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Agents, legends in their own minds…

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You’re Fulfilling the Stereotype

Last week I was at the NAR Convention in Orlando. I had the great opportunity to meet many fantastic people – the best that the industry has to offer. However, I also had the opportunity to see the worst that we have to offer.

While in line to pay for some materials, I noted a middle age female, with imitation blond hair, layers of war paint and clothing that stank of “I am trying to be too good for you, but can’t really afford the good stuff.” She was wearing a scow and flippantly unfolding apparel and tossing it where it didn’t originate. As the clerk came around, she made some very rude comments about the inability to see a certain item that she had seen that morning. She then began to berate the clerk and demand that he find the shirt she desired. He apologized, kept his composure better than I would have, and offered to ship the item at no shipping cost to her, within a few days. He had, in fact, sold all of that particular item. She declined and continued to admonish him. It was at that time that I noticed it – the “Top Producing Agent” tag line on her name badge. In lieu of space for designations, she had to purposefully type in this title.

We’ve Created the Monster

I was appalled at the behavior of this individual – but not at all surprised. See, this industry has taken otherwise benign individuals and convinced us that we are of greater importance than we really are. Brokers have indulged prima donnas and accepted higher levels of liability than necessary to keep these “Top Producers” happy. We’re given lavish awards, plagues, parties, gifts and ranking to people who did nothing more than their job. With the majority of people in this business making less than poverty level, let me just say ‘Congrats, to all you who paid the bills last year.’ Whenever I see the “Top Producer” tag line, it really does put me on guard.

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The Curse of Privilege

In an attempt to cater to agents and make us feel like superstars, we find the nicest retreat locations, put out the red carpet for Association events and are encouraged to wear huge gaudy “SOLD” pins on their jackets – all to make us feel important. The unintended consequence is that this treatment has pushed moderate or low producers into emulators and they go in debt just to convey the “image”; all the while the “Top Producers” use this treatment as a platform to belittle and disgrace other people. Agents need to take a step back and realize what they really are; are service providers in SUV’s and dressed like an executive; but servants non-the-less.

A Service Provider

Yes, we have tons of training, expenses, politics and other obstacles; however the reality is that making a living makes us no better than anyone else. They say that you can tell a lot about people based on how they treat their waiter or waitress. But, really – aren’t we all just wait staff in the housing restaurant? It’s a job, just like any other. We’ve made it a life-status and the funny thing is that consumers think agents are pond scum and agents believe themselves to be deity. We serve, if we do it well; we get the chance to serve again.

My broker license didn’t come with ordination papers and I wasn’t promoted in the lot system. I would love to end this on a positive note, about treating others as you would like to be treated – but really I just want agents to be people-centric so that we can all be looked upon a bit better…

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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. Ryan Hukill

    November 14, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Very well-stated Matthew. The enormous ego of a few makes us all look like true idiots. I too shy away from the ‘Top Producer’ title, even when I am one, simply because, as you stated, being one means nothing more than that you did your job well and you paid your bills. If you’re good enough to build on that, so be it, but that doesn’t anoint one King or Queen, and certainly doesn’t give one the right to snub others or, worse, to degrade them.

  2. Susan Milner

    November 14, 2008 at 9:35 am

    I love this article. I too, have been in contact with many of these agents unfortunately. The sad reality is that she probably is a top producer but I’m fairly certain she doesn’t get referrals or repeat customers.

  3. Jay Thompson

    November 14, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Can you hear the thunderous applause coming from Phoenix?

    Well said. Very well said.

  4. Missy Caulk

    November 14, 2008 at 10:05 am

    …is this just Realtors? I think I see it in many spheres, just not on their name tags.

    On a side note it was fabulous to meet you and Jennifer.

  5. Lisa Heindel

    November 14, 2008 at 11:48 am

    Bravo! That same person/mentality permeates every market from coast to coast. IMO, the only person I’m competing with is myself. Are my clients happy and sending referrals? Am I reaching my OWN goals (not some artificial brokerage goal)? Doing those things does not make me any better or worse than another agent, nor does it give me a right to treat other people poorly. That is more of a reflection on who she is as a person than anything else.

  6. Matthew Hardy

    November 14, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Wow. Sure am glad you said it.
    (Someone else in Phoenix applauding.)

  7. Matt Fagioli

    November 14, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    Wow, that’s good stuff.

    It’s amazing to see agents who still think it’s all about them (as if it ever was). Years back it seemed like a good idea to build a BIG personal image (though you still didn’t have to be a jerk about it) but now it’s so clear that it doesn’t play anymore.

    It’s gotta be all about the client or they will smell it (and you) in a second.

  8. Tom Everitt

    November 14, 2008 at 4:28 pm

    I have always said that I would love my career even more if it weren’t for some of the realtors I have had the displeasure of working with.

    I’m sure karma is coming back and kicking the butts of a few agents right now.


  9. Chris Griffith

    November 14, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    I am so getting an 80’s hairdo and a Cadillac just to be like the big girls. ;D

  10. monika

    November 14, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    I can think of a few of those agents…right here in my market place. They really do believe in their own legend. I agree it makes us all look so crappy!

  11. Joe Spake

    November 14, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    True, Matthew. Who cares if we are Top Producers or Multi-Million Dollar Club Members. The won’t recognize us when they meet us in person because of the 20 year old glam shot in our ads an on our cards.
    At NAR I made a big label of my twitter ID to put in the top advertising area of my neck badge.
    I think the transparency of social media and the ever-increasing savvy of real estate clients will bring an end to the “Top Producer” culture.

  12. Paula Henry

    November 15, 2008 at 11:32 am

    There is probably a clientele for such a level of snobbery – however, it is a dwindling sector. More of our clients prefer someone who is “real”.

  13. Bob Wilson

    November 15, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    Badges? We dont need no stinkin badges.

  14. Susie Blackmon

    November 17, 2008 at 5:49 am

    The younger generation is taking over, and they could care less about letters after our names or top producers. Thunderous applause from the mountains of Western North Carolina!

  15. Debbie Summers / Move To Lake Mary

    November 18, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Matthew – It’s too bad that there are agents like this in our industry, she is obviously out of touch with what real people (consumers) are looking for… Someone who treats people badly just isn’t it.

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