I hang my head in shame. My 15 continuing education credits (CEUs) that are required by the Department of Commerce are due in just a few days. I had an entire year to take my classes, but I didn’t do most of it until last week.

After getting a reminder note from my broker, I spent 30 minutes rooting through my file cabinet and found the file folder labeled CEU. I was confident that I had enough credits. I opened the folder and looked at the dates on the completion certificates and discovered that I had about one-third of the needed credits.

If I were to estimate how much business-related training I have taken and given this year I would say it has to be more than 80 hours, but only a few hours of it are approved for continuing education.

The rules on CEU are simple: If it is not completed on time, my broker’s license is suspended and I can’t sell real estate "for others for remuneration."

The night after I got the reminder note, I completed 3.75 hours of continuing education. I took an online course in Minnesota contract law. It took me 1.5 hours to take the course and pass the test. The only reason it took that long is because I was on MSN.com chatting with a friend as I took the course.

The next morning I decided to take an online course about architecture and local architectural styles, for another 3.75 credits. Useful information for a Realtor, but I think I could have gotten 100 percent on the test without taking the course. It took me almost two hours to complete it, as I was on the phone most of the time dealing with a messy real estate transaction.

I searched for a two-credit course to complete my 15 credits and could not find one. I took yet another 3.75-hour course and gave it my undivided attention. I completed it in 40 minutes. The course was about local trends that may lead to business opportunities.

The bar is very low in our industry for getting licensed and for continuing education. If I had taken my CEUs in a classroom it would have been more time-consuming, though I would not have been required to take a test. …CONTINUED

When I got my license I did not know how to write a purchase agreement. I see purchase agreements that are written on my listings by other agents and they are missing some of the basic elements that are needed to have a legally binding contract. I have never had a client ask me if I know how to write a contract. They just assume that I do and that they are working with someone who is competent.

Brokers are responsible for the paperwork. Some are very strict and others don’t seem to check the paperwork at all. I review the contracts I get from other agents very carefully and make corrections on them. Other agents hate it when I do that.

I take a course every year through the state board on how to fill out a purchase agreement. The laws change every year. The course is taught by a lawyer who goes through the contracts in great detail. I don’t have to take the course. I take it because I know that if I make a mistake it could cost my client.

It would be nice if the state Department of Commerce gave a test every year and had all licensees write a purchase agreement. Consumers would benefit and so would agents. That would be far more valuable than credits for classes on new trends and business opportunities.

Aren’t state commerce departments supposed to regulate the local real estate industry and protect consumers?

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


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