Realtor bashing has become a favorite pastime for many people both online and offline. Are their comments really justified?
This month I began a new consumer column for Inman News. I was curious to see what types of consumer questions were being asked on sites such as Trulia and Zillow. While the Trulia crowd appeared relatively tame, I was surprised by a post at Zillow — with more than 2,000 views — that proclaimed, "Realtors are like vultures."
When someone asked how to find a competent Realtor, a few commenters provided useful suggestions while several slammed Realtors — one even suggested that they are so unprofessional that you should choose one based upon "who lies the best."
Another Zillow post, with 2,400 page views, suggested that anyone who didn’t think prices were going to go back to 1997 levels was delusional. The comments went on to say that Realtors are interested only in the money they’re making and that they could care less about the fact that so many people have lost their homes.
In a recent Inman column, Kris Berg described the anger she encountered when she couldn’t provide a buyer with the property information he was seeking. It didn’t make any difference that he didn’t have the street address.
One of my friends was asked to take over the leadership of one of the largest real estate offices in the country. She turned the position down, saying, "The first thing I would do is come in and fire 90 percent of those agents. They’re completely incompetent and have no idea what they’re doing."
Another agent shared what he says when he encounters potential clients who bash Realtors: "I hate working with them, too. Unfortunately, as soon as I leave here, I have to go back to dealing with agents who have no training, who are unprofessional, and who are only in the business for the money. They call, text and direct-message me at all hours of the day — there’s no way to escape. I have to deal with them constantly. I don’t blame you one single bit."
What has provoked this level of anger? There are a variety of factors. One of the most common goes back to the old "hunt ’em, tell ’em, and sell ’em" model of real estate. In other words, you have to search for your prey, capture them, and don’t let them go until they buy or die. …CONTINUED
Another issue contributing to the anger is the "me, me, me" show. For years, agents have marketed their services with materials that proclaimed how wonderful they were. Today’s consumers want the focus to be on them instead of on the agent. As one homeowner remarked about all the postcards he received with agents’ pictures on them, "Who do they think they are — movie stars?"
Consumers also believe that agents don’t do much more than "put up open houses signs on the weekend to earn those big fat commissions." Most don’t realize what it takes to close a transaction. Instead, they believe that once the buyer and seller sign the purchase contract, the bulk of the work is complete on the sale. In reality, about 90 percent of the work takes place after the buyer and seller sign the contract. In Los Angeles, for example, agents must track more than 90 different steps to close a transaction.
This level of contempt seems to be aimed at everyone in the industry. This is unfortunate because there are thousands of agents who put their customers first, who provide extraordinary service, and who have the technical and marketing expertise that allows buyers and sellers to make their dream of homeownership a reality.
What will it take to change this situation? Consumers are now driving change whether anyone likes it or not. They will no longer settle for agents who are unprofessional and untrained. In the past, those who had a bad experience might share it with the people they knew. Today, a client’s angry post can reach thousands of people instantaneously on the Web.
Agent rating systems, blogs, forums, YouTube and a host of other Web 2.0 solutions will increase agent accountability. These new solutions also give consumers the tools to quickly discover who is competent and who is not. The agents and companies that truly deliver excellent value and service will rise to the top.
As for the rest, let the vultures rest in peace.
Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com.
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