malcolm gladwell 10,000 hour test

Does Your Agent Pass the “10,000 Hour Test?

Like many, I’m a Malcolm Gladwell fan. I’ve read several of his books, and probably my favorite is one called Outliers. Here’s are selected excerpts from the opening paragraph from the Wikipedia entry on that book:

Outliers: The Story of Success is a non-fiction book written by Malcolm Gladwell… In Outliers, Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success…. Throughout the publication, Gladwell repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule,” claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.

The Key To Success

It’s that last sentence I want to focus on in this post:

“The key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.“

Here’s a little video that explains this in more detail:

What Does this Have to Do with Real Estate?

Before I continue, let me acknowledge that I know many will be scoffing at “where I’m going” with this post. Am I really suggesting that someone needs 10,000 hours of experience to master real estate? I can hear what you might be thinking: “Real estate is just a sales job, right? It’s not a real profession. You just drive people around, show them some houses, schmooze a lot, fill out some paperwork, throw a house up on the MLS, and cash checks, right?” Umm….NO. That’s not quite the reality of it. At all.

It Has EVERYTHING to Do With Real Estate

And here is why I say that:

  • Job Requires More than You Realize: As one who has worked in real estate for 21 years, I can tell you that the job: [1] requires far more expertise to do well than most realize (in fact, I’ve now lost track of the number of hats an agent must wear to truly master the job: sales, marketing, negotiating, finance, psychology, law, geography, math, statistics, and many others), [2] is becoming even more demanding and expertise-driven by virtue of the rapid changes in technology that are remapping much of the way the business has been conducted historically, and [3] now requires knowledge in important areas that, for the average agent, didn’t even exist five to 10 years ago (distressed sales, listing syndication, SEO, web design, mobile marketing, social media, etc.). As Gladwell said in the video, jobs these days are “sufficiently complex that they require a long time to reach mastery.” Real estate, done properly, is sufficiently complex to require a long time to reach mastery…
  • Low Barrier to Entry: Historically, the barrier to entry in real estate is very low, and in many states, one can prep for a real estate license in 40 hours, online, and actually be selling real estate after passing a simple test that almost no one fails (this is absolutely true in my home state of Michigan, where you need 1,500 hours of pre-licensure training to obtain a license to cut hair, but only 40 hours to help people buy or sell what is in most cases the largest financial asset they’ll ever own). The point: there are many people in the business who decided to get a real estate license just because it’s so easy to do….
  • Easy to Make a Bad Decision: It’s really easy to make a bad decision when selecting a real estate professional. Trust me, I know, as I made not one, not two, but THREE bad decisions before I decided to get into real estate myself and take matters into my own hands. Why is it so easy? Because, historically, there’s never really been a way to verify or vet real estate agents. Luckily, that is changing, but it’s still too easy to end up with a non-expert agent.
  • Lots of Non-Expert Agents: Continuing the prior point, here are some reasons why it is so easy to make a bad decision: by some accounts, as many as HALF of all licensed REALTORS® did NOT SELL A HOME IN 2011, and as many as 73% work part-time. That is a LOT of people not making much if any progress toward any level of true mastery in this complex industry (and with the pace of change impacting real estate, I could argue that such agents are actually going BACKWARDS in terms of cultivating real expertise)…

A Solid Correlation Between Experience and Expertise

Please be clear: I am not suggesting that everyone who has 10,000 hours of experience is a great agent, nor am I saying that everyone with less than 10,000 hours is a bad agent. There are exceptions to every rule, for the better and for the worse. However, in most cases, for most real estate agents, I believe there IS a fairly solid correlation between experience and expertise. And, in general, “more is better.” If I were to move to a different part of the country and didn’t know anyone, and I needed to find a new place to call home, I can assure you that my first criteria in selecting an agent to represent me would be this: they would have to be a full-time, experienced agent.

Why This May Matter to You

As already stated, for most people, buying or selling a home is the biggest financial transaction they’ll ever be a part of. I’ve personally seen many instances where the difference between poor representation and great representation was measured in tens of thousands and, in a few extreme cases, even hundreds of thousands of dollars (literally). When selling or buying in Northville, Novi, Plymouth, Canton, Ann Arbor, Birmingham, Livonia, West Bloomfield or any other part of Metro Detroit, make sure you are being represented by an experienced, expert professional is in my opinion essential.

So, tell me: did your last agent pass the “10,000 Hour Rule” test?

How about your next one?

Michael McClure @ProfessionalOne



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