I’ve seen several real estate offices perform exceptional service for their customers. I’ve seen teams of agents work efficiently together — every detail covered and in sync — every question answered in a courteous, informative way.

I’ve also sat in some offices, attempting to obtain basic information about an open house, and wondered how the company could keep any clients. Such an experience brings to mind the familiar phrase that “20 percent of the agents do 80 percent of the business.”

That’s why I was intrigued when The Wall Street Journal and Real Trends, a real estate research and information company, joined forces last summer to research and publish the names and sales successes of the top 200 real estate professionals. The group sent out surveys to more than 7,000 realty firms, national networks, state and local Realtor associations, and training and education groups.

It came as no surprise that America’s coastal states, specifically California, Florida and New York, featured the country’s top real estate agents — “The Real Estate Top 200.” The study recognized the top 50 residential agents and agent teams in four categories:

  • Individual agent – Sales volume

  • Individual agent – Transaction sides (A side is one half of a closed deal. There is a buying side and a selling side. While an agent can get both sides of a deal (and historically often did) with proper disclosure, most of the time the commission is split between the seller’s side and the buyer’s side.)

  • Agent team – Sales volume

  • Agent team – Transaction sides

The top “team,” headed by Ruth Pugh of Century 21 Award in San Diego, took home the most money and the most deals. The group accounted for an astounding $539.5 million in sales and 1,676 transaction “sides.”

Pugh, who first began working for Century 21 in 1992, now has 24 agents on her team plus a support staff of six, focusing on first-time home buyers and condominium sales. If you consider that the average Realtor completes 12 sides per year, the 24 salespersons actively working for the Pugh team exceed the national average by nearly 600 percent with more than 60 sides per salesperson.

Pugh, a married mother of two, pushes her troops with creative incentives such as swimming with the dolphins at Sea World for attaining a monthly sales goal. Pugh is an extremely active seller. The story goes that she once was delayed for a sales meeting by inclement weather at an out-of-state airport but sold a condo to a fellow passenger also waiting for the flight.

According to the National Association of Realtors, the trade group had 1.28 million members in April 2006. A survey mailed and e-mailed to 60,000 members revealed that the typical Realtor is a 52-year-old female who lives in a household with three people. This professional is affiliated with an independently owned, nonfranchised firm that has just one office. This salesperson has a gross personal income of $62,300 (up from $49,300 in 2004 and $34,100 in 2000), works 46 hours a week, and has been in the real estate business for nine years.

The typical Realtor has been with the same firm for five years, has worked for only one other firm, and does not hold any ownership interest in her firm.

According to the NAR report, 56 percent of all Realtors are female, while 46 percent of brokers and 63 percent of sales agents are female. The median age for brokers is 54. (The median is the midpoint — half are older than 54, half younger than 54).

Approximately 26 percent of Realtors hold a bachelor’s degree, while 45 percent have some college or an associate’s degree from a community college. Approximately 11 percent earned a graduate degree and 9 percent have at least some graduate school instruction.

The value of a real estate agent is constantly discussed — especially in neighborhoods where prices seem to be going up every day. While consumers often complain about commissions — even reduced commissions — those persons attempting to sell their home by themselves overwhelmingly say they would seek professional help the next time.

While I’ve not agreed with some of the practices demonstrated by some agents, I believe the basic service they offer often saves, rather than costs, the average homeowner cash. The big money picture is rarely viewed from the end of the transaction. Instead, the home sale deal often begins with, “Well, I have to pay the Realtor 7 percent off the top. …”

But I doubt if Harald (CQ) Grant is ever asked if he’s worth his commission. The New Yorker, who represents Sotheby’s International Realty in Southampton, N.Y., led all individual agents with a whopping $244.9 million in total sales.

Just think … you could even afford a few college tuitions with a portion of the commissions.

Tom Kelly’s new book, “Cashing In on a Second Home in Mexico: How to Buy, Rent and Profit from Property South of the Border,” was written with Mitch Creekmore, senior vice president of Houston-based Stewart International. The book is available in retail stores, on Amazon.com and on tomkelly.com. Tom can be reached at news@tomkelly.com.

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