Don’t be surprised by how little brokers know

(Flickr photo by ac4lt)

A recent Wall Street Journal first-person piece by a newbie broker had me chuckling and nodding in agreement.

However, you may gasp in horror at how little useful information real-estate brokers acquire during the abysmally small amount of online education or class hours required to obtain a license.  You also may think twice about working with a broker who is just breaking into the field (though I am, of course, sympathetic to their plight, which I shared some years ago).

Evoking the drudgery depicted in the film, American Beauty, Alyssa Abkowitz also confesses how ill-prepared she was to hit the road in Burlington, Vt., saying that “very little of that course work has much to do with selling real estate.”  Said she:

We complete a correspondence course online in a little over a week, memorizing such crucial details as the official Vermont definition of a stream: “A current of water which is above an elevation of 1,500 feet above sea level or which flows at any time at a rate of less than 1.5 cubic feet per second.” We also learn that back in the Middle Ages, a seller would transfer property by giving the buyer a bundle of sticks from a tree on the land.

Why are real-estate agents so frequently denigrated (certainly by me in posts past)?

To my mind, the answer lies less in the licensing requirements and the laughable 100-question or so multiple-choice test that we must pass in each state and more in our expectations and the path that many of us follow to sell real estate.

Even with younger college graduates entering the field, the path rarely remains a first choice.  It’s a route that many take after other careers that haven’t worked out or have lost their allure.  In recessionary times, real estate is an option for many without jobs who realize that the low financial and educational thresholds are de minimus.

Equally important is the promise–it’s just a promise–of riches beyond their dreams.  Few are the new real-estate agents and brokers who appreciate how little money the average agent stands to make and how hard they’ll have to work for the rewards.  A small fraction of top producers does very well, indeed, but their leavings are small for all the others fighting for the spoils.

To my thinking, the reason our reputation suffers is that a focus on making money in a fiercely competitive environment distracts from learning what it takes to become a knowledgeable professional.  Worse, the competition leads far too many brokers to bend and even ignore ethical, sometimes legal, strictures.

Too often, it seems as though a particular property isn’t for sale.  Instead, it’s the broker who’s for sale.

Although I freely admit my affection for the monetary rewards that my real-estate career has made possible for me, there is another monumental reward:  Selling a home is worlds apart from selling shoes or cars.  Helping buyers find a home of their dreams within their means actually is the reward that most warms my heart.

You probably don’t believe me, but it’s the truth.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
Web site

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