By Toby E. Boyce
It seems that everywhere a licensed real estate agent looks today, the discussion is centering on raising the bar (#rtb Twitter hash tag). It is has been a trending topic on Twitter, its own Google Wave, a session at Real Estate Barcamp New York, an article in Inman News, and even was featured on the YPN Lounge last week with Nobu Hata’s “For the Member, By the Members.”
In case you’ve been living under a rock, raising the bar is a discussion on increasing the standards of our profession. We are right there with used car salespeople and lawyers on a lot of industry lists. Is that where we as REALTORS® want to be? Or better yet, is that an accurate reflection on the quality of our industry? Well, perception is realty. So we need to make changes in an effort to adjust the public’s perception of licensed real estate agents.
I’ve heard several arguments for addressing changes in the legislature of each state. And while that would be a wonderful ideal world, it is just that – a Utopia. My best example is that within the state of Ohio, the Ohio Association of REALTORS® is the largest trade organization in the state and it has been working with ASHII and NAHI to require home inspectors to be licensed within the state. I’ve never heard a legislator say it is a bad idea or they don’t see the need. However this bill has never passed through the state legislature. If this logical bill can’t get passed, how are more stringent real estate licensure standards going to work?
Now we all know that while the National Association of REALTORS® has done a great job maintaining its trademark, to the “normal” person they don’t see a difference between a licensed real estate agent and a REALTOR®. Now, let’s get one thing right from the beginning, NAR is very powerful lobbying organization and has done amazing work to protect our livelihood from the folks in Washington, D.C., and from Topeka to Albany. Their current charge is to give REALTORS® better chances to succeed, not to dictate that success.
And I’d like to see the charge adjusted to developing better REALTORS® so that when you have an non-REALTOR® they are seen in the same light as a CPA and a bookkeeper. I’ve had a lot of discussions with people in other industries and have come up with a basic model.
The first-level of entry is to pass your state’s real estate license exam and apply for membership with the National Association of REALTORS®. Upon acceptance you will become an “intern” within the office of your choice.
As an intern, real estate agents will have the ability to work with buyers and sellers under a supervised role. All of your actions, from contracts to listings, will be reviewed by the assigned mentor – and the buyers and sellers will have a meeting with the assigned mentor to make sure they understand everything in the contract. This would be done separately from the intern practitioner to encourage the mentor to really get to the heart of the deal. Not only would this assist in making sure the intern hasn’t messed up the deal, but also will provide a teachable moment from the mentor to the intern.
The intern is to remain an intern until they’ve completed 12 transactions (I don’t like dollar amounts since $4,000,000 in sales in is one deal in New York City and 30 in Ohio) and passed the REALTOR® exams.
The first exam would be similar to what other industries currently are using. There would be a national exam that would focus on NAR, national regulations, etc. The second exam would be state-specific, since real estate laws vary from state-to-state across the nation.
The final piece of the test would be a professional testing option. Practitioners would not be required – but highly advised – to pick an area of specialization and then could test into that area of real estate. It would be similar to tax accountants specializing in tax but being able to perform the duties of a general accountant. The areas are debatable, but could include buyers, sellers, distressed, commercial, and others.
How would you change the current system to improve real estate and raise the bar for agents?
Toby Boyce, MBA, is a real estate practitioner with Keller Williams Consultants Realty in Westerville, Ohio. Visit his Web site: www.delawareohrealestate.com.