Last 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.
September 9, 2009 at 2:16 am
As much as I like your willingness to just listen to the guy’s point of view (and acknowledge) instead of (like the other agent) obsessively attempting to convert him – I find that many people have their minds made up on certain issues and aren’t really willing to LOOK. This doesn’t make what they think wrong but getting them to look – not fall back on what they already think – is the only method that might matter.
People think lawyers “make too much”. This is the same with a great many professions. Lawyers are too expensive, unless of course you need one and then it isn’t optional. Same with Realtors. Anybody who gets paid by the hour (or has an “by the hour” mentality isn’t ever going to think 5k, 10k or 20k for a commission is “fair”. Personally, I am willing to spend precisely zero time attempting to get them to change their mind.
A fabulous quote from Mark Twain: “You can’t reason someone out of something they weren’t reasoned into.”
Agent for Movoto
January 3, 2011 at 1:52 pm
really fantastic quote, russell. so true.
September 9, 2009 at 2:45 am
Thanks so much for the post. With real estate here in our place,
our team really believes here in the power of the internet and
September 9, 2009 at 5:27 am
I used to dislike Realtors in my younger days so I don’t think you could convince John. And that’s okay. It’s just a different religion.
Today, my response is likely to be to call their bluff, “If you don’t like Realtors, why did you use one? If you don’t like them, you shouldn’t use them.”
The sadder but wiser client’s the client for me.
September 9, 2009 at 5:53 am
I think Russell hit the nail on the head – and the Mark Twain quote is certainly relevant.
But I also agree with Linsey that despite the shift in the market, you still pretty much just need a pulse to get a license in most states, and those of us in border towns enjoy reciprocity – the ability to obtain a license for a neighboring state without passing that domain’s licensing tests.
Spending time trying to “educate” someone who had a negative experience with an agent is a waste of time. Just don’t be “that guy.”
Navy Chief, Navy Pride
September 9, 2009 at 10:46 am
I guess the individual guy isn’t what concerns me. He won’t be convinced, nor should we try to, with words. My concern is the pervasive perception of our industry. Even my own parents were less than thrilled when I entered the industry because of their perception of the industry.
I know lawyer jokes abound, too. But our industry fails to have educational standards that remotely compare. At this point, I’d be thrilled with even that level of consumer respect.
My bigger concern is that we should be asking the questions this guys is asking. We should be asking them of ourselves and answering them with not words – but by displaying and really creating a value in our services, in our marketing, and in our relationships. I’m still not sure that is happening with the majority of agents.
September 9, 2009 at 11:39 am
I think our response to differing opinions says a lot about us (as individuals and a group). Recently I posed a question to stagers on ActiveRain after reading a thread that seemed quite full of anger on both sides. The way both sides responded to criticism really bugged me. There are plenty of people who feel they can do real estate on their own or have had bad experiences (myself included in the latter). Lucky for me, I didn’t write off the industry as a whole or I’d be looking for a new job right about now.
I would have loved to have seen your conversation with John. John, if you’re out there, come join the discussion – I’d love to hear what Linsey might say to you and how you two might have a conversation and not an adversarial clash.
Atlanta Real Estate
September 9, 2009 at 11:52 am
Your guy was just one of many, it’s an overall perception thing for our profession.
As much as I hate it, a lot of it is true. It’s not our fault. All of the agents here on AG care enough to be discussing the topics here on AG.
The problem starts with what I call the low-to-no barrier to entry into this profession. I passed my exam after studying on the couch while watching TV in the evenings for about 10 days. I then ponied up $300, took the test and was an Agent.
That’s it! That’s Pathetic!
Net result: a TON (majority?) of under qualified, unprofessional, unsmart Agents out there that add absolutely NO value to anything real estate related.
So, in some large percentage, these are the Agents out there representing our profession. You can’t change the guy’s mind when in fact, he’s probably somewhat right, at least in his own experiences.
September 9, 2009 at 12:16 pm
Our perceived value in society is due to the actions of real estate agents out for the quick sale, that are lazy, have a sense of entitlement for commissions, and the low bar for entry into the profession.
Driving fancy cars, “top producer” marketing, push sales techniques, and not willing to further educate and improve skills leads to this public profession. What other profession brags in marketing about how many transactions or “sales” they have had? Or that they are in the top 1% of a particular company – what the heck does that matter?
Just as in any profession there are good agents and bad, active agents and inactive agents. There are those that make a living and others that work for play money.
Is this all are fault? Until the consumer starts making better selections when choosing a real estate agent and continues to feed the bad it will continue.
My belief is the new wave of social media will allow those agents that truly care about the Client and profession to rise above – you can’t be a bad agent and attract Clients via the web. To survive we will have to provide good content and information, and develop a compelling reason for that prospect to pick up the phone or send an e-mail.
Together we can change our industry – we need to take leadership and move from “salespeople” to trusted advisors.
We need to do a better job explaining what we do to Clients – it is not just about driving around, showing a few homes, and collecting a commission.
September 9, 2009 at 12:30 pm
Don’t buy into that line.
– Sure the public has a bad perception of Realtors but is that a good thing or a bad thing for your individual business? Take advantage of it. Expectations are low.
– A lot of people are just complainers. You could give them something for free and they would still complain about it. The guy in the bar wasn’t complaining that he paid too much money to his Realtor. He was complaining that his Realtor made too much money. He’s just a complainer.
– It’s okay if he goes FSBO. In fact, encourage him to try buying a FSBO next time. That’s probably the only way he’s going to learn. He’s likely to end up sadder but wiser, but at least he’ll be more pleasant company at hotel bars.
September 9, 2009 at 1:55 pm
Lindsey, I think what you say in your comments are even more powerful than what you say in the actual blog. For instance “My bigger concern is that we should be asking the questions this guys is asking. We should be asking them of ourselves and answering them with not words – but by displaying and really creating a value in our services, in our marketing, and in our relationships. I’m still not sure that is happening with the majority of agents.”
As an online sales consultant for a local builder I see and hear about many real estate agents out there. There are some great ones and some that create the feeling that John has because they are just out to make the quick buck, they are less than ethical and they see fresh meat and jump.
I can’t tell you how many site sales end up in battles with real estate agents who jump in at the 10th hour after all the work has been done from our side. They are friends of friends who find out that they are “unrepresented” and then insert themselves into the process when they were in no way shape or form procuring cause. They may be the sellers agent, and when they find out where their seller is buying their next home, they insert themselves as the buyers agent, even when their services weren’t contracted by the buyer.
Sadly there is less than ethical activity going on out there and that is what perpetuates this feeling. All we can do is show, through our actions and how we hold ourselves accountable to clients, and react with in the industry and service our clients that we are what we say we are.
September 9, 2009 at 2:37 pm
I don’t think commissions are the issue. Realtors are seen in a bad light due to low entry and retention standards, lack of knowledge, 1950s push marketing techniques, and ego-driven advertising. The public doesn’t care whether you have a great glamor shot on your business card or that you are in the Multi-million Dollar sales club. They want the 21st century version of professionalism, which hinges on honesty, transparency, knowledge, integrity, and results.
It doesn’t help that NAR consistently shoots all of us in the foot with major advertising campaigns like “Now is a great time to buy”, during the worst part of the market’s tanking.
September 9, 2009 at 2:52 pm
I don’t think commissions are the issue, but if you are locked into your inflexible commission mindset, I suggest having a look at Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson.
Realtors are seen in a bad light due to low entry and retention standards, lack of knowledge, 1950s push marketing techniques, and ego-driven advertising. The public doesn’t care whether you have a great glamor shot on your business card or that you are in the Multi-million Dollar sales club. They want the 21st century version of professionalism, which hinges on honesty, transparency, knowledge, integrity, and results. I find it amusing that so many in the profession defend the old ways of doing business.
It doesn’t help that NAR consistently shoots all of us in the foot with major advertising campaigns like “Now is a great time to buy”, during the worst part of the market’s tanking.
September 9, 2009 at 4:21 pm
I’ve been doing this stuff before you were born Linsey, I get the same ripple flinch and brow raise today as I did when I started (cough) 30 years ago. I roll with it and smile inside. We’re all familiar with the mish-mash of quality, we experience it routinely in our day to day interaction with co-op agents and board colleagues. One thing I’ve learned and count on, if I take care of my business, my differentiation and value proposition will burn through the first blush.
I also agree, nobody likes paying big fees, generally people have the same reaction when corporations report billion dollar profits. It’s human nature I guess. Fight fire with audacious results I guess.
I also agree that some sad-sacks can only feel like winners when there are losers, so they get busy trash talking, criticizing and tear down. I think that’s lame, competition makes us all better, stronger, smarter and more valuable.
Bottom line, for me anyway, you gotta be proud, confident, assured, persistent and in constant pursuit of upgrade, renewal and reinvention.
Sweet post…you should consider going independent and completely controlling your own destiny. Or you could move to The Woodlands and hook up with a high powered, leading edge big broker;-)
Atlanta Real Estate
September 9, 2009 at 4:23 pm
I sold high dollar engineering software at the CEO level for 12 years. If I EVER opened one of my powerpoint presentations with:
“Look how super incredible I am! I went to jamaica last year by exceeding my quota by 20%. Last quarter alone I sold $3M in SW to guys just like you..Oh and check out my cool “R” pin and name badge while you’re at it..”
That would of been the beginning and end of the presentation.
Plus, real professionals don’t go around spouting off about every educational accomplishment they ever earned, like realtors do. All those three letter designations typically mean no more that you were present for 3 hours of some presentation. I don’t have a single one of them. LOL!
September 9, 2009 at 4:26 pm
There are things we can do to improve both ourselves and the reputation of our profession. But many are scared to report another’s rule or ethics violation, or they feel it will not do any good.
Then how many of us are taking every training class possible? Are you actively involved with your local association? Are you working to make things better on a local, state and national level?
It boils down until everyone of us is working to improve our ranks, we are spinning our wheels on changing this perception
Atlanta Real Estate
September 9, 2009 at 4:49 pm
I say we just make the test super hard, and raise the initial license fee to like $5k.
You probably can’t even be a hairdresser for less than you can become a Realtor. But I don’t have any paperwork to support that. 🙂
This, in time, will take care of many many issues, including but not limited to:
-too many agents
-low quality agents
-people getting in just for fun
-anyone w/o a brain
-people trying to buy with zero down (oops wrong list)
-tiny classified ads (oops again)
Wenceslao Fernandez Jr
September 9, 2009 at 4:56 pm
Great piece. Too bad you didn’t get to share with Mr. “Doe” your true perspective.
September 9, 2009 at 6:48 pm
Ken – Dude – how old do you think I am???? 😀
September 10, 2009 at 12:16 am
I think that we get too defensive when the subject of the public’s perception of Realtors comes up. There are good teachers and bad teachers, good writers and bad writers, good golfers and …you get where I am going with this.
Smart people know the difference. There are some people who hook up with the new untrained agents and for the most part I think they figure it out. Just like you can hire an idiot to install a kitchen you can hire an idiot to try to sell your house.
Most intelligent people know the difference and as far as the eye rolling complainers go, I couldn’t care less what they think
Atlanta Real Estate
September 10, 2009 at 10:59 am
I agree with your post. However, the percentage of bad agents has got to be pretty high, maybe right up there with the % of poor unprofessional car salesmen.
Maybe all that is too harsh, I don’t know. Personally, I’ve had a LOT of bad ones on the other side of my transactions. So bad recently that I need to explain to them what forms to use and what the forms mean.
September 11, 2009 at 12:36 am
In the past month, I’ve had two transactions which have embarrassed me. In both cases, the realtor on the other side of the transaction didn’t behave to AG standards.
While I understand everyone has a bad day, in both cases, my clients and I simply grew to not trust the other agent. It wasn’t just a bad day, it was a bad experience.
No matter my value and my worth, I gotta believe that my clients will walk away thinking “darn, some realtors really can’t be trusted”. Sure, they got me, but don’t people always remember the bad more than the good? And or course, closely behind would be “why did they earn so much?”
It’s been pointed out how the entry bar to the profession is so low, but it seems that in some cases, a realtor license is license to become an overbearing diva. It remains to the rest of us to soldier on as tried & true professionals and ensure some integrity remains.
September 11, 2009 at 1:30 am
I think you’ve hit on something very important because many of us want to say that (1) I don’t care what one individual says – that’s not who I am
(2) The consumers complain about every industry – par for the course.
And yet, those of us practicing in this industry know that over the course of the year you are likely to ask yourself not once, not twice, but more likely multiple times, how your counterpart in the transaction has clients at all/successfully closes any transactions/how they ever got a license in the first place. If you don’t, than count yourself as exceptionally luck because I do. Not only that, I see the files from my other agents cross my desk and I see the work (or lack thereof) of their counterparts. It is shocking.
Claude, you are making an important point. Being in a transaction with another agent that is not performing to a minimum acceptable industry standard poses risks to the other agents’ reputation, legal risks within the transaction, and an overall experience from the consumer that is less than positive. If you are a wonderful, amazing, responsible agent – this is still a reality you face. And you won’t be the only agent they remember.
September 12, 2009 at 6:53 pm
I agree with your observations. We can try to justify what we do all day but it can only be with performance and a demostrated competence in real estate related issues will we truly demonstrate our value. I also believe that the recent technological advances withe social media, smart phones,etc.. will provide a phenominal opportunty for those agents bold enough to jump in to the new technology paradigm.
March 16, 2010 at 2:23 pm
As a consumer, I am shocked at the number of responses of . . . jeez who cares to change anyone’s mind – they are just unreasonable people. With attitudes like this, it is no wonder your profession suffers its’ current reputation.
Your profession is flooded due to the easy entrance exams and an attitude that if you are the listing agent, you get your 3% no matter what. Call centers take over scheduling, a plethora of awards are handed out at agencies to give the appearance of legitimacy and success to many agents, and the industries grip on the MLS one of the primary reasons I have used a realtor.
Once there are viable alternatives to the MLS listing service, your profession will likely lose its numbers and then likely those left would be in fact worthy of the term “professional.”
January 2, 2011 at 2:48 pm
I agree with Dan’s comment (amongst many others). There are over 1.3 Million REALTORS in the US alone. Just like anything else, you can’t clump them all together and generalize. Those who do are pretty simple minded. Of course, people have bad experiences with the “chodes of the industry” but maybe they should have done the research and interviewed many agents to begin with. After all, it is (usually) the largest transaction of their lives.
I’ve had this same conversation before and it’s impossible to change someone’s mind (esp. in one conversation). The best we can do is say a few items that may resonate and move on. There are too many good/wholesome people that appreciate the painfully hard work we go through. Especially now.
January 3, 2011 at 12:30 pm
Most interesting and intelligent AG article I’ve read in awhile…I think you nailed it
Anyone wondering why the perception of Agents held by many of the public is what it is only needs to read the comments here or any RE site..Don’t care, so what, THEY ought to, Let em go FSBO, they don’t know, crybabies, we need to edicate em, we are worth it we are worth it…
Until Agents figure out that in these times and this Market they need to be more concerned with what the Public thinks than what they or other Agents think the Perception which is already poor will continue to worsen…
Of course all those Agents with plenty of clients and business (How many of those are there?) can continue to say it’s unimportant I’m doing just fine but if you’re just an average RE Agent…Ya better listen & care what they think or YOU ARE the Problem your industry has (A “We have met the enemy and he is us” scenario) IMO
Let them try to do it without an Agent? The public just might be leaning in that direction already…so why push them?
It doesn’t matter if YOU think you have value the only thing that matters to a person selling Services is that the CLIENT thinks you have value
Thanks for this article and I am looking forward to reading your next one
January 3, 2011 at 12:36 pm
Wow I feel dumb..just noticed the small “This article was first published here on September 09, 2009.”
Funny how this is that old and still so true…
January 5, 2011 at 3:26 pm
Talk about an old topic (but always worthy of conversation). I’m not sure that much can be done to change the overall perception by the masses. Instead I look at it as a daily battle that I fight with pride. My goal is to change the perception one transaction at a time! I think most AG, 1000 Watt consulting and “new brokerage” adherents are doing the same thing…BTW that Twain guy…he was pretty wise 🙂
January 15, 2011 at 9:28 pm
The level of professionalism varies so widely in this industry which is what gives us all a black eye.
Here in my market the distrust of agents even extends to the relationships between agents.If we cant trust each other,how do we expect the public to trust us.
April 26, 2015 at 8:14 am
I find it hi-larious that realtors call themselves professionals. Indeed, the realtor test must involve advanced algorithms and such that warrent the best and brightest. You are an un-educated bottom-feeder, why not just come to grips with what you are?