In the past few weeks, I have experienced an unusual number of problems — and most were created by new, untrained and unsupervised agents who are learning the business the hard way.

It seems to me that if we want to raise the bar for real estate agents nationwide, brokers could impose stricter standards, especially considering that agents work under a broker who is responsible for the actions of that agent. Part of the problem is that it’s hard to find a broker or a real estate company that knows that it has subpar agents.

Have you ever tried complaining to a broker about a really rotten agent? Good luck with that. Many brokers defend the actions of their agents, and few do anything. I am not sure why — I sure hope it doesn’t have anything to do with greed or with money.

Here are some things I think real estate companies and brokers could do that could raise standards in the industry:

1. Recruit only the best. If you believe they need a college degree, then accept only agents who have college degrees. If you believe agents have to be tech-savvy, then find some who know technology. Being able to fog a mirror isn’t good enough.

2. Retain only the best and lose the rest.

3. Make commission structures partially dependent upon how much training and education an agent gets each year. Add a bonus or a percent onto their commission split.

4. Don’t assume that the agents who are making the most money are providing the best customer service or that they are the best agents.

5. Instead of focusing internal training on how to promote the brand, have sessions on how to better serve clients. Have group discussions about how to handle various common issues that surface in real estate transactions.

6. Have rules and standards that agents must adhere to if they want to work under your brand.

7. Know who your agents are, and be available to discuss or help troubleshoot when there is a problem. Have a conversation with each agent at least once a week.

8. Send out surveys to the agents whom your agents work with regularly.

9. Survey clients of your brokerage, not for ratings but for performance knowledge.

10. Don’t assume that because agents are young, they must know how to use technology for business.

11. Know who your agents’ clients are.

12. Reward behaviors such as showing compassion and patience along with excellence in marketing.

13. Make an example of an agent who does something that raises the bar.

14. Focus on knowledge-sharing rather than profit-sharing. Everyone in your office should be making a profit by selling real estate.

15. Assume that there are some incompetent agents in your office and either help them get up to speed or do the rest of us a favor and let them go.

16. Don’t stay focused purely on gross commission income.

17. If someone complains to you about the behavior of one of your agents, listen and learn. See it as an opportunity.

18. Never use the phrase “agent head count.”

19. Look at the listings your brokerage has in the MLS. Do not allow terrible pictures.

20. Don’t concern yourself with how many hours agents work or how often they come into the office. Instead, concern yourself with how they serve their clients.

It should be harder to get a broker’s license than it is, and it should be harder to start a real estate company — it’s too easy. I have had brokers call me and ask me what the difference is between a contract amendment and an addendum. To be fair, at least the broker asked someone instead of guessing.

As a broker, any agent you would not trust to sell your mother’s house or to help your firstborn buy their first house should not be working in your company or under your license.

It should be easier to figure out who the broker is for a real estate company. Locally, we have to look it up, and it isn’t transparent to consumers who usually don’t even understand the whole broker/agent thing. It almost seems like the brokers hide instead of owning it.

I am asking myself this one simple question today and every day: What can I do today to be a better agent and broker?

What are you doing to create a better work environment? Please continue the conversation in the comments section below.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker-owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is also the founder of

Email Teresa Boardman.

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