The truth is, getting a real estate license is far too easy. There are over two million real estate licensees in the United States and generally between five and six million homes sold each year. If you do the math, that’s less than three transactions per licensed person each year. Obviously the allocation of homes sold per agent is far more skewed, the allocation is more likely to be along the lines of Pareto’s 80/20 rule, where 20% of the agents do 80% of the business. As a betting man, I’d wager it's closer to 90/10. That said, the point remains, there are tons of real estate agents out there with a majority of the work being completed by the most competent, committed, full-time real estate agents, who generally have, if nothing else, this one thing in common: an above average level of professional conduct.
That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions. Like in any industry, there are jerks that make it to the top of their field, often as a result of them being jerks. You will undoubtedly have to manage a transaction with one of these jerks all the while wondering how on earth people work with them...well, the answer is there are some jerk buyers and sellers too, who seek out the jerk real estate agent because they think a “bulldog” is what they’re looking for when it comes to selling a house. Sometimes, it’s as simple as misjudging someone.
The weakness associated with the “bulldog” or jerk orientation of the brokerage business, particularly in small towns, is that reputations are built and spread quickly. At some point, the local real estate community will peg such people as what they are and stop supporting them, simply by blackballing them. Brokers can be a tribal group, as evidenced by the National Association of Realtors being one of the most powerful lobbying bodies on the planet, and they’ll take it upon themselves to stop showing someone’s listings (arguably as a duty to their client), turn the offender into their local association or MLS service at every opportunity and generally speak ill of them. While I don’t condone such behavior in response to jerks, facts are facts and such things happen.
The more important weakness associated with being a jerk is, simply, being a jerk. One of the purposes behind this writing is identifying ways to raise your level of professional success all the while enjoying a balanced, happy life and being a jerk is in direct conflict with that, so we’ll pursue behavior that is just the opposite.
The NAR has a list of items they identify as the “Pathways to Professionalism”, which you should review. The ideas I am preparing to outline will overlap with some of the points by NAR, but ultimately, they’re what I have used as my “North Star” to build and maintain a reputation that has enhanced my business.
Before we get into the list, it must be pointed out again that this is the “long game”, that being a successful real estate agent in terms of living a balanced life with healthy income, requires consistency and commitment to being good at your job.
The first aspect of highly professional conduct is respect for your peers. Real estate agents are their own businesses as independent contractors and competition for business is high, with some agents taking a “cut throat” perspective to winning listings and buyers. Remember though, there are over five millions homes that sell each year, likely hundreds and hundreds in your immediate area, the opportunity for business is abundant, you simply need to posture yourself to win it. Respecting your peers puts you in position to be successful for a long time.
How do we show respect to our peers? Generally by following the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s easier said than done, but actually putting it into practice postures you as the person that “does the little things right”. Some examples:
Show up on time to your appointments. If your timing is off, alert the other agent so they may alert their client.
Respond to other agents inquiries timely.
Offer professional courtesy to peers. If you see an agent’s sign has blown over, lift it up. If you see a mistake in their MLS listing, call them and make them aware of it. If there’s something wrong at a property, notify the lister. And so on.
Give excellent feedback to listing agents after you’ve shown their house. It helps them with their client and positions you to expect great feedback in return, helping you and your clients.
Never poach clients from other agents and always defer questions of their client back to their agent.
Doing these “little things” right, endears you to the real estate community. An example of how this works to your benefit is when you’re in a multiple offer situation representing a buyer. All things being equal, a listing agent that knows you to be honest and courteous will advise their client to accept your offer in a competitive situation. That’s an advantage to you and to your clients. I’ve been the beneficiary of this several times and it is a reason I have earned a lot of referral business over the years. Being honest, courteous and responsive positions you to have more successful broker’s opens, learn about buyers or listings before most of the community might (which puts your clients at an advantage) and can make transactions go much smoother thanks to creating a reputation of fair dealing and prioritizing professional standards to your peers.
The same professional conduct should extend to the general public as well. By putting forth a good foot, you raise your own reputation and help lift the real estate community.