Notes From Readers: We've Got a Bad Case of Image Blues

After Gallup revealed the public's diagnosis of real estate professionals, we asked for your prescriptions to get the industry's image on the road to Wellville.

May 1, 1996

Five Ways to Beef Up Our Image

I earn some of my income as an expert witness, which allows me to evaluate whether practitioners have met a standard of care.

To raise our integrity quotient

  1. We shouldn't evaluate salespeople in terms of their income. Companies take out newspaper ads to announce salespeople of the year. But typically the top earner is the top salesperson. Its like devoting more ink to the football player than to the scholar. Its about time salespeople were recognized on the basis of their clients' satisfaction rankings.
  2. We should stop teaching salespeople to sell by overcoming objections. Instead, change that to a positive approach. Supply accurate information and respond when appropriate with "I don't know, but I'll find out."
  3. We should demand that rookies complete more education before and after they enter the business. We shouldn't regard real estate as the last bastion of free enterprise, where even a high school dropout with hustle can succeed. Then salespeople get their education at the expense of the consumers.
  4. We desperately need to know more about our product. Car salespeople know more about engines and models than we do about architecture and building materials. Salespeople in my region commonly misname architectural styles. It may not be crucial to the sale or to consumer satisfaction, but this carelessness doesn't earn us any points, either.
  5. The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® shouldn't be afraid to offend its members by taking strong positions on ethics and education.

Jim Stacey, Jim Stacey Real Estate Services, Seattle

Don't Do What You Don't Know

We could probably improve our ranking by simply saying no to business outside our expertise. Practitioners need to pay more attention to Article 11 of the Code of Ethics, which says that REALTORS® shouldn't work outside their area of competence unless they're working with another professional in that field or consumers consent to the arrangement after it has been explained to them. Although it might be tempting to accept a contract with a farm or service station seller, a residential practitioner isn't likely to know the intricacies of the governmental and environmental considerations involved.

But we can still benefit by passing that business to a specialist for a referral fee.
Malcolm Kretschmar, Kretschmar Realty Inc., Greenville, Miss.

Happy Buyers Are Represented

Buyers tend not to be represented in most transactions. And in dual agency situations, buyers often get the short end of the stick.

I think increasing the practice of buyer agency may help quell at least half of the consumer complaints about our industry. When buyers retain their own salespeople, who have a fiduciary responsibility to them, practitioners will earn more trust.
Vicki S. Porter, Porter House, Denver

Let's See Your Price List

This business is too easy to get into education-wise. And it's too easy to get out of. Many practitioners think that if they fail, they'll just get a "real" job. Those of us who recruit new salespeople aren't helping, because we don't seem to be getting a serious commitment from them.

In addition, we're probably one of the few professions that have no fee structure related to work performed. We take people on tours without knowing whether they're clients or tire kickers; we research CMAs without charge; and we help friends buy from FSBOs without regard to our valuable time. Why should we be paid only if we go to closing? If we don't see our value, neither will the public.
Don Davies, CRS®, GRI, Progressive Concepts Realty, Arden, N.C.

$1 Million Trailer? No Problem; We'll Sell It

Too many salespeople promise the world to get a listing, even an overpriced one, without regard to a property's salability. Once the overpriced listings expire, you end up with more consumers who were misled and whose opinions might factor into another Gallup poll. We need to deal with this problem at the office level and, more important, individually.
Nick Sozio, Realty World--Ahoy, Cape Coral, Fla.

Ouch! Consumer Perceptions Hit Home

After 10 years of actively winning FSBOs' listings, I thought I'd seen and heard it alluntil I spotted a FSBO ad with the tag line "Selling because of divorce."

Since I'd worked with those FSBOs a few years earlier, I figured I had the best chance in town to win their listing. They did remember me and invited me to tour their home so that I could work up a CMA.

While I was there, a young couple who'd seen the newspaper ad came to view the house. The two husbands went to the basement, leaving their wives and me in the kitchen. Within seconds, the prospect blurted out, "I can tell it's all his fault."

It took the startled seller and me only a couple of seconds to realize the prospect was referring to the ad. Then she launched a character assassination of the seller's husband fit for a political campaign. I sensed that the seller was outraged, but she kept her composure.

When the prospects left, I mentioned to the wife that it's unusual for sellers to publicize their divorce as a reason to sell. The wife told me there was no impending divorce---the ad was only a gimmick to attract buyers. Then she added, "Its the kind of thing you real estate salespeople do all the time, isn't it?"

I said, "No. We wouldn't divulge personal information about clients." I think she was embarrassed by her comment.
Kenneth G. Caserta, Dollar Dry Dock Real Estate, Stratford, Conn.

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