For years, I have read and listened to complaints about how low the bar is for becoming a real estate agent and about how many “bad agents” we have as a result. Often agents are asked how we can raise standards. How is that working?

  • Instead of looking to real estate agents for solutions, we could put the burden on brokers.
  • Real estate licensees are required to work under a licensed broker, and that gives brokers control.
  • Some brokers won't be able to raise the bar of professionalism, but many can and should.

For years, I have read and listened to complaints about how low the bar is for becoming a real estate agent and about how many “bad agents” we have as a result.

Often agents are asked how we can raise standards. How is that working?

We have that “DANGER” Report to warn us about those bad, unethical and incompetent agents who are bringing us all down and who could possibly cause the job of real estate agent to vanish.

There is a solution to the problem that isn’t being fully explored. Instead of looking to real estate agents for solutions, we could put the burden on brokers.

What about the brokers?

If real estate brokers supervised their agents — as is their job and is required by law — we would be able to easily help the bad players improve their skills and competency, or they could be let go.

Real estate licensees are required to work under a licensed broker, and that give brokers control.

It isn’t hard at all for a brokerage to sever ties with a real estate agent who is an independent contractor, and it is easy to say “no” to a new licensee who brings nothing but a license and the ability to fog a mirror. Even top-producing independent contractors can be cut loose, and there are plenty of agents who can take their place.

The fixes

One great example of an easy fix is the agent who only sells one or two houses a year.

Maybe she got her license so she could feel empowered, or maybe he was bored at his day job. If every broker set a minimum production level that is higher than two units a year, how would this agent get work?

If brokers looked over every purchase agreement written and insisted that they be written correctly — with page numbers and dates — and insisted that each field be filled in correctly, I’ll just bet agents would learn to do a better job with the contracts.

The agents who could not learn how to write a contract could be dismissed. Other industries do that; people get fired every day.

Brokers could give their agents periodic quizzes about new rules and old rules for handling multiple offers and on the best practices of representing buyers and sellers.

Agents can be taught how to write offers and how to explain contracts to consumers. There are agents who have been doing things the same way for 20 years because that is how they were taught to do it 20 years ago, and they haven’t received any instruction since.

Sure, the state can require more pre-license training and even a college degree, and that will keep some people from getting licensed, but anyone who believes that people with more training and higher education always do a better job or are somehow more honest must not read newspapers or watch the news.

Anyone who believes all “top producers” are ethical and competent are living in a make-believe world.

The broker’s place

I often wonder why we leave the broker and the real estate company out of the conversation when we talk about raising the bar.

We include the broker when we talk about branding. I see company logos on most of the contracts I look at, but I don’t always see page numbers or a final acceptance dates.

It is easy to start a real estate company in most states — and brokers are not always ethical, either. In fact, some are downright dishonest — and there are a few bullies out there, too, who demand money that isn’t owed, and others who threaten lawsuits because they have a legal department and I don’t.

Some brokers won’t be able to raise the bar of professionalism, but many can and should.

Last year, I had a former agent get into one of our listings using an electronic key borrowed from the broker’s office. The unlicensed agent wrote an offer for buyers. The former agent’s broker was not aware that licensee’s license had expired — or so he claimed.

When there is a problem with an agent, it isn’t always easy to figure out who the broker is when there are several agents in an office with broker’s licenses. I totally understand why some brokers won’t answer the phone or why they hide in their offices when I stop by.

I read questions that agents ask in Facebook groups. Agents should be asking their broker the questions — not asking other agents from other states.

Some will say that their broker isn’t working at 11:30 at night and that they want answers right away. We all want answers right away — but we don’t always get what we want.

If a question comes up in the middle of the night while working with a client, most clients will understand if we tell them we need to wait until morning to get accurate answers or help.

Right now, I cannot think of a single reason why real estate brokers cannot raise the bar. We can all start right now and hold each other accountable.

If we see something we could say something. If we need to take a pledge, I’ll whip something up people can sign.

We don’t need new laws or standards. We could get a long way if we just follow the current rules and insist that all of our agents meet the highest standards of professionalism.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.

Email Teresa Boardman.

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