people have spoken increase real estate professionalism

On Real Estate Professionalism: The People Have Spoken!

On the topic of real estate professionalism, the people have spoken…

…but are we listening?

The other day, I wrote a blog post called “When Swanepoel Talks.”

That created a moderate level of conversation on Twitter and on Stefan Swanepoel’s Facebook page.

In the aftermath of those things, Mike Bowler wrote a response in his blog called “Time for Change – Raise the Bar in Real Estate Professionalism – Who’s Responsible?” At the end of Mike’s post, he wrote the following:

My question is, what is professionalism if the Code described above is not? When will we enforce this Code, if it is being neglected? One thing I do know is that in my 32 years as a REALTOR, I have met more professional agents, brokers, and managers than non-professional and personally feel our industry has grown substantially during that period. The beauty of our Code of Ethics is that it is alive and never will allow us to stop growing as an industry. (We have room to grow.) What do you think?

In response to Mike’s question as to “what I think,” I offer you three levels of opinon: (1) my own, (2) Stefan Swanepoel’s (additional commentary, aka “When Swanepoel Talks, Part 2″) and (3) the public’s…our clients’…the people who pay us and to whom we are ultimately tasked with providing satisfaction.

First, my personal opinion on the level of professionalism in real estate. I think fairly radical overhaul is needed across the board in the real estate industry, and here’s a condensed summary as to why I say that (you can read the other posts I’ve written on this topic within this blog; I don’t want to bore you with repetition):

  • The barrier to entry is too low in real estate, particularly in comparison to other careers viewed as “professions” (see related blog post here).
  • The authoritative guidance in real estate is not uniform and too minimalist, particularly in comparison to other industries to which real estate should be comparable (see related blog post here).
  • Too many people in the industry are not serious, full-time professionals, as evidenced by the fact that only 27% of all Realtors derive the majority of their income from real estate (this statistic will appear in the upcoming Swanepoel Trends Report 2010).

Second, allow me to offer the written commentary of the (in my opinion) leading author, observer and commentator in and about the real estate industry, Stefan Swanepoel, who wrote all of the following within the last few days publicly:

  • I have publicly supported and encouraged a continual uplifting of the educational process and the professionalism of the real estate brokerage industry in most of my last 16 books and reports.. The time has come for a big change. I think a significant “Game Changer” type shift is now required. Otherwise we may, as an industry, slip further and further downhill until one day “others” outside the industry will find a new solution that may not include real estate agents as we know them today. (Originally posted as a comment on here).
  • I am dumbfounded watching the thousands re-arranging the chairs. (From same source as prior point.)
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, Professionalism in real estate is at a “4.59 level.”

So, it would *appear* that Mr. Swanepoel and I are on the same page in terms of calling for major, radical overhaul and change within the real estate industry.

You may be thinking, “who cares what you think,” and or “who cares what Swanepoel thinks?”

And you are correct in asking those questions.

Ultimately, neither of us matters in this discussion.

So, let’s forget EVERYTHING I’ve written so far…both in this post and every other post in this blog…and let’s also forget everything that Swanepoel thinks, says and writes.

And let’s get to the only opinion that REALLY matters in this conversation: the public’s.

Let’s see what they have to say about this issue.

Per the most recent Harris Poll about the trustworthiness of professional advice that included real estate, the following information was culled:

  • Realtors ranked 10th out of 11 categories
  • Only 7% “completely trusted” Realtors
  • 20% didn’t trust Realtors at all

Per the most recent Harris Poll that dealt with the issue of most prestigious occupations, the following information was excerpted:

  • Real estate broker/agent ranked LAST (23rd out of 23) in terms of having “very great prestige”
  • Real estate broker/agent ranked SECOND TO WORST (22nd out of 23) in terms of “having no prestige at all” (the only occupation with a worse rating was “actor”)
  • Over a 29 year average, real estate broker/agent ranked LAST in terms having “very great prestige”

Yes, this IS subjective, but even the most optimistic interpreter of these statistics would be hard pressed to spin these stats in a positive direction.

These are weak, embarrassing results, no matter how you slice it.

Here’s the bottom line: the public thinks we’re doing a poor job.


No matter what I think…no matter what Stefan Swanepoel thinks…no matter what ANY PERSON in the real estate industry thinks…if the public thinks we’re not serving them effectively, then we are not serving them effectively.

As the old saying goes, “the customer is always right.”

And they have spoken.

They don’t think we give trustworthy advice. And they don’t think we have prestige.

I see a lot of people in real estate who want to DEBATE whether we have a “problem” or not.

If the results of these polls do not prove that we do have a perception/professionalism problem, what would evidence such proof? How much lower can we rank before there is consensus that we have a significant, systemic problem?

To ignore these hard realities is to potentially consent to all of the following:

  • That we, as an industry, are comfortable being perceived as not being able to provide trustworthy professional advice.
  • That we, as an industry, are comfortable being perceived as not having prestige.
  • That we, as an industry, don’t care what our clients think of us.

It’s time for change. Not token change. REAL change.

Is the industry prepared to make the hard choices necessary to improve things? Only time will tell.

But the longer it takes to implement meaningful change, the better the odds that – as Swanepoel said above – “…we may, as an industry, slip further and further downhill until one day “others” outside the industry will find a new solution that may not include real estate agents as we know them today.”

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