Real Estate Agents Don’t Get The Respect They Deserve

You’d be surprised how hard real agents really work and how little they make on each transaction.I have heard people say many times that real estate agents are considered lower than lawyers when it comes to professions deserving respect. It’s true. Whenever buying a home comes up in informal conversations at parties, at the coffee shop or elsewhere, everyone has a personal story to share about working with an agent they felt was shady.

Yet, despite the profession’s poor reputation, there are a whopping 2,000,000 real estate agents in the US (according to the National Association of Realtors). After being an agent myself for 9 years, I think there are two significant reasons for the public’s distrust of the profession.

The first, is the inherent flaws in how real estate agents are licensed and governed. It’s incredibly easy to get licensed. All it takes is a 4-week training course and passing an exam which the instructor basically gives the answers to in class. You don’t need a college degree and once you are licensed you are considered an “independent contractor” and pretty much fly on your own.

The second reason the public has a negative perception is because they think agents are way over paid, when the truth is just the opposite. They watch television shows like “Million Dollar Listing” and “Selling Sunset” where all an agent does is show one house, put in an offer, and they make $150,000 in commission. Sell two of those a year and you are in the top 5% of earners in the USA. Easy money – right?

Wrong! The reality of being an agent is vastly different. The actual median sale price of a home in the US in 2019 was $312,100 (according to Zillow). Based on these facts, agents earn, on average, $5,426 in commission per transaction. They would have to sell 55 homes to get into the top 5%.

In the real world good agents work hard for their buyers and are not adequately compensated. A great deal of preparation goes into showing houses and unlike on the TV shows, buyers typically preview 10 homes before they buy one. What they don’t show is the amount of work an agent puts in before the showings. Activities such as:

  • Preparing a list of all homes in the buyer’s price range in their towns of interest
  • They hone it down based on buyer wants and needs
  • From the final list, the agent goes to visit each home personally to make sure it’s in a good location and in good shape.
  • Lastly, they analyze the market data on similar priced homes on the market and recent sales in each neighborhood to decide if the list price is high, low or well priced in case the buyer wants to make an offer

What the public also isn’t privy to is that the acceptance of the offer is merely a starting point. There’s a long road before the deal gets to the closing table with a myriad of steps, each of which can become a stumbling block to the sale going through. These include;

  • Negotiating price
  • Writing up and presenting the offer
  • Attending the general inspection
  • Reviewing the inspection report with buyer’s attorney to figure if there are issues that require attention
  • Attending the specialty inspections
  • Attending the bank appraisal
  • Settle on a final price.

Al of these work hours come at a high risk to the agent because a buyer does not have to formally commit to the agent until almost the end of the transaction. The buyer can pull out any time before then and the agent doesn’t paid anything. This flawed system sets up an inherent distrust in the buyer/agent relationship. On one hand, buyers wonder if agents try to push any house on them just to make a sale, while the agent is trying to decide if their buyer is wasting their time or are really committed to go through with the final sale.

I was a college educated sales executive at a major media company when I transitioned into real estate. I put in the hard work and my colleagues would tell you I was a natural. But, despite my skills and earlier sales experience it was still challenging to build a robust business after 9 years. I was blind sighted by the inherent risk I had to take on each transaction. Though I watched the “Reality” shows with skepticism, I found myself still disappointed in my income.

I found most agents I worked with to be honest and hard-working. They deserve our respect because they are taking risks every day, flying solo and often work hard on deals that don’t materialize. To get the respect they deserve, we have to fix the system governing residential real estate to make sure equitable agent / buyer relationships are put into place. Then all that’s needed is to insert disclaimers on the real estate “reality” television shows saying, that they are anything but.

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Pivoting During the Pandemic

Like many of you who are reading this article, I was laid off when the pandemic hit. It basically killed off my company’s main revenue stream so most people were laid off, the office closed and the remaining employees worked from home.

I spent weeks trying to find a new job through online sites like Indeed, Zip Recruiter and Linked In. I easily sent out over 100 resumes for positions that I specifically targeted for their location, type of work, required experience and salary.

Yet with all of these filters, 9 out of 10 jobs popped up that don’t fit most of my criteria.I have worked since I am 14 tears old (part time), and full time since college graduation. I never left a job without having another one lined up. I am serious about my career and have always gotten a great deal of self worth from it.

For over 20 years my senior level positions were at large media companies in New York City where I commuted from New Jersey. The hours were long and also included attending lots of evening events. And did I mention I was also raising 2 kids at the same time?

Sometimes the hectic schedule I was keeping made me cry on the train while commuting into NYC. I felt overwhelmed, over worked and worried about successfully juggling all aspects of my life.

Now that I am home full time, albeit unemployed, (kids are grown) it is a huge change and I find myself once again feeling overwhelmed. How many hours a day does it take to send out resumes? Not more than 3 or 4. To fill the gap, I make nightly gourmet dinners from the NY Times Cooking app, exercise daily so I am in the best shape of my life and I read one book a week.

Despite these activities, I still felt unfulfilled. I still needed a project or a challenge to focus on. I gave thought to my professional dreams from my early days. In my teenage years I dreamed of being Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer, becoming an anchor on network news. It seemed like you had to be smart and glamorous. At the time, I thought I was both.

However, in college I didn’t gravitate towards journalism and the dream fizzled. But not the writing. I absolutely love to write and have always gotten accolades at my jobs for writing well.

How I Pivoted During the Pandemic

The incredible quiet caused by the quarantine gave me the space to self reflect on where I am and what the next phase of life could be. My “AHA” moment came recently and I thought this might be the perfect time to start freelance writing. Why not? I can still job hunt, make dinner and exercise in between trying to get a freelance business off the ground. I miss being overwhelmed — I guess you could say its how I idle.

This new gig has been going on for a few weeks and most of my time has been spent preparing the necessary tools so I can be prepared if a project comes my way. To date, I’ve created a logo, designed and wrote this website, created social media pages and profiles where I post and advertise the business, wrote 2 articles which were posted on several sites and sent out an email to 500 targeted individuals.

Of course I have the good fortune to be collecting unemployment right now, which is sort of the seed money I’m using to start the business and to meet my personal expenses.

This is a professional pivot that could end up making my dreams a reality or then again you might find me sitting behind a desk, bean counting in the next few months. Stay tuned.

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