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The Dual Career Agent: A Necessity or Danger?

May 5, 2010

Posted by

Carla Cross

About Carla Cross, CRB, MA                           Read more

In Stefan Swanepoel’s publication, Trends Report 2010, he calls the real estate licensee with another job the “dual career” agent. That’s what we used to call the “part-timer.” Although “dual career” sounds much more important than “part-time,” the result is the same: Less time to devote to the consumer. The confl ict an agent feels when he has another job is causing the consumer to rate our service lower than ever.

Dual careerists are a growing trend. More and more real estate agents are getting second jobs to make ends meet. In fact, the 2009 National Association of Realtors ®’ Member Profile says that 26% of Realtors® stated that real estate was not their only occupation. (I’m sure that many more licensees that aren’t Realtors® have other major sources of income). In addition, less than half of all Realtors® surveyed reported that real estate was their primary source of household income.

Is the dual careerist doing the industry more harm than good? Having been an agent, manager and owner, I know how difficult it is at times for an agent to “hang in there,” put their heads down, and keep working through tough times. It’s a great temptation, and a relief for many, to take that other job just to “tide them over.” From the broker’s perspective, too, keeping the agent at least licensed with the brokerage to get that one transaction seems to be better than losing that one transaction.

Problems accrue when the agent gets another job.

1. The agent’s mind, energy, and dollars drift away from the needs of the consumer because the agent must focus on another job.

2. The agent can’t keep up on the technical, legal, and business developments.

3. The consumer demands just can’t be met when the agent is unavailable for large blocks of time.

4. The broker must carry a much bigger responsibility for the agent’s transactions.

Consumers’ trend: the level of satisfaction with agent services keeps declining.

The recent survey by the California Association of Realtors® shows some stunning and alarming trends. In 2005, Internet consumers rated their overall satisfaction with their agent at almost 90%, while traditional buyers rated their overall satisfaction at 37%. However, in the ensuing years, the ratings have plummeted. In 2009, both Internet and traditional buyers only rated their overall satisfaction with their agent at 4%! (The ratings of Internet and traditional buyers now – PRODUCTIVITY AND PROFITS – are equal). In other words, consumer expectations of what an agent will do for them are just not being met. In fact, value received for what the consumer paid the real estate agent was at only 4% for all buyers.

Trends collide: consumer expectations rise while agents’ abilities to meet those expectations shrink.

I know. You’re going to tell me that you met a part-timer once that did a great job. Of course. But, as you and I know, that’s the exception, not the rule. And, let’s not think “inside-out.” The consumer’s satisfaction here is the only one that counts. They pay our commissions. And, commission rates are falling because they don’t feel they’re receiving value from what they are paying.

Time for brokers to set some standards.

What’s your standard for work completed by agents in your office? Are you okay with “just turn in a couple of sales this year”? Or, are you concerned with the consumer experience? If we don’t start thinking about that, we will be replaced by something consumers can count on—those darned computers! (I hope not!). However, if the consumer is paying us, we must decide what he is paying us for (and it isn’t because we use technology…). Here’s my list of valued services. What’s yours?

1. Dedicated service throughout the transaction.

2. Prioritized knowledge not available just on the Internet.

3. Immediate communication and continued first-level service.

4. Exceptional negotiating skills.

5. Loyalty, putting customer first, rather than another job first.

The Internet and agent knowledge: almost neck in neck on consumers’ minds.

By the way, in the CAR survey, 54% of the consumers surveyed thought the information they got on the Internet was less useful than what they got from their agent. Does that sound good to you? To me, it sounds very bad. Almost half of the consumers think the Internet is just as good as your live agent! So, let’s get cracking and get our agents performing past the standards we set. Why? Because the consumers have already set the standards— and they’re higher than what we’re allowing.

Let’s put the industry back on track toward pride in excellent service. Let’s knock the consumer’s socks off with prioritized knowledge, attention to the transaction, and exceptional service. We can do it, and brokers must lead. Now.