Could we raise the bar a hair?

by Kris Berg, Inman News

I received an e-mail this week that made me a little sad.

I was wrapping up a grueling, professional workday of target farming, prospecting and generating leads.

As I was ignoring phone calls and reciting my positive affirmations (I am the Neighborhood Specialist!), readying myself to analyze my capture and conversion rates before heading out to a listing appointment where I would talk smack about my competitors so I could get my sign with the picture of my very big head in yet another yard, I took a moment to read the message.

It was a thoughtfully crafted, heartfelt message from a person who was planning a career change. Specifically, she was looking for a good real estate licensing school.

“I’d be grateful if you could give me a tip as to which institution you believe might provide the most respected training,” she wrote. “I know that on-the-job training is likely going to matter a great deal more, but I do want to start out with the best foundation possible.”

“Institution?” I thought. You mean an online course where you quickly tire of the exercise and pay your 8-year-old to complete the practice tests? Or maybe by “institution,” she was referring to the books and CDs offered by one licensing school with the really high pass rate and money back guarantee, the one who points out on their website that you might as well just go for “broker.”

“It’s a common misconception that you are required to have real estate experience prior to sitting the broker’s exam … No real estate experience is required!” it says on the licensing school’s landing page.

(The California Department of Real Estate requires that real estate brokers have two years of full-time licensed salesperson experience, although lawyers and those with four-year college degrees may complete approved courses in real estate in lieu of sales experience.)

Institution … respected training … the best foundation possible. Out of the mouths of babes. That’s not to say that you won’t come out of the licensing experience with a boatload of valuable information. Au contraire. You will learn to that there may be more than one right answer, and you will know to watch for those tricky, government-esque double negatives.

And you will learn big, important words that you will attempt to use in complete sentences when meeting the termite guy to demonstrate that you have matriculated from one of the more respected institutions.

From the California Real Estate Exam Guide: “The opposite of accretion is avulsion; the opposite of alienation is retention.”

“There are 320 rods to a mile and 9 square feet in a yard.”

Termite Inspector: It looks like we have some wood rot here. That will be $4,000.

Agent: Avulsion is likely to blame. Retention is not in the best interests of my converted leads … Can you quote that price in rods, please? My people are British.

We also receive training in math prior to hitting the streets. It would be silly not to include math in the test since we will soon be dealing with some large, scary numbers.

“To change a fraction to a percentage, divide the top number by the bottom number and convert to percentage form.”

Now, I don’t want to brag, but I kind of glossed over the math component of my pre-licensing preparation. I learned all about “top numbers” and “bottom numbers” in college. As for converting to percentage form, that’s trickier, but I’ll give you a hint. Just move the little dot around until the number feels about right and put that funny symbol after it (the one above the “5” key).

Some of the stuff they try to teach you, you will already know. But while these sections seem elementary, remember we are all about equal opportunity. We want everyone to succeed in becoming a real estate agent! The success of your brokerage and your member organizations depends on it.

Again from the California Real Estate Exam Guide: “A cul-de-sac is a dead-end street.”

“A common test for water pressure is to turn on all faucets and flush the toilets.”

While you may know these things, remember that not everyone does. By “not everyone” I am talking about people with missing frontal lobes and those who spent the last 80 years herding sheep in the Himalayas. We don’t want to be exclusionary, after all.

Then there is my favorite. Corn is chattel because it’s a rotational crop. Who knew? I didn’t, which is why I missed that question on my own exam, a low moment in my life that continues to haunt me. Now, I apply this knowledge in my work every chance I get.

Client: Get a load of that corn!

Me: Not so fast! That chattel does not convey. Now, if the seller harvests an ear or two prior to closing and bolts it to the dining room wall in an overtly appurtenant manor, that’s another story.

Me: Ditto the alfalfa.

Client: I want the corn. And I want it covered in the home warranty policy.

So the answer to my inspired and driven friend, the one who told me she is “passionate about home selling and purchasing,” is this. There are as many places to find licensing training as there are licensees, but none are “institutions.” And I think that concept is what is missing.

Sure, the exam is just a means to an end. Like any professional undertaking, there is the requisite education and then there is the real, practical training you can receive only on the job. But the one thing we seem to ignore at all points is the idea of the importance of the work and the responsibility we accept with our framed credential. What’s missing is a respect for our vocation and ourselves.

Several years ago, I attended a client’s graduation from law school. I am not suggesting ours is a profession in the same category at law; we know better than that. But what struck me was the sense of pride, honor and obligation that permeated the room of graduates about to receive their diplomas and embark on their own on-the-job training.

They didn’t show up with a No. 2 pencil and scamper out of the state building three hours later with a new career and some dues to pay. They paid their dues first. And, before they were set free, they listened — were made to listen — to several keynote speeches littered with words like “honor” and “ethics,” with phrases like “social responsibility” and “greater good.”

Not once did I hear the retired judge or the sitting justice say anything about farming or units or lead capture rates. Those things exist in the legal profession as well, but at this moment — the important moment — they took a back seat to the larger issue of service and respect.

All attorneys are not exceptional, nor will all agents ever be. But if we aren’t going to treat the preparatory requirements seriously in our more-is-better model, at least we could begin by throwing in some last-minute rhetoric as a reminder that there are real people at the other end of our paychecks. We want them to respect us; first we need to respect ourselves.

Kris Berg is broker-owner of San Diego Castles Realty. She also writes a consumer-focused real estate blog, The San Diego Home Blog.

Reprinted with permission of Inman News.
Copyright 2010 Inman News

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