In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical Miami real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic.
An experienced top agent at a Miami real estate firm is questioning the need for required continuing education (CE) credits in a dramatically shifting climate for agents.
To be clear from the outset: I absolutely believe in continuing education (CE) and its power to help real estate professionals stay enlightened, earn more money and maintain professional standards.
Like all my colleagues, I have taken many CE courses throughout my long career as a requirement to maintain my license, and there is no question that they have helped me be a better, sharper, more well-rounded agent.
What I do question is why agents like myself are still required to earn these credits in an industry that is changing at warp speed, in which we are already scrambling to keep up?
We used to only have each other to compete with. Today, we compete with websites, FSBOs and other tech-driven resources coming for our market share without regard for the standards we are forced to maintain.
For example, here in Florida, I must complete at least 14 hours of CE (at my own expense) each 24 months, as does every veteran agent, if we want to continue working.
I can’t imagine that the discount brokerages, flat-fee companies and online marketplaces who are also buying and selling real estate in our state — and who may not even be in this state — face this same level of scrutiny and regulation.
Furthermore (since we’re being totally honest here), I also believe there are already too many agents in the business now, and it’s very easy for part-time and less-engaged agents to keep their licenses by simply meeting the bare minimum CE requirements.
Why not do away with the mandatory requirements, and simply let the market decide? Those of us who stay committed to CE will continue to thrive and excel, while those who don’t will perform accordingly, and the result will be a thinner playing field made up of serious professionals.
Wouldn’t that be the best representation of our industry?
This agent makes some very compelling, forward-thinking points about CE. I would imagine that most current state and board guidelines were created in real estate climates that were very different from today’s, and revisions may certainly be in order.
However, I think her takes on CE requirements would only benefit the more experienced agents and don’t take the big picture of our industry into account.
The question of individual agent certification requirements versus the regulating of “disruptor” industries is already a reality in certain industries around the country. (For example, the tension between ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft versus traditional taxi services.)
And the same scenario may play out in real estate, in which sellers get excited by the bright, shiny discount broker and try to save a few dollars by eschewing the traditional agents.
Of course, buying or selling a house is a very different investment and experience than getting a ride to the airport. My belief is that the market will soon come to realize the “you get what you pay for” lesson, and return to the reliable and trusted agents and brokers who have served the industry well for many decades.
So, before, during and after that happens, it is incumbent on us to maintain the very high professional standards that keep our licenses so respectable, and mandatory CE requirements are a big part of that dynamic.
These high standards also benefit the individual agents by requiring their counterparts to be equally informed and educated. Imagine how much time might be wasted on a transaction because the other side’s agent wasn’t aware of a new required process or regulation?
Now imagine that happening over and over again because nothing is requiring agents to stay educated on their profession? As a broker, that is an untenable situation to have to manage.
How to meet halfway
In many ways, CE is the glue that keeps the real estate industry together. While each CE curriculum might vary from state to state or provider to provider, all agents are in “the same boat” with respect to staying abreast of rules, laws and guidelines.
CE classes also help agents to learn about new technology, marketing techniques, ethical standards and financial literacy. Furthermore, certifications and designations help ambitious agents distinguish themselves in a crowded field, while also increasing their ability to earn more money.
Designations that agents might consider include the SRES (Seniors Real Estate Specialist, which teaches about how to manage the needs of clients age 50 and older), CRE (Counselor of Real Estate, an international group of professionals who provide advice on real property and land-related matters) or CLHMS (Certified Luxury Home Marketing Specialist, serving affluent buyers and sellers).
In this case, the broker could encourage his agents to pursue their required CE credits by offering them discounted or complementary courses that are progressive, unusual or “outside the box” in nature.
For example, some online providers offer courses on the impact of legalized marijuana on real estate, social media compliance and understanding the needs of diverse clients.
He should also advise his agents to maintain error and omissions insurance coverage, to protect them from paying out-of-pocket costs due to error, omission or negligence related to their duties.
Anthony is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty in South Miami and Kendall, where he leads the activities of more than 165 agents. He is also a working agent who consistently sells more than 100 homes a year. In 2018, he was named “Managing Broker of the Year” by Miami Agent Magazine’s “Agents’ Choice” Awards.