Real Estate Industry Has A Self Esteem Problem?

Brian Carter writes for the New York Press that the real estate industry not only has a bad reputation with the public, but some of the reputation may come from agents’ self loathing. 

I recently spoke with the manager of a very well known and respected real estate company. He was speaking specifically about agents when he said the business had a self-esteem problem. Apparently, real estate agents aren’t very proud of what they do for a living. It was refreshing to hear, as overcompensation generally comes with the territory. Rarely does anyone inside the industry make such obvious or honest remarks. Most will tell you it’s a difficult but rewarding job—the safe answer. Some admit to loving it. I try to avoid these types. While I imagine others aren’t happy about it at all. But if agents overall are normally a little defensive, it’s for good reason. Last summer a survey conducted by Harris Interactive measured the public’s perception of the most prestigious occupations. Real estate agents ranked dead last.

Now this is one of the very reasons that True Gotham was born!  To increase credibility and agent reputations in the industry. The single most distasteful part of the industry in my opinion is the lack of respect that so many have for it. In the not too distant past, I would often avoid conversations at cocktail parties that involved discussions about occupation and when all else failed I would often spin the fact that I’m a real estate agent to make it seem much more important than it is. 

By the way, I do believe that assisting someone with often the largest asset in their portfolio is somewhat important. Here I go again, trying to convince myself that what I do is so incredibly important.

I will say that the reaction of some when they learned of my profession was anything but warm and frequently wreaked of disdain. That happens a lot less frequently as I no longer make apologies for what I do. Some days, I love what I do. Other days I hate it.  And mostly I’m satisfied with how I spend my days assisting buyers and sellers with transactions that often bring quite a few headaches for all parties involved. 

Brian says he isn’t exactly sure where all of the hatred comes from and I would like to take an educated guess. First of all, the barrier to entry in the industry is exceedingly low, making it possible for anyone to get a license to sell real estate. Public perception of real estate agent income, particularly over the past 10 years, is that everyone is getting rich who sells real estate… not true as this business week online post points out.  These two factors are definitely breeding grounds for resentment but as my regular readers know, I don’t for one second believe that public distrust of the real estate industry comes from nowhere. That low barrier to entry and the fact that most never longed to sell real estate but rather chose it as a second or third career or even "fell into it" due to a lay off or failed first career, has resulted in a sleaze factor that continues to permeate the industry.  The very structure of the industry (broker/agent relationships, commission structure, and in New York City, the lack of an MLS) results in unethical behavior by some who can’t pay their mortgage, rent, car payment, or even dinner if they don’t "close a transaction."  Desperation in any industry makes people do crazy things that are often unethical and downright dishonest. 

The good news… the industry seems to be changing for the better, albeit very slowly in New York City. Property information is becoming more accessible to the public via the creation of sophisticated, web based companies like Zillow and Trulia. The real estate boom of the past decade has brought some incredibly honest and intelligent people to the industry who are raising the bar for everyone. And perhaps most importantly, the more savvy consumer seems to have totally lost their patience for the "used car salesman" type agent who has everything but his/her customer’s best interest in mind.

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