Brooklyn Secret Agent: A Real Estate Industry Upgrade?

Today we bring you an anonymous weekly column about real estate by one of the most experienced agents in Brooklyn:
I’ve written before about there being no barriers to entry to becoming a real estate agent. Virtually no capital is required. The New York State required education is pathetic — when I took the state test, there were hordes of people taking it who needed instructions on filling out a bubble answer sheet. Really? Did they not complete 4th grade? And getting hired is easy since no one has to pay you a cent until you produce. Little wonder that the quality of agents varies widely, to say the least.

Might that be changing? One can only hope. In brownstone Brooklyn the buyers and sellers should certainly demand the same level of professionalism from their agent that they do from the other professionals in their lives — accountants, lawyers, architects, etc. That means an agent needs to be knowledgeable, focused and available. Most of all, a good agent views the job as a career, and their long-term reputation is the only thing that really matters. I have seen colleagues burn bridges over and over again to maximize the commission on a given deal. Senseless.

An agent also must be absolutely clear about who she represents in every single case. Blurring those lines only confuses the clients and generates distrust. The New York State law requiring this disclosure is a very positive step in that direction; sadly, the form they came up with is not clear at all. There’s no harm in stating who you represent so the buyer or seller will always know. Yes, it means you will share more commissions, but in the long run that will get you more referrals.

On a positive note, I have observed that college graduates are calling to talk to me about going into the business. I have even seem some lawyers decide to switch to real estate agency. As prices rise, the business becomes more attractive. Call me foolishly optimistic, but I see improvement in agent quality on the horizon.

9 Comment

  • Fair points but you are rather naive if you are somehow equating education levels with degrees of “professionalism.”

  • “As prices rise, the business becomes more attractive.”

    You mean as there are no other jobs anywhere for anybody.

  • crownlfc has a point, plenty of college degree’d slick “wolves in sheep’s clothing” in manhattan. but i get what secret agent is saying – the ones who crawled out from under a rock and you’re not sure how much they really have to lose by doing something unethical.

    I think the rush of educated people into the job market is usually temporary in recessions. plenty of masters degrees right now willing to work as admin assistants until better opportunities come along.

  • What real estate agencies are hiring unprofessional slobs who “did not complete a 4th grade education”? Hyperbolic, as expected, but it is in the vested interest of these companies to hire people who do not impact business negatively. To state that getting hired is easy is clearly an exaggeration as well. There are plenty of professional people in need of a job so I highly doubt “anyone” will be hired by doing nothing more than applying.
    As far as ethical standards are concerned, advanced education is no guarantee of ethical aptitude or behavior. There is a difference between the intentional “blurring” of disclosure and mistakes being made because someone is poorly trained in real estate law. In either case, that agent should not be in this profession.
    There are agents who do not work for glitzy firms or have fancy credentials who are professional, ethical, and very willing to give their all for their clients. They are smart enough to know this will build their career. “Call me foolishly optimistic, but I see improvement in agent quality on the horizon.” This makes it sound like anyone buying a home in Brooklyn must currently settle for an ignorant, shady, G.E.D. holder for a real estate agent. That is ridiculous. Who is going to hold out for a failed lawyer or some other holder of an unrelated college degree when there currently exists agents whose appeal is based on actual, real world knowledge and experience in the local real estate market?
    If you hire a real estate agent who is obviously incapable, unprofessional, or ignorant, you are a fool.
    If you hire a real estate agent based on where they went to college or their degree over experience or ability IN real estate, you are a snob.

  • You’re foolishly optimistic. The only consolation for house buyers and sellers is that the dregs of the agents work the rental market.

    • I would rather be optimistic than completely cynical. Foolish? That is a matter of opinion. I suppose my optimism mainly comes from the belief that most people have some ability to choose a decent agent, but I am certainly not well-informed about the rental market. Maybe that is my optimism talking. Maybe it is my medication.

  • I have held a real estate license for 25 years. I am no fan of many of my fellow licensees and this column is the perfect example of why.

    When any professional has to sell themselves by belittling the competition rather than telling the prospective customer their own achievements and assets, they don’t belong in their field.

    Not completing the 4th grade? How condescending can you be?

    An ethical, honest and dedicated broker is worth every penny they earn.

    The real culprits here are the brokerages that hire the “low entry barrier” applicants and then set them loose on the public with little or no training.

    • Exactly. I’d add I would pay for a better regulator than DOS. I’d pay extra if DOS regulated Craigslist into compliance with existing law (or, even better, shut it down for a decade of noncompliance).

  • For whoever said this article is hyperbole, give me a break. The average agent is a complete asshat who can barely figure out how to use a computer let alone be worth the tens of thousands of dollars they get paid when they’re lucky enough to land some unsuspecting seller. I’ve never seen more mispriced and sloppily listed properties in my life.

    You’d think these idiots would spend at least a few hours getting solid pics taken on the $1 million properties they end up with. Agents work harder in states where the avg price is 1/3 that.

    Agent compensation is out of control in New York and the lack of an MLS is a joke. You get incompetent agents all over the states but they rarely snag 7 figure deals like these hucksters manage in New York.