On my first day in my Real Estate Course for Licensees, the instructor listed the basic requirements to obtain a Real Estate Salesperson's license in Washington D.C. Among other items you would expect such as being 18 years old and being of sound mind (no jokes) the requirements also include being up to date on your taxes and any other court ordered payments. A hand went up in the back of the classroom. "Does that include alimony and child support?" The instructor said yes. The student began arguing the details of his particular situation, then got up, walked out, and was never seen again. It was too bad. Having a loose cannon like that could have really spiced up an otherwise painfully dull class.
Being that I came from nearly a decade-long career in real estate before I got my license, I have a different perspective than a lot of other agents. I slugged it out in sometimes very rough circumstances when I worked for companies who approached their treatment of women like you might in, say, 1950. I love the industry and feel like I've earned my right to be here. I always thought if the housing bubble popped in my face, I would get my license and leave the new home sector to work in the resale market. That time arrived in late 2009.
Despite my extensive knowledge of real estate, it was a big change for me to voluntarily move into a profession that is so hated. What's funny is that the people closest to me are also in professions which are generally reviled by the public. My father is an attorney, my brother works on Wall Street and my husband is a land developer. Each of them managed to overcome the stereotypes that plague their profession and each rose above it to become known as "one of the good guys." I knew I could do this too. I don't think I realized how easy, and yet how difficult, it would be.
Having just completed a particularly interesting real estate transaction, I understand why real estate agents are so despised. Hard sales techniques and agents who don't act in the best interests of their clients, as our code requires, top the list. I recently had to tell the agent on the other side of the transaction, on at least 10 separate occasions, that my clients did not wish to settle early and rent back to his client. Why did he keep asking? He wanted his commission early. And, he violated the rules by contacting my clients directly to tell them they should settle early. Who are these idiots out there running around making decisions that alter people's lives? My clients said it was my "lack of hard sell" tactic that they liked. Phew.
It pains me that there are real estate agents out there who limit the number of houses they will show clients because they want to push them into something quickly and move on to the next sale. Or agents who talk their clients into spending more than they are comfortable spending or who tell you your house is worth more than it is just so they get the listing. Or those tell you things about their client that they shouldn't reveal - things that impact their client being able to cut a fair deal such as a divorce or job loss. My most recent counterpart told me repeatedly that his client was "crazy" and "a total nutjob." These agents are ruining the entire industry, and, some would argue, they are still screwing up the housing market.
Being an agent is clearly a career with a low barrier to entry. Sometimes I think I'm selling myself short by being in sales when I worked so hard for my degrees. But, then I remind myself of a few things. I would probably be underemployed if I re-joined Corporate America, and people end up choosing a mediocre agent like the guy who went AWOL from my class or the self-serving agent I recently had to deal with. Even though I'm not saving the world, I feel needed. I just wish the predators would leave already so the rest of us who really want to be here could work on making it better again.