In this monthly column, Anthony Askowitz explores a hypothetical real estate situation from both sides of the broker/agent dynamic.
A veteran agent is frustrated by a surge of rookie mistakes being made by the newer agents in her office; some are more serious than others. How can her broker encourage patience and motivate her to be a mentor?
The general lack of professionalism and common sense demonstrated by the newer agents in our industry has become completely unacceptable.
I have worked well with young and green agents throughout my long career in real estate, but recent recruits seem to have no idea what they are doing. Many of my fellow experienced agents have commented on this, both from within and outside of my office.
Normally, these issues with newer agents are merely annoying. For example, a constant need to have things repeated and “hands held” throughout a transaction, an inability to arrive to meetings on time, and a universal failure to communicate well. (The youngest of agents even have a difficult time maintaining simple eye contact during conversations.)
But other mistakes can result in serious consequences. I recently gave my lockbox code to a rookie agent who asked to allow his buyer into a home under contract. I stopped by to check in a little later, and found the buyer in the house — by himself.
When I confronted the novice agent about this intolerable breach of protocol — which jeopardized the privacy and security of my seller — he claimed to have no idea of his error.
I believe a number of different factors are causing this dilemma: the pandemic’s general impact on our ability to interact, the rising interest in real estate as a career, but mostly, in my opinion, a rush to throw agents into the field before they are properly trained.
I’m sensitive about turning this legitimate concern of mine into a “back in my day!” rant, but the truth is that my generation of agents received much more rigorous and extensive training before interacting with clients and colleagues.
Today, new licensees are encouraged to immediately being working with the public, even though they have had no training beyond their initial licensing courses.
The majority of traditional companies (which used to offer hands-on and very thorough training) have either reduced the training schedules or discarded in-house training altogether, and it’s understandable; training is not a profit center.
While it was a viable program in the days when new licensees worked for a 50 percent split, the trend upwards in beginning splits made training a big financial burden.
Now, agents seeking training can only get what is available through local Realtor associations or from computer-based/virtual platforms, both of which add little towards personal communication skills or the very basics of showing a home: always providing your business card, keeping the customers together, turning on all lights and opening drapes, etc.
These tactics — which experienced agents take for granted — are simply unknown to new agents. How can I get my broker (and his management colleagues at other firms) to understand that these novices need much more intensive training?
We have all been the “new kid” at some point of our career. Who doesn’t remember feeling overwhelmed by the sea of voices, numbers, personalities and policies to manage when we first entered the field? I’m sure there’s a retired agent somewhere who still entertains his friends with tales of the silly mistakes I made when I entered the industry!
There is definitely some truth to my agent’s complaints, particularly the increased number of people joining the ranks. According to the National Association of Realtors 2021 Member Profile,
“… the rise in new members … continued to increase. Membership grew from 1.40 million at the end of 2019 to 1.48 million at the end of 2020. The median years of experience in real estate decreased to eight years from nine in last year’s report. Those with two years or less experience increased to 26 percent from 24 percent, while those with 25 years or more experience decreased to 15 percent from 17 percent.”
In other words, the average agent is less experienced every year, and there are more and more of them every day.
The member profile revealed some other interesting statistics, which further demonstrate a wide gulf between newer and experienced agents. Only 63 percent of agents with two or fewer years’ experience answered yes to “real estate is (my) only occupation” compared to 88 percennt of agents with 16 or more years’ experience.
Among those same groups, the disparity of responses to “real estate is primary source of income for household” is even more dramatic: only 29 percent of the newer agents answered yes, compared to 58 percent of the veterans.
This discrepancy in experience and commitment among agents is likely wider than ever before and exacerbated further by growing differences in culture, comfort with technology and the very concept of only holding one primary job. As a result, experienced agents have little use or patience for newcomers.
I recently asked one of our longtime agents why he was so against having new licensees in the office. His answer was telling: “Because they breathe my air.” Meaning, they demand constant attention of the staff and management, diverting our attention from the needs of those who are actually selling and making the company money.
As a broker, I can only say that agent training is an infinite process, and we do our best to improve and implement tactics to reach newer agents. But we have always partially relied on veteran agents to show newbies “the ropes” with patience and consistency.
Seasoned agents traditionally have taken on rookies as assistants and team members, supervising them as they hold open houses and work with buyers, with the veteran receiving the majority of any commission earned by business secured by the newer agent.
Eventually, the newer agent would gain enough confidence and experience to branch out on their own. I believe that some version of this arrangement will play out with the current generation.
As in years past, it is likely that some may discover that real estate is not their calling, while others will find their footing and enjoy successful careers.
How to resolve
The answer may lie in not only more training, but in new, different and creative training to meet the needs of a unique generation. Real estate has undergone dramatic, systemic changes over the past decade, and training methods should change accordingly.
With so many newer agents entering the field after a lifetime in front of a variety of screens (a pattern likely intensified through the pandemic), some socialization exercises — such as role-playing and listening games — may be utilized.
While primary responsibility for breaking in rookie agents falls to brokers and the newer agents themselves, the importance of seasoned agents cannot be discounted. They present role models for the newbies to emulate, and are an indispensable part of their education.
Veteran agents should realize this, and attempt to be as understanding and accommodating as the prior generation of Realtors was for them.
Anthony is the broker-owner of RE/MAX Advance Realty, with offices in Hollywood Beach, Davie, Miramar, North Miami, South Miami, Kendall, and the Florida Keys, and where he leads the activities of more than 190 agents. He is also a working agent who consistently sells more than 100 homes a year. For three consecutive years (2018, 2019, and 2020), Anthony has been honored as the “Managing Broker of the Year” by Miami Agent Magazine’s Agents’ Choice Awards. Follow Anthony on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/anthonyaskowitz/
NOTE: Anthony is not an attorney and does not give legal advice. Please consult a licensed attorney regarding matters discussed in this column.