Being a Realtor 101

“What’s it like to be a real estate agent?”  I wish I could say people have asked me that in my 7+ years in this field, but they haven’t. They have their own idea.  I’m here to shed some light on some misconceptions and hopefully open some eyes – both the public’s and my colleagues.

Stereotypes

The general stereotype for real estate agents is not that great – kinda pushy and that we “make too much money”.  I’ve heard it put, “A glorified car salesman.”

Some of the time, the stereotype is spot on.  Some agents focus a little too much on sales techniques they’ve learned and not enough on the people they are supposed to be helping.  Some of the most successful agents drive nice cars, put up big billboards and annoy you with radio ad after radio ad.

Alternatives

I’m a different breed.  I used to sell cars so I know what it’s like to have someone in your face trying to sell you something (many of my co-workers were that way).  They would ask you just the right questions in order to get you to do what they wanted you to do.

I never did that in car sales (and I was still successful) and neither I, nor my team, do that now in home sales.

There is nothing wrong with having a nice car or advertising yourself.  There is nothing wrong with being proud of the work you have done and the success you have achieved. There is something wrong when that is how you identify your worth.

Every once in a while, the real help a client needs is to be pushed – just a little – in the direction they really want to go but are afraid to.  That’s a good agent knowing their client.

Deception

Real estate agents have state and federal laws governing their industry and Realtors have a code of ethics in addition to that.  You’d think with all this oversight there would be no rotten apples.  Unfortunately, there are.  The more rules there are, the craftier a self-absorbed agent has to be to get around them.  Because of this, it’s important for people to be able to identify deception.

Here are a few ways to spot something off:

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
    • “Guaranteed offer within 48 hours!”
    • “If it doesn’t sell in 60 days, I’ll buy it!”
  • If your agent wants you to sign a contract that isn’t a state form.
  • If they have “exclusive” programs. (why wouldn’t it be offered to everyone? Is it legal?)
  • If they tell you “I have a few buyers that would be interested in your home.”

You see, some agents are building a sales machine for the wrong reasons.  Whether it’s to feed an ego or the love of a paycheck, some agents just want to churn out as many deals as possible.  Success is a drug, it’s addicting.  If they find a method that works, they’ll use it.  They’ll do it whether or not it’s truly in the best interest of their client.

It’s A Career

Recent nationally syndicated news articles have suggested that Realtors are soon going to be a thing of the past.  Listing reasons such as a movement to all electronic home purchases to agents costing too much, they made a convincing case to someone who has never thought about it before.

The truth is, there will always be a demand for experienced, thoughtful professionals. The kind of people who are attentive to a client’s feelings, understand what they want and need in a home, negotiate effectively and flawlessly navigate the piles of paperwork required to transfer the deed of a property, among other things.

Those that can’t do these things effectively don’t deserve to be in the industry.  Unfortunately, that includes most of those quoted in the news articles I referred to.

This industry isn’t a scam.  We don’t dangle a carrot and then sell your information to the highest bidder like national home search sites do.  The hard work of a good agent can provide way more value to their client than their commission suggests.  That’s all some of us are doing.  Working harder for our paychecks, providing more services and protecting our clients even if it hurts our pocketbooks.  It’s our duty.  It’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Service

 It’s a service industry, not a sales one.  The sooner this fact becomes the foundation for all Realtors, the easier it will be to fend off the monsters at our doors.  Our number one purpose is to serve the public in their real estate endeavors.  The paycheck is just a side effect.  The public will never turn on someone who bent over backwards for them.  The public will gladly pay for good, thorough representation in a process they aren’t well versed in.  What they won’t do is allow a shady agent to take advantage of them twice.

SE MN Real Estate Summary

If you’re a Realtor in SE Minnesota you get a newsletter every week updating you on the status of the industry in your area.  Personally, I’m sick of constantly reading that I don’t realize the dangers to my industry.  Without belittling the true giant disruptors that approach (and I’m aware of), I don’t think someone who doesn’t sell real estate knows the most dangerous threat to our industry is in the mirror when we get up in the morning.  We are constantly berated to reduce our commission without sacrificing our services.  We are surrounded by colleagues that reduce commission to get a listing with no thought of how it will effect the future for everyone with our occupation.  We see billboards with guarantees that seem too good to be true – because they are.  We started to lose the battle with moral solvency in our industry when it became about how much money we could make.  Some Realtors view success as what makes them more money whether or not it harms the industry in the process.  It’s cliché, but success in service is how many people you’ve truly helped.  We get to do it for a living.

At the college I attended to obtain my license, the educator mentioned that the reason the Agency Relationships in Real Estate transactions form exists is to explain to the sheep that we are the wolf.  We know more – it’s why we have jobs.  It’s also why the code of ethics exists – to protect us from each other, and to protect the public (sheep) from the wolves (us). I just don’t believe selling your own listing to your own buyer before the public sees it (pocket listings) is in the best interest of your seller.  I don’t believe there should have to be asterisks or fine print when you market yourself to anyone. 

The moment our focus is anything but service in a service industry, we’ve lost ourselves.

Our area has gone through some changes recently, with our local MLS dissolving and/or merging with NorthstarMLS which primarily serves areas north of here.

Some of the objections to the switch have been proven merit-less and some have been confirmed.

An example of the former is the stark contrast of Northstar’s leadership.  John Mosey’s openness to listen to what we want is the exact opposite of their former leader, John Smaby’s bullying style.  We went from ‘Fine, we won’t fund our portion of SASI, then.’ (Smaby) as a retaliatory response to us not wanting to merge at the time to ‘We’ll see if we can make that work for you.’ (Mosey).  It’s a promising sign of the future.  I’m excited for leadership that doesn’t think some of us are crazy, and listens to us even when it doesn’t affect the world they live in.

An example of the latter is Matrix’s very obvious inferiority to the software we currently were using as an independent MLS.  No, it’s not a learning curve.  No, it’s not because we’re stubborn.  Forgive us for liking a software that was built for a wide, flat screen monitor, not a square tube style.  Forgive us for not wanting MLPS/ST. PAUL fields on our screen all the time.  Forgive us for wanting to see our back-end changes go live instantly.  Forgive us for feeling that Flex’s system was more intuitive.  I was worried about the software after my experience with it on the tech committee when we chose Flex over Matrix years ago.  I was even more worried when I brought it up at the International Event Center meeting last year before the merge happened and was met with “They have more advanced technology than we currently do.”  We now understand that they meant third-party apps (which we could have acquired without merging), not the actual utility we all use daily for our real estate businesses.

Opinions deserve opposition.  Facts don’t.  It is the leadership of our Association’s job to represent those of us that want FlexMLS to be an optional software just as much as they represented fringe agent’s interests when they pushed so hard for the merger.

I don’t think less of you if you disagree.  I just believe everyone’s interests in our Association of Realtors should be represented equally.

~ Justin