Recently I read that an annual poll taken among Americans rated Realtors as one of the least respected professions in the country. For the first time in history, Realtors fell not only to the bottom of the list, but even below non-licensed, non-governed professions. Yes, we finally beat out used-car salesman as the least respected profession. Different polls have yielded different results, but this particular poll focused on ‘the trust of a professional to give good advice.’ Now, for me herein lies a particular conundrum. To start, certain significant differences exist between professions. For example, Realtors are licensed, and as such, they are governed by three governing bodies: their local board of Realtors, their state board of Realtors, and the National Association of Realtors. To be licensed, each Realtor must pass a number of significant signposts. For example, in Texas, a minimum of three college level courses must be completed to obtain a license. Of course, this only applies to college-degreed individuals: more courses are required if the candidate does not possess an accredited degree. Next, they must pass the licensing exam.
Once their license is obtained, continuing education is mandatory to retain the license, as is common in many professions, such as Accountancy, Law, etc. This requirement is strictly enforced and must include a minimum amount of real estate law. Thus Realtors stay relatively abreast of changes in real estate and law, and, in particular, nowadays, of the growing problem of mortgage fraud, which can in some instances, implicate the seller, even if the seller is ignorant of the law, they can potentially face criminal charges and substantial fines as an accomplice. (Ignorance of the law is no excuse). A Realtor, as a seller’s agent, can usually spot the red flags related to mortgage fraud and alert their client to the possibility and possible sources of relief to avoid an undesirable outcome (like jail). In short, the Realtor is a professional, and, in some cases, can not only sell your house, but keep you out of legal troubles.
Additionally, Realtors, per the National Association of Realtors, are bound by a code of ethics, which they must agree and abide by, for if they do not, they can (and usually are) brought before a court of inquiry through their local or state boards to determine their guilt or innocence and receive appropriate disciplinary measures. In short, if a Realtor is unethical (not just operating outside the law, but operating within the law unethically), they can (and will, if found guilty) lose their license to practice. Did you know that a real estate agent is governed by the same body of law that governs attorneys? That’s right; it’s called the Law of Agency and it varies a bit state by state, but fundamentally, it says that a Realtor is required by law to put your interests above their own. The point is this: Attorneys and Realtors are bound by the same set of laws. Yet, somehow, Attorneys rate much higher in the poll.