid people have graduated. It happens.

So this got me to thinking…

How would requiring a bachelor’s degree help the industry? I began thinking about my own college experience. I studied English at the University of Texas (then Spanish, then back to English, then Spanish and eventually left on year five with both).

College is supposed to prepare you for the “real world” and make you a better citizen, right? I’m not so sure. Regarding my own college experience, here is what college did do for me:

  1. I learned to hustle for myself. In a college so big, there was no accountability from anywhere but within myself.
  2. I learned how to research and how to tell junk from gems.
  3. I learned how to prioritize at my own risk.
  4. I learned how to work efficiently on very little sleep.
  5. Believe it or not, I learned the value of the professional network. If you didn’t go to office hours, your professors didn’t know who you were and if you didn’t keep up with them over the years, they couldn’t write letters of recommendation.
  6. The value of a personal network became apparent very early on as well- not just for getting into the best parties, but finding a roommate, a sofa when I needed one, a ride when my car broke down, a job when I needed cash, etc. If I’d stayed in my apartment alone, none of that would have panned out.
  7. Ultimately, I learned how to compete for my spot. UT is so big that it’s near impossible to get into if you’re not in the top 10% of your HS class. I also learned how to compete for a professor’s attention that hated teaching and was only there to research. Going to college also taught me how to compete for my spot in popular classes.

That all sounds good and wouldn’t those things all help elevate the real estate profession? Sure, why not? But it also got me to thinking about what I did NOT learn in college:

  1. Because I was an English major, I did NOT learn how to get to the point. We were required to write ten to twenty page papers several times each week and with that minimum, being concise was never necessary.
  2. I didn’t learn how to present well because the emphasis was on the information and not how it was presented. The most I had to do was read portions of my works out loud, but I could have read in a monotone voice and it wouldn’t have mattered.
  3. I did NOT learn how to work on a team. In the business school, this was a priority, but not in the liberal arts program. I learned how to push myself to be better than everyone, not how to function properly on a team… which is what most jobs require, especially real estate.
  4. I didn’t learn how to write a resume or sell myself. I now work frequently with interns and they are experiencing a similar lesson but now that social media is a part of their life, they think they know how to sell themselves because they can tweet. College does NOT prepare effectively how to sale, barring a few business courses.
  5. I did not learn money management. Again, the business school teaches this, but I left college having spoken to several financial advisors about my own loans but with conflicting information, my limited money experience was completely insane.
  6. I did not learn how to dress for success. I wore pajamas to most of my classes and the professor was lucky if I brushed my teeth or slept the night before. It didn’t impact my grade one iota.
  7. I didn’t learn how to negotiate. I knew how to manipulate and could get extra credit with some instructors, but overall, I learned nothing about negotiation, possibly one of the most critical tools in the real estate industry.
  8. I didn’t learn how to quit. In college, you keep pushing and pushing and pushing until you’re almost dead. In the real world, you have to know when to fold ’em. You have to know the signs of when a project isn’t working or when a tactic is failing, but college only prepares you to beat your head against a wall.

Most of these lessons I learned in my first jobs, not because the University helped me in any way.

So require or don’t require?

So, overall, when I think about whether or not a college degree is relevant in the real estate industry, I would argue that some of the most critical business survival skills are not taught in a traditional University unless students attend the business school (which is a minority of college students). Most colleges barely address the topic of real estate and graduate programs on the topic are forming, but going to school to be a Realtor is nearly unheard of (which would be the ultimate answer to the “what do we do?” question).

I believe that requiring a college degree would make for a beautiful Utopia and that in a dream world and on paper it looks good. Everyone with a framed BA or two would rule the world and help consumer trust levels, but I don’t believe it would actually make for better Realtors, it would just be more letters to add to the alphabet soup. What do you think?

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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61 Comments

61 Comments

  1. Eric Hempler

    February 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I have a two year degree in Real Estate. It’s helped me do a better job at pricing a home compared to maybe most others. The degree covered Property Management, Appraisal and Contracts. One component I wish it did include was marking. Not just marketing a home, but also how to market yourself.

    I’m not sure yet if a degree should be required, but some kind of education does help.

    • Lani Rosales

      February 13, 2011 at 6:45 pm

      Any education helps, be it higher education, continuing education, extra courses through the board, etc. but just any ol’ degree isn’t necessarily the prerequisite to excelling in business.

      Most colleges don’t offer real estate degrees on any level, but if it were a requirement, that seems the only logical one… an English degree does not a real estate expert make.

  2. Matt Thomson

    February 13, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    I don’t think a college degree is the ticket, especially in our culture that is moving more and more towards just giving everyone their rewards and not hurting anyone’s feelings. I don’t believe a college degree is what it once was, and I don’t believe even then that it would be particularly relevant.

    I think better regulations or monitoring on real estate courses would be a good start. As much as I’d hate to see them go, getting rid of online CE classes would help too. As much as an education-based guy that I am, I still scramble and put together 15 CE hours each year prior to my renewal, just by going online and taking an easy quiz.

    Standards of performance that the RE board of your state actually upholds wouldn’t be a bad place to start, either. What happens if you prove inept? What happens if you can’t enter a listing correctly? What happens if you’re legal, but maybe not ethical? Same thing that happens when 2 guys fight in the NFL…nothing.

  3. Matt Wilkins

    February 13, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    I agree that the pre-licensing bar needs to be raised but like most things in society it has to be done in stages. Maybe a solution would be is for a college degree to substitute for part or all of the licensing requirement.

    Maybe requiring brokers to have the equivalent of a two year associates degree to upgrade from a salesperson license?

    Just had to throw it out there.

  4. Michael McClure

    February 13, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    Lani,

    The benefits of education are intrinsic. Whether you learn skills that SPECIFICALLY APPLY to a given field is not necessarily the issue. It’s about learning to think and critically reason, and being exposed to more things, people and situations that simply PREPARE YOU BETTER for whatever you do next.

    In fact, in some countries – England comes to mind – most people who go to college don’t even necessarily study whatever it is that they hope to do when they graduate. It’s all about learning to learn and getting a well-rounded, general education – not mastering specific skills.

    I’ve written a lot on this topic. Rather than repeat it all here, here are a few of the blog posts I’ve written:

    * p1fran.com/2010/10/missing-the-next-bill-gates/

    * p1fran.com/2010/06/we-dont-need-no-education/

    * p1fran.com/2010/04/rtb-raising-the-bar-how-high/

    Also, I had the opportunity to spend 10 years working as a CPA in an environment where everyone had a degree from a quality school. And I’ve spent 20 years in real estate, where that would be considered the exception. The two populations are night and day different. Night. And. Day.

    Finally, my company – Professional One – exists because I could not find another brand in real estate that was truly committed to having real professionals from top to bottom of the organization (and yes, I worked at SEVERAL of the Big 5, and was even offered ownership in one of those brands). So, I created Professional One specifically to employ a standard, a REAL barrier to entry, to create a consistently professional organization. We are young, and we have a long way to go. But that is absolutely the vision.

    Thanks for the provocative post!

    Best,
    Michael

  5. Vicki Lloyd

    February 13, 2011 at 7:17 pm

    Although I have a degree in Business (Marketing) and an MBA (emphasis was Finance), I don’t believe college degrees necessarily make better real estate agents.

    Several of the brightest, most successful and ethical agents that I know, have no formal education beyond high school, and the required licensing courses and continuing ed. Having some “street smarts”, attention to detail, awareness of the market, and common sense are much more important factors that make a great agent.

  6. Michael McClure

    February 13, 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Lani,

    One more thing: A frequent response I get from people in this specific debate is “I know great agents who don’t have college degrees.”

    AND SO DO I.

    But the EXCEPTION DOES NOT DISPROVE THE RULE.

    You can always find an exception to any prevailing generally held belief or principal. But if the belief or principal holds up over the larger population, it is what it is.

    Best,
    Michael

  7. elizabeth cooper-golden

    February 13, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    While I don’t feel a college degree is necessarily the answer, I do believe a much higher standard and more education to get your license should be required. 60 hours of nothingness to get started is truly quite pitiful, especially when you consider that we hold the consumers largest investment in our hands.

    When I moved to AL and got my Brokers license, I really felt a bit ripped off. We spent 2 days “touring” homebuilders who were trying to get us to sell their products. They took up 1/2 of our day, touting themselves, while we SHOULD have been learning, I felt. I don’t feel any more qualified from my Real Estate education to own my own firm, than the rest of them. By that I mean….if I depended on the minimum standards, that would be a bit scary! I’m self taught. I read, read, read and attend any and all educational events that I possibly can. That’s what makes me different.

    As mentioned above, get rid of the online CE…we’ve all done it and we all know it’s a snooze fest. Pay your money, get your CE credits.

    I think it’s time to hold each other to higher standards as well. Something needs to change. REALLY change.

  8. george walsh

    February 13, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    College degree, NO. Ethics training, yes. Customer and interpersonal relations, yes. Time management, yes, Negotiating 101, yes. Basic appraisal techniques and procedures, yes. There’s more, but i suspect most of you get the idea. What would a degree in a language (French, Spanish, Russian, etc.) have to do with making a good real estate agent? Irelevant. Computer Science, or any science (Biology, Chemistry, etc.) for that matter?

  9. Kasi

    February 13, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    I think a 2 year degree requirement would be perfect. The current 40 hour course hardly prepares you for this career. A mix of business, marketing, and real estate basics would go a long in way in preparing new agents for the business.

  10. Daniel Yu

    February 13, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    I have an incredibly strong opinion on this topic.

    I’m not yet a realtor, I took the Realtor exam last summer and finishing off university this year so I can start working this summer. Ironically, I’m currently studying a sociology course on the crisis/uselessness of an undergrad degree during my last semester. Basically it talked about the lowering standard of university, downward cascading effect of diplomas, and credentialism.If we continue with these expectations, soon we’ll be needing a BA to make sandwiches at Subway. Everyone who graduate from business schools expect to get a $100,000 job 1st year they graduate because they been overfilling themselves with ego for 4 years. It all points to the same conclusion, we’re having too much expectation for the diploma and university is not living up to our expectation. Additionally, the market isn’t creating enough jobs to fulfill these university grads.

    Like Lani stated, it’ll barely help the career. The only thing I think it can help me on is to be used as an ice-breaker. Because the majority of clients I’ll have in the future will be baby-boomers, they’ll show more respect for someone who has a degree and give me more chance to get their business. (Please let me know if I’m wrong as I have even started working)

    If I found my interest in real estate when I just started my university, I would have chosen something related specifically to real estate. As it’s my only interest now and it’ll be the only thing university can offer to help my RE career since my Asian parents don’t give me a choice on going to university or not.

    (studies show Liberal Arts majors show more success than other majors in the long-run career wise) <– from "Ivory Tower Blues – A university system in crisis". Lani's success demonstrates this.

    I can honestly say I despise university at this moment, it's hindering my career and isn't helping it either. I have learned much more about my career simply from self-learning and reading as much as I can on the internet, networking with people, etc. Many people who I know graduated can't find a above-minimum-wage job, so what's the point? I'm not a textbook person, so what I got out of university the most is strengthening my immunity to failure. Nothing else. I'm sure I'll have enough opportunity to learn to fail as I'm working so I get more experience in the field as well.

    I don't think I'll care if a degree is required for Realtors in the future. Incapable realtors will eventually be flushed out since they won't get anywhere. If a degree is required for a license in the future, it won't mean we'll have stronger competitors either since a diploma don't necessarily mean someone will be more capable on their job. It doesn't mean the service will be done more professionally and eithically either. We all know exampled of university educated individuals who have done unethical business practices. (Current studies show university student's analytical stills don't improve much from 1st to 4th year)

    What's important is continuing education in the specific field of your career. In Canada, I'm sure in US as well, it's required for Realtors to be informed and continuously educated on their career skills and knowledge. This should be the focus, not slapping on a new rule stating "degree required to be a Realtor".

    Thank you for writing this article so I have a venue to vent my frustration on university. Back to studying for midterms that won't further help my future career.

  11. Missy Caulk

    February 13, 2011 at 8:02 pm

    They think they know how to sell themselves because they can tweet. (((smiles)))

  12. James Malanowski

    February 13, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    I don’t believe that a degree should be a requirement by the State to take the exam or obtain a license. I DO believe that individual brokers should have better hiring practices.

    I’ve said before that I can’t necessarily require a degree myself since I don’t have one either. However, if all other qualifications were the same between two potential hires, I would probably take the one with the degree. Now, if the choice were between a college grad fresh out of school and someone who has been through the school of hard knocks and has some real-life experience under their belt in a related field then I would take the latter.

    As the article states, one doesn’t gain all the necessary experience in college but it does lay a good foundation on which to build. On the other hand, there are life-long students that don’t know how to put into practice what they’ve learned.

  13. Steve Nicewarner

    February 13, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    While I think a college requirement would probably improve the industry, I think there are things that would move Realtors forward more quickly and more effectively. to do so, we much accept one simple fact

    The public does not question Realtors’ lack of knowledge, they question our ethics and our professionalism

    I think we could address that in two ways;

    1. A mandatory annual ethics class covering common real estate and mortgage fraud issues and other ethical issues concerning the industry. Not a “rules update course” [which is what we have in North Carolina], but something that forces us to think about our ethics.

    2. Having our Associations be more active about dealing with unethical behavior in their members. NAR has a great first step in the Code of Ethics, but when is the last time your local Association actually punished someone because of a CoE violation?

    In short, if we are going to be professionals, we have to insist our fellow Realtors [and us too] act like professionals. that is the way we inspire the public and become leaders.

  14. Dave Woodson - Local Marketing

    February 13, 2011 at 11:30 pm

    The one regret that I have is that I did not know that Purdue offered a degree in Real Estate. I could have left college with brokers license. I think it not hurt to require agents to have degrees. I am often told stories that it sorta did in early days, but it was more of an unwritten rule.

    Dave

  15. Billy Jalbert

    February 14, 2011 at 1:29 am

    Apparently you’ve struck a chord 😉

    Professional standards in the industry are appalling. @ Michael, great business concept and differentiator.

    I’m not sure a college degree provides the training, but it certainly raises the bar. I would suggest pre-licensing minimums of 120 hours of training including RE Law, Ethics, Sales, Customer Service, Basic Accounting etc. Continuing ed requirements of a bare minimum of 10 hours per year. An Associate’s Degree in real estate is also a good idea.
    Most importantly having a code of ethics and local boards with teeth. Some of the least ethical Realtors in my community are killing it right now b/c they dominate the REO market. Sorry state of affairs.

  16. Teresa Boardman

    February 14, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Nicely done Lani you make some good points. I don’t think a college degree qualifies anyone to be a real estate agent. I could write a similar list of what I did and did not learn from my own liberal arts degree.

  17. Marty Hunt

    February 14, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Just brilliant. Require a two year degree or a four year degree and when people hit the real world of real estate they last three months or maybe six months.

    This would accomplish having a lot of people with real estate degrees who failed miserably when they found out they didn’t have what it takes to success in real estate.

    While it’s obvious that 72 hours of pre-license and a state exam that is geared to not be a “barrier to entry” so anyone can have the opportunity to “give it a go” in real estate doesn’t make someone an expert. I think you learn some of this by doing it and you have to survive past three months or six months to begin to learn what you really need to know.

    Turnover is the problem. Any industry with more turnover than car salesmen will be rated down there with attorneys and car salesmen. Although longevity and experience doesn’t make an honest or ethical agent it surely tells us who can survive and possibly make a living in the business. I’ve heard figures like 68% of all new licensees don’t make it for six months. It’s the revolving door and lack of experience and the fact that so many consumers have a real estate horror story that makes it tough to build trust and respect for our profession. When it takes more education to cut someone’s hair than it does to get a real esate license, is there any wonder why we don’t get any respect?

    Well over half of the dues paying members in our large Association had ONE sale or NO sales last year. I’m sure many of them have college degrees so I’m afraid that’s not the answer. And a four year college degree doesn’t prepare a person for a life in sales…some of the people with the mst book smarts would fail miserably at all the things it takes to be a successful saleperson.

  18. Phil Ludlow

    February 14, 2011 at 9:14 am

    …ok,…what do you do with the existing veteran agents who pay to play inspite of NOT receiving pay for playing? As long as we have an industry structured on agent compliance versuses agent competence we will continue to have this discussion.

  19. Coleen DeGroff

    February 14, 2011 at 9:30 am

    If real estate agents were required to have college degrees I believe our industry would be taken a lot more seriously.

  20. Rich Lee

    February 14, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    Lani,

    I agree that requiring a college degree for real estate agents will not solve most of the issues in our industry. I believe better training and more comprehensive licensing exams would accomplish more to raise the standards of our profession.

    Your Real Estate Geek,

    Rich

  21. Matthew Hardy

    February 14, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    > Because I was an English major, I did NOT learn how to get to the point.

    Funniest thing I’ve read yet today.

    The best, most competent Realtors I’ve met understand business. They’ve learned how to get the job done, they care about profit and they avoid trendy time-wasters. They deliver exemplary service because they’re motivated by income first and foremost.

    I will say, though, that I know a couple of well-degreed former economists who are very successful at real estate. I’m not sure the degrees help them excel at the functional aspects of real estate, but I’m sure it effects their understanding of business and the foundational capability of delivering repeatable, high-quality levels of service.

  22. Richard Recuset

    February 14, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    No you don’t need a college degree to practice real estate. Heck, you don’t need any degree to practice anything. All one needs is specific training for the subject matter.

    But look what happened to the mortgage indusrty- I think there was/is a direct correlation between the lack of training and education required to be a mortgage broker and the mess that the industry is in now. I bet more than half of all unethical mortgage brokers have no formal education and are the ones that have bailed out the most from the industry as of recent. By the way, the blame doesn’t all fall on the mortgage brokers shoulders, it came from much higher up.

    Realtor- It’s a little harder to become a realtor compared to a mortgage broker, but not by much. You don’t even have the need to write or do basic math or geometry. But these skills would be advantageous to those who can read, write and know basic math beyond adding and subtracting. Most don’t even know how to deal with basic fractions.

    You see, when you have someone with at least an Associate’s Degree, it usually means the person can read, write and do basic math. Well, it means one at the very least has been subjected to critical thinking. (Presentations, Algebra, research, writing, etc.)

    When the public knows that Realtors have at least a 2 yr degree, it gives them more confidence to be able to work with, or at least the perception that they are being represented by a professional. One that at least has had some discipline in their life and accomplished something more than just a GED or high school diploma.

    Now, how many professionals are out there with no college education? A bunch, but not many. I’m one of them. But hey, how much would this motivate people to at least get a 2yr formal education. The result would be a win, win.

    Oh, I’m currently working on my AA in Business Finance-just shy (12 credits), and I’ve been a realtor for 15 years. Let me tell you, I feel, and I am a lot more knowledgeable and competent than ever.

    Becuase of my own experience, I think the minimum standard requirement for a Realtor, Mortgage Broker or Appraiser, should be a minimum of an Associate’s Degree.(2yr Degree). Everyone would be much better for it.

  23. MH for Movoto

    February 14, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    From a real estate perspective, i can’t really see why a traditional college degree is either a liability or an asset. Yes, it might make you a more disciplined, well-rounded person – but that’s a pretty generic benefit.

    From an academic perspective, let’s get real: not everyone get their money’s worth in a four-year liberal arts college.

    Obviously Realtors should learn as much about real estate as they can. They should also be thoughtful, organized, articulate – but how they acquire these qualities is totally up to them.

  24. Judy Graff

    February 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    I have a college degree — in theater — that’s 30 years old. Lani, I think what you and many other commenters are saying is that it would be nice if Realtors were smarter and more professional. Do you know why they’re not? Because the broker community, who influences the states’ department of real estate, wants it that way. The broker community needs tons and tons of new bodies, and deliberately influences the state test apparatus to keep licensing tests dumbed down so more people will pass.

    By the way, I got my brokers’ license six years ago to demonstate my commitment to continuing education to potential clients. Did it matter to anybody? Not one bit.

  25. Alan Donald

    February 14, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    While I agree that a college degree is not a determinant for professionalism in real estate sales, I do believe that “barriers to entry” for our profession are so pathetic that anyone can be Realtor, whether they are educated or not, but most importantly, whether they are committed to providing higher standards of service or not.

    The licensing courses are sadly mostly useless to manage your own business. All they teach you is the minimum legal requirements to practice real estate. Most of the real learning is done on the job and through CE and other training. I feel that to be able to provide a high level of service, Realtors need to be constantly learning (just like doctors!).

    In British Columbia you are required to attend college for one year full time AND real estate needs to be your PRIMARY occupation to be able to be an agent, I believe this weeds out casual and part-time agents that may be attracted by the glitter of the easy money during the good times. Every state should adopt this model.

    Have you ever heard of part-time attorneys or doctors? We need to elevate our real estate profession to a higher standard – after all we deal with one of the most valuable assets in a household!

    Only people who are committed to the profession and are willing to put in the time and effort to keep up to date and improve themselves constantly are able to provide true professional service to their clients. IMHO.

  26. s2kreno

    February 14, 2011 at 3:16 pm

    As a mortgage lender I was shocked to see how few real estate agents could write a contract (a routine part of the job, after all). In many cases I had to prepare an addendum for those who had no idea that you can’t include a golf cart, snow blower, riding mower and boat in a real property purchase and expect a mortgage lender to finance it, yikes. Or that water rights are not included in a purchase if the seller says they aren’t.

    Agents should have some sort of business education, whether it’s marketing, finance, or management because that’s where you learn the UCC and how to deal with contracts and how to calculate a loan payment and the biggie as far as I’m concerned, ETHICS.Amazing how many agents asked me for “referral fees,” aka kickbacks, and had no idea that there was anything wrong with that!

    I have a degree in financial management with a minor in economics and I think all mortgage lenders and Realtors should have a similar education.

  27. Amy Cesario

    February 15, 2011 at 1:48 am

    A degree or CE credits don’t make an agent ethical or professional. Neither does a boring ethics class that is common sense to ethical people.

    The quest for a million agents who may or may not do any business allows for sub par transactions for the consumer. Many are sub par only because of experience in the business, not because of education, the other sub par or unethical agents are allowed because Brokerages are more concerned about having the amount of agents, not the quality agent and State Real Estate Commissions don’t have high enough standards to qualify a potential broker to become a managing broker/owners.

    Education is important but not more important than experience in the field, you can’t teach that in a class room.

  28. s2kreno

    February 15, 2011 at 3:20 am

    It’s not education per se that determines success or failure; it’s the level of commitment. When idiots can enter the profession, that’s what you get. Remember that USA Today survey that found that real estate agent was the least-respected profession? Worse than Congressperson?

    If I were in a profession that I wanted to be respected the first thing I’d do would be to ratchet up the requirements and kick out the dregs.

    Someone who cares enough to study real estate in college has probably thought more about the profession and will give it more effort than the housewife who wants to have a “career” so her hubby will stop asking what she does all day, or the unemployed guy who thinks he can pick up a new profession like a middle-aged dentist picks up a new .Corvette. But go ahead and say that ethics is a waste of time and that you know it all — you can’t avoid every conflict of interest and you’d best consider what you’ll do before confronted with it; that’s what a good ethics or law class teaches. As Oscar Wilde said, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

  29. Dom

    February 15, 2011 at 5:58 am

    Realtors or Estate Agents in the UK do not have degree’s. There was a good program on TV last week over here – it suggested that Realtors get better training to give an accurate picture of the property. Some didn’t even know what was in the local area such as schools, restaurants etc.

  30. Jonathan Kauffmann

    February 15, 2011 at 8:18 am

    There’s no reason that a college degree should be required. If so, a degree should be required to open a restaurant, a consulting business, retail store or any other type of venture.

    Now the real question is: should it be a more intensive process to earn a license to practice real estate? That’s the real discussion.

  31. Jonathan Benya

    February 17, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    I’m all for requiring more education, but I don’t see what good a college degree would do. I know plenty of people who have degrees that should have been kicked out of the gene pool years ago.

  32. Jay Thompson

    August 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I have met bumbling fools with PhD’s from premier institutions, and I’ve met brilliant people with nothing more than a high school diploma (and vice versa). 
     
    At 38 years old, I got my degree because I wanted a position in my Corporate America job that required a degree. Did it help me in that position? Nope. Did I learn anything in college? Of course. Did I have to get a degree to survive? Nope. Am I glad I did? Yep.
     
    No, I don’t think requiring a degree would make for a world with better Realtors. Should more REAL education be required? Yup. In Arizona you can get a real estate sales license after nine days of class. That’s crazy talk. 
     
    Great piece Lani, I’m sending it to my daughter that starts her university life in 11 days.
     
     

  33. RuthmarieGarciaHicks

    August 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    There are two skill sets required.  One you learn with your head – and that does come from schooling.  The other you earn with your feet on the ground actually working.  
     
    Just because you don’t learn ALL the skills you need to be an agent/broker in school does not mean that it shouldn’t be a requirement.  Scoff all you want, but education teaches you synthesis.  My doctorate taught me reasoning skills that few others possess.   The understanding of cause and effect can be a tremendous asset to our clients. 
     
    As for the things that you learn with boots on the ground…practically ALL fields have that.  Even my former field of molecular biology – there was a boots on the ground period that lasted several years for things that couldn’t be synthesized in a classroom.  
     
    It was the combination of BOTH that creates a professional – in almost any field that I can think of.  The proportions are admittedly different.  For example, molecular biology takes years in the classroom and out to master, but a large proportion of in-class coursework and rigor is essential.  In real estate it is a good deal less classroom and more experience.   
     
    So I argue that both are needed. 

  34. Joe Loomer

    August 13, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Who’d be teaching the college classes?  Unsuccessful agents is who – successful agents will be making far more money than any professor will ever be paid.  
     
    Navy Chief, Navy Pride 

  35. RuthmarieGarciaHicks

    August 13, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    The lack of respect for academia that is exhibited here is nothing short of appalling.  The trouble with our nation is that real estate agents ARE paid more than the best and the brightest.  I quit my field because there was no way to earn a decent living.  Would I be of more use to society and to our country doing what I did so well for 15 years?  YES!  But I also had to eat.   If people don’t see that as a problem, then I don’t care how successful you are in business  – you aren’t very bright.  It is also why we are so pathetic as a nation with homeschooling teaching our children blather about dinosaurs living with people etc.  We are no longer innovating or creating much of anything of value and this board is a stunning example of why.  We don’t VALUE EDUCATiON or knowledge – yet it si the stuff that keeps you warm in winter, cool in summer, takes care of you when you are sick, allows you not to go by horse and buggy everywhere, creates things like the internet, computers, satellites.  All the things you take for granted.  
     
    So show some damn respect for what keeps you alive. 

    • laniar

      August 13, 2012 at 8:58 pm

       Did you read this article? Or perhaps my bio? If so, none of what you just said makes sense.

  36. MattFullerGRI

    August 21, 2012 at 9:39 am

    The real estate class I took in college was among my favorites. I went to school in Michigan and wanted to escape immediately upon graduation, so I shelved my real estate thoughts until arriving in San Francisco. Real estate agents love to portray themselves as being service professionals with a specialized knowledge set – like doctors, attorneys, etc. So we should walk the walk and require a college degree as a minimum, preferably with a “masters” version of real estate available as well. It would also help people emphasize their specialties – commercial, appraisal, residential, etc. 
     
    I spent four years at college learning how to cut to the front of the keg line and surreptitiously flirt with cute boys. The experience was invaluable and should be a requirement for all! 
     
    PS – This totally sets aside the financial aspects of what college costs. College has become ridiculously expensive and the last thing I’d like to see is a bunch of newly minted college Realtors with a massive pile of student loan debt suddenly out in the field and desperate for any transaction that comes along. In a theoretical world, I’m all for college. In the world of today where it is insanely expensive, I have to factor in the expense issue and it gives me pause. 

  37. Joe Loomer

    August 21, 2012 at 10:04 am

    I learned research as a Navy Cryptologist – knowing your target allows you to understand, anticipate, react, and even control behavior. 
     
    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

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Point & Purpose

What makes a top producer in real estate?

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What makes a top producer?

Stop and think for a few minutes about who the top producers are in your market?

Ok, now think about what they doing that has allowed them to continue to consistently produce in a down market, when everyday REALTORS are throwing in the towel.

Every day I scan the MLS to see, what has sold, what is active, and what went under contract (I assume that is something most agents do every day.)

Over and over again the same names pop up as the listing agent with the home that sold or the actual buying agent that sold the home.

Teams

Except for one agent in my area, all the top producers have teams. Now it may be a two person, husband and wife team or a well oiled team with a team leader, several assistants, a listing coordinator or a closing coordinator. But, they all have HELP.

In my area, the names that keep popping up are on Teams. I believe it is virtually impossible to be a top producer without help. Well, you could do it alone but if you do how is that effecting time with your family? Realistically how many transactions can you juggle and give good service?

Running a Business

The second thing I notice about those top producers is the fact that they treat their business like a business. Real Estate to them is not just selling a house, but something they brand, allocate resources for, grow and manage. Not only are they thinking of ways to grow their business but they also thinking of the future and how to sell it down the road.

I remember being told by a entrepreneur friend of mine years ago, “all businesses are built to be sold.”

Far to many REALTORS, think of Real Estate as a job they do and someday when they retire then all the hard work of creating and nurturing relationships they have built is gone. (I’m outta here)

Focused and Positive

One other observation I have observed with top producers is they are focused and positive. I never see them “hanging out at the office”, or attending broker opens, or really for that matter, serving much at all on their local boards. Oh there are a few, but really very few.

Finally, I don’t see many top producers in my market on Twitter, Facebook, Empire Avenue or other social media sites during the day. I don’t see them at every conference known to man around the country.

What I do see is they work everyday, on their business and in their business.

How ‘bout you?

Think of the top REALTORS in your market, what characteristics do you see?

Flickr Photo Credit

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Point & Purpose

Is requiring Realtors to obtain a college degree smart?

The idea is constantly thrown around of raising the bar in real estate, but let’s take a look at why requiring a college degree may not be the answer.

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Last week we brought up the topic of requiring Realtors to hold a college degree as a means of minimum standards for licensing. Any time we discuss with agents what the best thing to do for improving the industry and the image of the industry is to raise minimum standards with most people agreeing that a monkey wearing an eye patch can get a license.

I shared with you what I learned and didn’t learn in college and reasoned that requiring a degree wouldn’t likely improve the industry as many basic business skills are not taught in universities today, barring the business schools.

I got a touching email of a reader that agreed with me. Sig Buster started his career in 1972, before I was even born. According to Sig, he was “broke, busted and disgusted but this [real estate] business gave me something the college didn’t give me. Hope and a chance and that’s all I wanted. I’ve seen many recessions come and go and many college boys and girls bust out of the business, but I am still here.”

Sig’s story is one of a successful agent who does not have a college degree, he is a well respected leader. I would defy anyone to argue that he is not qualified to practice because he does not have an $80k piece of paper like some of you (and I) do.

Sig’s story in his own words:

Try to read this tale and make the argument that degrees should be required. Bachelor’s degrees are nice, they’re fancy, and requiring them is a great default argument but one that I think is lazy.

“I didn’t graduate from HS anywhere near the top 10% of my class. We didn’t have a speech class, thus I was very shy and couldn’t think very quickly on my feet. The Viet Nam War was ramping up in 1965 and no one wanted to gamble any money on a college loan with a young man like me who was 1A for the draft. I did get some college, mostly English and history by working and paying my way to night classes while I worked as a draftsman with the highway department. As a draftsman, I learned how to read maps and survey plats which helped me later with selling land.

When the money ran out, I was talked into trying real estate. I knew this was the only way I would ever have a fighting “chance” to “make good” as they say. We didn’t have any real estate classes or schools, so I studied for the test on my own while working on a framing crew building houses. This taught me how to read house plans and a lot about construction which later helped me spot trouble in houses I listed or sold.

I firmly believe this hard earned knowledge has helped me better serve my clients and kept me from being sued. You know the catch all phrase lawyers like to use. “He/She knew or should have known”. Well, my experience in the field helped me to “know.”

Eventually, I took and passed the real estate exam and received my first year salesman license. The Monday morning I began work as a salesman, I knew for a fact that no one should depend on me to buy a house. I was too poorly trained to sell houses. Fortunately, I had a good sales manager who helped me, and I sold and closed my first VA loan home in 30 days- just in time to pay my rent and buy me another 30 days in the business.

I received a flyer advertising the Realtors GRI classes and I took the first class. This opened my eyes to the education provided by the Realtor association. I took advantage of every class and seminar I could find. Gaining knowledge in my chosen field every day. This specialized knowledge provided by other real estate professionals who knew the business, gave me the knowledge to better serve my clients and the money followed. I learned a very valuable lesson that is hard to teach young realtors. Provide the service and the money will follow. In other words, don’t chase the money.

To make a long, long story short, I eventually received my GRI, and my CCIM designation. I have been chairman of a planning commission and chairman of a zoning board of adjusters. Thus, I have a working knowledge of the government side of development- something they do not teach in college. I will be a guest speaker at a college in April of this year. I will be speaking to a college real estate class of fresh young faces who will graduate thinking they know it all.

As I said in the beginning, our high school didn’t have a speech class so I took two Dale Carnegie courses as well as Toastmasters and now I have the knowledge to speak in public and think on my feet.

I still don’t have a college degree so in this society, I couldn’t be hired to be a dog catcher’s helper, but I do consider myself educated. I’ve read and studied more books than all of my college educated children put together.

I have a degree from the school of hard knocks. I don’t recommend getting this type of education because it takes so long and it is a very hard road. But, this is what I would recommend if we demanded a college education for a real estate career.

1. Continue to develop the Realtor University that is provided by NAR. If possible, get Realtor University accredited as a University. Instead of building buildings and concentrating on research, continue to teach people to function in their chosen field.

2. Have a specialized tract, residential, land, or commercial. Don’t try to do it all, but know a little about all of it.

3. Know how to read plans, plats and have a knowledge of how to read a compass, GPS.

4. Learn something about the governmental side of real estate and how it works.

5. Continue using Webinars and Archived Webinars provided by NAR and CCIM.

6. Encourage Dale Carnage and Toastmasters and courses like that to develop the social skills that are necessary for this business.

I don’t have a problem with people getting a college degree but I don’t think a college degree is the end all of education. It can be a deterrent because of the cost and it will shut out people who can’t afford to pay the price. Real estate has been good to me and I have given back by serving my association as President and in many other ways. This has all been a learning experience and always will be. If we must have a degree, let it be in Real Estate.”

Sig’s accomplishments:

These aren’t your standard Realtors’ back patting, these are some serious accomplishments:

  • Licensed in South Carolina and North Carolina
  • 1972 Entered The Real Estate Business with Associated Realty, Inc in Columbia, SC.
  • 1973 Earned the GRI Designation
  • 1989 Earned the CCIM Designation
  • 1998 Co-Chair CCAR Legislative Committee
  • 1999 President SC CCIM Chapter
  • 2000 CCAR Leadership Program
  • 2000 CCAR-Certified Professional Standards Mediation
  • 2001 Co-Chair CCAR Legislative Committee
  • 2001 CCAR REALTORS Image Award-April
  • 2002 Chairman CCAR Legislative Committee
  • 2002 National Chairman of the CCIM Legislative Committee
  • 2002 Member CCAR Grievance Committee
  • 2004 Leadership SCAR
  • 2004 Chairman CCAR Legislative Committee
  • 2004 CCAR Board of Directors
  • 2004 Realtor of the Year-CCAR
  • 2005 Vice Chair SCAR State and Local Issues Working Group
  • 2005 CCAR MLS Committee-Member
  • 2005 SC CCIM Chapter-Member Board of Directors
  • 2005 CCAR Legislative Committee-Member
  • 2005 CCAR Leadership Program-Dean
  • 2005 CCAR Board of Directors-Member
  • 2006 CCAR MLS Committee-Member
  • 2006 CCAR-Secretary-Officer
  • 2006 CCAR MLS Sub Committee- Commercial
  • 2006 CCAR MLS Sub Committee-Grievance
  • 2006 CCAR Legislative Committee-Member
  • 2006 NAR- Land Use and Environmental Committee
  • 2006 SCAR Director
  • 2006 Chairman SCAR State and Local Issues Working Group
  • 2007 Vice Chairman of SCR Legislative Group
  • 2007 President Elect Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors
  • 2008 President Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors
  • 2008 Chairman of SCR Legislative Group2008 South Carolina REALTOR Advocate
  • Award (used to be the Grass Roots REALTOR of the year award.
  • 2009 Treasure SCR/member Legislative Group SCR/Legislative Committee, CCAR
  • 2011 Legislative Group Chair SC CCIM Chapter
  • 2011 SC CCIM chapter Board of Directors

Can anyone really look to Sig Buster and say that he is not doing good things for our industry simply because he doesn’t have a college degree? No. The argument is lazy and the real requirements should be (as Sig indicated) education that is focused on real estate and encouraging active leadership involvement. What say you?

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Business Marketing

Don’t hate me because I’m a real estate agent

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ocar magLast month I spent a day at a seminar for real estate agents. The hotel I stayed in was packed with other real estate agents all attending the same event and following dinner, I went to sit down in the packed lounge. Tables were filled and there were very few empty chairs, however one nice guy, we’ll call him John Doe,  invited us to join his table.

This article was first published here on September 09, 2009.

Poor John… can you imagine poor John’s surprise when he realized that his business trip coincided with this huge real estate extravaganza?  He was surrounded with 100’s of those in the real estate industry.  And guess what?  He wasn’t a huge fan…he didn’t really like real estate agents.

John Doe Has Some Questions

When I sat down initially we talked about family, our kids, their ages, and then of course – ‘what do you do?’ came up and I could sense the hesitation when I gave my occupation.  He was really pleasant and I think he genuinely was curious to hear my answers to some of his questions.  As we talked, another agent had just joined our table and conversation.

John said, “It doesn’t seem right to me.  Our last home purchase, I did all this research and found the homes we wanted to see online and the agent just showed them and got this big paycheck.  Can you explain that to me?”

Of course, I have a lot of knee jerk responses to this question but instead I really wanted to know more about what he had experienced.  Sadly, my agent counterpart took this on as a challenge.  Clearly, it had become her goal to convert our John Doe friend before the night was over.  I admit I did withdraw from the conversation a bit as she worked her magic and he glanced over at me periodically with eyes glazing over.

No Conversion That Night…

…and not likely ever.  Poor John may have been one lone voice in a sea of Realtors that night, but the reality is, he is very common.  His perception of our industry is pervasive and was probably only further validated that night by the verbal barrage of justifications he received from my agent counterpart.   Yet, I know that his one question is the tip of the iceberg.

The Perception Versus The Reality

The perception is that this job is easy.  Income is unearned.  We make too much.  Real estate agents lack training and real knowledge.  Real estate agents are just looking for a sale.   Maybe real estate agents aren’t necessary at all.

Maybe that’s all true – I don’t think that it is – but the fact is that it really doesn’t matter.  We can debate it with the same verbal justifications that John Doe heard that night or we can really hear our consumers and respond in ways that provide real tangible value and real industry change.

I cringed a little when I saw the cover to our local association’s publication.  I know the idea of promoting the value of a ‘Realtor’ has become so important but I think it’s fallen on deaf ears.  While I know how hard many of us work and I know how dedicated we are, I also know that if John Doe were to read that cover, ‘The hardest working letter in the alphabet,’ his eyes would surely roll.

When the industry starts to hold itself to a higher standard, when we as agents start providing real value rather than marketing pieces dripping with ego, when we talk less and listen more, when integrity begins to be more that a catch phrase on our cards, only then will we see the John Doe’s of the world not cringe at a hotel filled with real estate agents.

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