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A new agent asks: Should the real estate exam be harder?

03/09/2017

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As I continue my journey toward Realtor status, one theme seems to keep rearing its ugly head: the role of real estate agent is not as well-respected as I’d hoped.

As a newbie, I see it in online forums where consumers question the purpose of agents. I see it in the rise of individual advisory services where customers don’t want — or don’t see value in — a full-service agency relationship.

I see it in this video I came across in a 2015 Inman article, featuring Tyler Smith waxing poetic on this very topic:

A Gallup survey that measures consumer perception about the honesty and ethics of various professions states that real estate agents are only given a “high/very high” honesty and ethics rating by 20 percent of respondents.

Admittedly, coming from a career in marketing, this is an improvement since only 11 percent of respondents feel marketers have a “high/very high” honesty and ethics rating. Ouch!

In an industry where there is licensing, continuing education, a heap of ethical landmines and lots of hard-earned money involved, I would have hoped consumers had more confidence and trust in this craft.

I question if some consumers use agents because they feel like they have to; not because they want to, and if that is the case, it’s not so good for our reputation. I don’t want to be the necessary evil in someone’s experience, and I know you don’t either.

Many agents are fantastic, customer-service oriented, true advocates for their clients — and top-notch professionals. Of this I have no doubt, and I’ve met these agents.

Yet, there are agents who view this as a job to make money with little effort; a job where more time is spent covering their behinds rather than helping; a job where the barrier to entry is low so that everyone and their brother wants to (and can) get in.

This latter group is bringing down the perception for the rest of us who work and perform at a high level, and who care about the customer experience.

Medicine vs. real estate — what can we learn?

What were the highest ranking professions in the most recent Gallup survey? Roles in the field of medicine.

Aside from the obvious life-saving attributes, do consumers have more confidence in medical fields partly because medical school is hard and requires a high level of commitment? Does that help raise the level of trust?

Anyone can try but everyone won’t get in, and everyone won’t pass.

Counter that with real estate. I just passed my final exam, and I found it to be short, not particularly complex, and lacking depth around practical applications of real estate such as contracts, negotiations, ethical scenarios and customer service scenarios.

If you’re lucky, you’re with a brokerage that offers training and support when you first start to fill the learning gap. If you’re not as lucky, you’re out there on your own, servicing clients with little practical knowledge that could result in a negative customer experience, intended or not.

Medicine is perceived as a lifelong career that people don’t jump in and out of easily. In real estate, the majority of new agents don’t renew their license at the two-year mark, and the percentage of agents that have been in the business for the long haul is relatively small.

One small step for real estate

Perhaps one small step to lift the level of entrants to the real estate profession is to make the test harder — make it a test that requires people to learn the tenets of the profession at a deeper level to pass.

Show consumers that this is a serious profession by making the requirements to join the profession more serious. Earn the consumer’s trust and respect by raising the real estate entry bar.

Would this have a domino effect to lift the level of those who come out with a license?

I’m not saying that real estate is brain surgery. However, it is the largest industry in the country, it involves some of the largest purchases a consumer will ever make, and it carries major legal and ethical responsibilities that are serious for everyone involved in a transaction.

As an industry, we have to earn a higher level of respect and trust from the consumer. Would a higher entry bar — like a harder real estate exam — help us earn that respect?

Cheryl Rose is a Realtor with HeyHouse, brokered by All City Real Estate in Georgetown, Texas, covering north Austin. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Facebook

Email Cheryl Rose

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