Toward REAL Professionalism

I’ve been involved in real estate for a long time. In a little more than a year, I’ll have been in this industry for nearly two decades.

Before getting into real estate, I practiced as a CPA from 1983 until 1991. Because it was the first *real job* I ever had, I assumed all jobs and all industries were like public accounting. Everyone showed up early and left late. Everyone worked hard. Everyone was smart. Everyone was motivated. Everyone was relatively honest. Everyone seemed driven by a real desire to be truly excellent at what they did. Everyone was professional.

In 1991, I left public accounting to try my hand at real estate. I had absolutely, positively no idea what I was getting into. And even after all this time (can it really be 18 years?), I’m still not used to the low level of professionalism I encounter day in and day out in the real estate industry.

When I read that a Harris Poll showed that “Realtors again rank among the least trusted professionals,” I shrugged my shoulders and thought, “No surprise there.” When I heard that only 7% of all people “completely trust” their agent, my response was, “Yep, that sounds about right.” When I read that 20% don’t trust their agent “at all,” I wasn’t even remotely caught off guard.

Are there talented, smart, motivated, highly educated, truly qualified and honest professionals in real estate? OF COURSE there are. But in public accounting such types were the RULE. In real estate, they are the EXCEPTION. The stats in the previous paragraph certainly support this assertion.

In my opinion, what separates a “profession” from a “job” extends naturally from that previous thought: in addition to the obvious qualifiers (educational requirements, difficult entry examination, etc.) when the majority of the people in the industry provide a level of service to their clients that the clients perceive as being as “satisfactory” or better, that qualifies the industry AS a profession.

By that measure, we have a long way to go in real estate…

I talk about the issue of professionalism a lot. Probably more than many people would like me to. I spend a lot of time on Twitter, and I Tweet about this issue frequently. Professionalism in real estate is one of the topics for which I have the most passion. My partners and I even named our franchise “Professional One” for precisely this reason: because we wanted to establish “professionalism first” as the branding strategy around which we base and build everything we do.

Why do I have such passion for professionalism in real estate? Here are the primary reasons:

  • Because I truly care about the real estate industry and the people it serves. The public DESERVES reputable, professional, qualified, educated, ethical representation. Real estate is simply too important NOT to be handled in this fashion.
  • Because real estate is such a large part of our overall economy. The financial mess we’re currently experiencing was in large part driven by the sins of the real estate industry and the ancillary services relating to real estate (mortgage, appraisal, title, etc.). My simple thinking is this: if we can raise the bar in real estate, we can probably help solidify and stabilize a large component of the overall financial health of our economy.
  • Because I want to experience the same level of professional trust and pride that I experienced when I practiced as a CPA in public accounting. Sadly, I don’t see much of that in real estate.

Having said all that, there are a number of people I know who ARE leading and illuminating the way in real estate state. When I think “professionalism in real estate,” here are four of the people I think of first:

Some of RE.Net’s Shining Stars Bringing REAL Professionalism to Real Estate…

Nicole Nicolay – Based in San Francisco, Nicole is a co-founder, author and editor at, a dynamic, multi-media infused blog focused on providing her readers with a comprehensive technology base for the real estate industry. Nicole authored “Twitter for Real Estate Twits,” the only Twitter how-to guide created specifically for teaching real estate professionals. Nicole was named one of the 25 Most Influential Bloggers in Real Estate for 2008 by Inman News and one of the Top 12 Women Real Estate Bloggers by Sellsius. She speaks regularly at industry events including Inman Connect, REtechSouth, BizTechDay, New Media Atlanta, California Association of Realtors, BlogWorld and New Media Expo.

Reggie Nicolay – Also based in San Francisco, Reggie is the Director of Social Media for Realtors Property Resource or “RPR,” a second century initiative from the National Association of Realtors. He is responsible for providing expertise and direction relating to social media strategies, promotion and brand monitoring. Reggie is the founder and co-author of, a fresh and insightful real estate technology blog. Through that blog, he shares cutting-edge products, strategies and interviews for today’s savvy real estate professionals looking to distance themselves from their competition. Prior to that, Reggie was the Director of Social Media for Cyberhomes. Reggie Nicolay

Stefan Swanepoel – Based in Los Angeles and widely recognized as the leading visionary on trends in real estate, Stefan has penned 13 Books, Whitepapers and Reports including the 1998 bestseller, Real Estate confronts Reality (1997), the sequel Real Estate confronts the Future (2004) and of course the Swanepoel TRENDS Report. His most recent work, Social Media Report 2010, is real estate’s first and most comprehensive commentary on how social media is radically transforming the real estate industry. Stefan serves as Chairman and CEO of RealtyU Group, Inc., the largest career development company in the real estate industry educating over 350,000 agents every year.

Mike Bowler, Sr – A licensed broker based in Lansing, MI, Mike is the founder of PRETEC (Professional Real Estate Training Education & Consulting), which he created to provide brokers and agents with the latest technology training for the real estate industry. He spends a large percentage of his time on the road, teaching real estate professionals about internet marketing, blogging and social media. Mike maintains multiple blogs and is known for engaging people and sparking conversation and dialog within the industry on a variety of trending topics.

With that as the backdrop, over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to be blogging about the specific reasons why I think real estate is perceived the way that it is. Why don’t people trust us? Why are we viewed in such a negative light?

Facilitating conversation on this topic may help shine a light on the reasons for our poor standing as an industry, and identifying the causes may then make it easier to identify the solutions.

Thanks in advance for reading the rest of this series. I look forward to your comments…

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