Op-Ed: Our Industry is Finally Studying the Craft of Buyer Agency—It’s About Dang Time!

The 22nd anniversary of my real estate license passed a few weeks ago. Ooh Rah! (Sorry. My military is showing.) While I have had a license for that many years, I have been involved in real estate since 1988. That’s when I purchased my first rehab property—36 years ago. 

In the 14 months before obtaining my license, I was a principal in 24 real estate transactions, so I knew more about the transactional steps than most of the agents with whom I dealt. During that portion of my career when I was actively selling, before shifting focus to building a brokerage, I personally represented about 850 buyers or sellers. 

To say that I am “familiar” with how the real estate brokerage industry works is clearly an understatement. Having founded Benchmark Realty in 2006, we are now a group of 1600+ professionals who are honored to be involved with nearly 10,000 transactions in 2024. For what it’s worth, yes, that means we are among the 90 or so brokerages who fall outside of the NAR settlement.

During all these many years in the industry, a word of advice that I have frequently heard from brokers and directed toward new licensees is “work with buyers, they are easy.” This has always troubled me. It is a sentiment of failure. 

Why should client management, skill development, transaction success, or any other portion of a successful real estate transaction be performed any differently because the client is a seller or a buyer? Professional skills and superior client care are necessary to reach a successful conclusion regardless of which side of the transaction one represents. It should be clear to everyone that this “buyers are easy” philosophy is one of the reasons we are in our current predicament.

Back in 2015, the Tennessee Real Estate Commission (TREC) proposed new advertising rules because too many licensees were failing to identify their firm name and phone number in their advertising. This process involved a rule-making hearing whereby practitioners or the public could offer input. A date conflict prevented my attendance, so I submitted comments in writing.

In this paper, I opined that the root problems bringing about the need for new rules were the low barrier to entry into this industry as well as the low requirements for remaining in the industry. I further argued that the specifications for becoming a managing broker (a “principal broker” in TN) were so low as to be ludicrous. The central theme was that the new rules addressed the symptoms, not the disease. The real estate industry desperately needed to self-regulate or soon we would be sued out of existence.

When the staff began to read my comments aloud, the chairman interrupted. Saying something like this: “He is talking about education, we are here to discuss advertising rules, therefore these comments are not relevant.” I was gobsmacked.

The next day I called our state senator and requested a visit. Thankfully, he obliged. At our meeting a few days later, he read a copy of my TREC comments. While expressing his belief that the premise was valid, he reminded me that he represented only 1 of 95 counties, and that passing such legislation required a majority vote. He then advised that the keys to success in such matters rested in the hands of the state REALTOR® association.

On that advice, we put together a formal proposal and presented it to the state REALTOR® association’s Government Affairs Committee… who promptly killed the proposal by tabling it. Adding salt to the wound, the chief lobbyist declared (paraphrased): “We don’t need to expend our political capital on matters such as this.” To which I responded, “If we don’t self-regulate and voluntarily raise the professionalism in our industry, then someday, some sharp lawyer is going to flat take us to the cleaners.” Shrug.

Fast forward to today, and here we are. I am sad that my words were prophetic, but I am glad that as an industry we are turning a strong focus toward honing our skills. What saddens me the most is the fact that the people who were supposed to exhibit leadership and consumer protection so willingly abdicated. One can only ponder the motives for such long-standing refusals to act.

Regardless of how we have arrived here, including the disruption and pain within our industry, I believe the consumer wins in the end. Yes, there is a ton of unfairness in the way this has all come about. Yes, there are many who will be mistreated (read: underserved) as an unintended consequence of the court’s actions. Yet this is what always happens when either the government or the judiciary imposes its will on any industry. We had the chance. We failed.

In the end, assuming we do this right and reject the fast path to workarounds, we will all be better for elevating the buyer to the same level of respect with which we have always treated the seller. 

That means articulating value, communicating clearly, offering genuine transparency, and above all doing the job we are paid to do. You know what I mean—doing things in a professional manner, instead of just showing up. These comments may be perceived as painting with a broad brush, but let’s be brutally honest for a moment. We all know there are a lot of licensees who really could use some hard lessons on how good business works.

As an industry, we will endure. As an industry, we will improve. As an industry, we must modify, adapt, and move forward. The consumer demands it. The consumer needs it. The consumer needs us! Let’s get to work.

For more information, visit https://www.unitedrealestate.com/.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top