I'm an internet nerd. I hate phone calls, I panic at the thought of door knocking, I fumbled over working my close sphere, so I ran and hid in the world wide web. I've been amazed at all of the online networks you can join: Active Rain, Real estate undressed, Linked In, Flickr, local newspaper and tv station blogs, the list goes on and on (and I don't even do Facebook or My Space!).
I've learned many things while participating in this online forums, and one thing that stands out clear as day is that real estate agents aren't generally viewed in a very positive light. In both our local newspaper blog and in a city-data.com forum I participate in, Realtors tend to be outright despised. I have often been referred to as an over-paid used car salesman (I actually know several car salesmen I like, so I try not to be offended, but I know it's meant as an insult).
So why the hatred? Nobody gets mad at the guy working at Circuit City when he tries to sell you a TV. I've never heard anybody at Nordstroms get put down for trying to sell somebody clothes. So why do real estate agents get hammered for trying to sell homes?
I became a Realtor a little more than 3 years ago, partly with the mind set that "real estate agents are sleazy, so I can come in, be the good guy, and make tons of money." What I've found since joining this profession is that a strong majority of real estate agents are really good, ethical, hard working people. So why as an industry are we so mistrusted and disliked?
If you're reading this post hoping I'll answer that question, I'm sorry for wasting your time. I don't have an answer. What I do believe is that you are known as your reputation. I'm a Realtor. Realtors have a certain reputation, so I need to build my own regardless of the industry's reputation. Not all real estate agents are selfish crooks. Not all Christians are hypocrites. Not all lawyers are sleazy. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not all politicians are liars. Not all priests are child predators. In fact, a remarkably small number of each of those groups fit the descriptions I gave, and yet those are overwhelmingly popular stereotypes.
So how do we build our reputations? How do we overcome the negative public perception of our industry? Is it just one by one, showing clients who you are and what you offer? Is there a way to "mass market" your reputation? I don't know. I love my online forums, though, so I'd love to hear your thoughts!