If This Was Easy, Our Wives Could Do It

By
Industry Observer with Swanepoel T3 Group

"If this was easy, our wives could do it" drawled the guy at the head of the table. Of the thirty or so men in the mahogany-paneled conference room, only one bothered to glance at me. He flashed a semi-sympathetic smile that had a hint of "please, not now", but he quickly went back to the stacks of computer print outs when he saw I was keeping still. I already had a reputation for being "prickly" but that day I was staying suitably quiet in this Fortune 100 client's boardroom. I was a young manager working in an industry where women were scraping out a toehold, but we mostly did it by acting like men. If you remember Brooks Brothers navy suits with long pleated skirts, you know what I'm talking about.

Fast forward two decades to my current career in real estate and my thoughts over this Labor Day weekend. I remembered that executive who inadvertently but so very perfectly summed up the glaringly real issues of how clients confusedly perceive our business. It's not a women's issue, it's a problem of our business model, but some of the issues get wrapped up in the fact that so many women work in real estate.

How is it that the industry model remains firmly based on paying money to get to do the job? Is it because the perception -- or perhaps the reality -- is that a disproportionate number of the licensees are women who are not -- or are not perceived to be -- the primary income earners for their families? In a previously booming economy a driver's license and a sphere of influence were enough of a basis for making at least some money as a real estate agent. "And it's rather a cliche, the divorced woman in real estate" a Harvard Business School female professor said to me with slightly raised eyebrows.

Today we have too many lightly educated and poorly compensated agents who pay out money to compete for the shrinking pie of transactions and revenue volume. Paradoxically, real estate agents are increasingly expected to be so very good at so very many things -- from SEO to better listening skills, from financial analysis to fine-tuned time management, from videography to enough legal expertise to keep from being sued. The low education requirements plus the preponderance of licensees who make a little money in the business creates a self-perpetuating cycle of public mistrust and even contempt. We can change it...but we need to think about it and talk about it, openly and honestly, in ways that help us to change.

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Rainmaker
16,640
Stevie K. Bear
Four Directins Realty- Managing Partner - Austin, Tx - Austin, TX
REALTOR ABR, CRS, GRI

Respect Leslie! We actually have raised the bar in Texas, requiring more hours now for both a sales and brokerage license. At the Austin Board , where I proudly serve, we presented a series of queries which resulted in the creation of a "quick start" class. A 30 hour course meant to be taken just after you finish your license, or after being inactive for a while, in an effort to give you a better idea of what to expect and do.

If you really want to have an affect on REALTORS and their education/experience level, might I suggest becoming involved with your local boards Education or Professional Development Committee? It's a great place to start, and to contribute back, and ours in Austin has TRULY helped to shape policy and people for the coming years!

Sep 08, 2010 02:02 PM #109
Anonymous
Peggy Bouchard

Leslie - I have to agree - my master's thesis was on women in leadership and there is a tremendous body of academic literature on the double standadard for women in leadership - this applies to RE as well - I see less diligent men charming the gullible while more able women are deemed "helpers".  Thank you for a brilliant post!

Sep 08, 2010 02:22 PM #110
Rainmaker
427,389
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Peggy Bouchard: You got it. I'm trying to find a way to write about all the elements of the issues raised here and in the comment stream. The personal characteristics and behaviors that are generally considered to be associated with "helping" professions are also the most mentioned by consumers who rank the attributes they seek in a Realtor. In a tough economy, however, these "helping" behaviors are not those most necessary for selling homes and representing buyers. The structural and organizational issues that are faced by real estate firms are at least partially based on the "housewife/part time realtor" model. Thank you for your comment.

Sep 08, 2010 04:44 PM #111
Rainmaker
427,389
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Maureen Christiansen: Hello, hello! Those bow ties and rosettes! Don't you wish we could sell them all back to Mark Shale for some kind of an annuity?

 Lunch....drinks....(a contract would be great!)......anything....sometime soon?

Sep 08, 2010 05:23 PM #112
Rainmaker
427,389
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Betsy: as you can see, I can even provoke myself. I think I disagree that a different structure would bring in less qualified people. Salaries and variable comp can be tied to measurable performance standards. As long as the industry is tied to a model of community-based agents who work a personal sphere for their transactions and referrals, a 100% commission model works. But maybe the internet is changing everything....?

Stevie: I am personally blessed to be a member of a 1600 agent firm that provides an enormous amount of training and investment in our people. We know how to do the current job really, really well....it's the future I'm thinking about. I've always admired the real estate folks in Texas, though, so thanks for commenting.

Meredith: Writing about gender issues is tricky. Writing about p/t vs. f/t time agents is tricky. Writing about big firms vs. small firms is tricky. Maybe I should stick to market statistics...but thanks for commenting.

Lisa: Wouldn't it be interesting to put an appraiser on a real estate team? Hmmmm.

Empire: But some people aren't good test takers :-)

Tom: I treasure those years for many reasons, but some of those days were very, very long.

Darlene: I admire a gal who declares herself ambitious (when did I start to use the word gal?...smack self on head!).

Sep 08, 2010 05:51 PM #113
Rainmaker
427,389
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Jim: whether for a push up bra or a golf swing, sometimes people get business for the worng reasons.

Marte: Technology and training investment will push many small players out of business. In a large firm, fixed costs are spread out over a lot of people, while variable costs can be managed to number of agents and transaction volume.

Stephanie: you seem to be in a roll!

Natalie: The long-term top producers in my area are no nonsense and highly professional. Good listeners? Friendly guys and gals? Don't know, but I'd hire any of them to sell my house.

John: I'm blessed, my managing broker is amazing. How she keeps over 90 people ticking along is remarkable.

Gene: Maybe as long as people hire to their personal cohort there will be a need for many types of agents?

Herb: Professionalism leads the way, I agree.

John and Janis: remarkable family, but please send your girls out for their own juice.

Shelly: Interesting. Will google.

Sandy: My idea exactly.

Denny and Denise:  I have a wonderful intern working on her MBA. She'd make a wonderful Realtor someday. 

John and Julie: Right!

Tiffany: Been doing that my entire life! Keep grinning and succeeding!

Sep 08, 2010 06:41 PM #114
Rainmaker
427,389
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Donnie:it's such an interesting set of roles we play, isn't it? Sales, analyst, customer service, problem solver.

Ann: So you could go out and play as long as you got dinner on the table on time? Know that story!

Bob: Agreed. Who knew it would be like this, though?

Marcie: Learned more than I imagined possible from the comment stream.

Jan:  Great agents are great to work with. It's the business I am puzzling over.

Jeanne and Ralph: the skills togeher make the team.

Joel: But the very point of this is that it isn't just a sales job! It's like 5 different roles in 1!

Terri: Another imfamous quote from that period is when a really talented technical trainer was told to go stand in the corner and look pretty. It was a "joke".

Sheila: I agree, I love the debate, We're all better for it.

Jennifer: interesting idea to look into. Making a note.

Ed: There are so many roles we fill in this job, aren't there? And yet I perceive that the men are turned to for financial analysis and tough decisions. Teams help cover all the bases, I think.

Sep 08, 2010 06:59 PM #115
Rainmaker
715,721
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Leslie,

Late to the party here - I don't know how I missed this.  There are two issues - the first is one of general competence and the second is the perception that many women do this for "pin money."  And the gerenalf premise is that these two issues feed on each other creating a general lack of respect for those in the field. 

I came from Academe. So no suits for me.  Jeans a tee shirt, sneakers and tons of stamina.  It was still a man's field though.  So I do get it.

To me its a matter of stupid is as stupid does.  There are plenty of stupid people in this field and contrary to what Loreena and Katerina think - many buyers and sellers CHOOSE stupid.  they will choose charm and the disingenuous over honesty and fair dealing.  This is in part the result of poor training standards that the public knows is in place. They know that the training is less than vigorous - so they see fit to leave thier biggest investment in the hands of a dolt - because wer are all the same. The fact that many women have choices - such as marrying for money perpetuates the myth that we are all dim bulbs.

Sep 08, 2010 09:50 PM #116
Rainmaker
715,721
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Leslie,

Late to the party here - I don't know how I missed this.  There are two issues - the first is one of general competence and the second is the perception that many women do this for "pin money."  And the gerenalf premise is that these two issues feed on each other creating a general lack of respect for those in the field. 

I came from Academe. So no suits for me.  Jeans a tee shirt, sneakers and tons of stamina.  It was still a man's field though.  So I do get it.

To me its a matter of stupid is as stupid does.  There are plenty of stupid people in this field and contrary to what Loreena and Katerina think - many buyers and sellers CHOOSE stupid.  they will choose charm and the disingenuous over honesty and fair dealing.  This is in part the result of poor training standards that the public knows is in place. They know that the training is less than vigorous - so they see fit to leave thier biggest investment in the hands of a dolt - because wer are all the same. The fact that many women have choices - such as marrying for money perpetuates the myth that we are all dim bulbs.

Sep 08, 2010 09:50 PM #117
Rainer
453,220
Diane M. Phillips Realtor 443-286-4365
Frankly Real Estate Inc. - Manchester, MD
Specializing in Carroll Co., MD

Leslie, well written post, thought provoking. I disagree. I think Mike McCann #45 made several excellent points. Many others did as well.

Every profession has class & scum, there is no avoiding it. I'd rather be judged on my performance than the clothes I wear, the car I drive OR my pet peeve the public drumbeating about sales volume. I'll save my soap box for another time.

Sep 09, 2010 02:46 AM #118
Rainmaker
427,389
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

Diane: I don't think there is anything substantial in Mike #45's post that I disagree with. I stick to my guns about how the 1960s housewife-as-realtor model has lingering effects on both public perception and how real estate is practiced today.

Ruthmarie: Since I've never, ever been hired for my charm, I remain free of that sin. I think you hit on something I can't articulate yet. I'm working it out in the comment stream. I can't reconcile all the conflicts here. Maybe consumers hire from their cohort, and values change between generations and socio-economic class? I don't know about gen x gen y values, which I've ignored so far. Maybe over about 50, a client's first pass is with the "I play tennis with her Realtor", and the second pass is with the "tough as nails high volume professional regardless of gender".  Can you think of any way we could get paid for thinking about this?

Sep 09, 2010 04:47 AM #119
Rainer
86,133
Brenda Hughes
Evansville Home Staging & Re-Design - Evansville, IN
Home Staging & Re-Design Southern IN, KY

I definately agree the standards need to be up... But when I started checking into being a Realtor (because I love to look at houses) my neighbor Realtor told me all the poop scoop that was involved.  I changed my mind:)  Maybe if people knew what all was involved, costs, studies, time etc. They wouldn't be as casual about getting a license?

Sep 09, 2010 05:27 AM #120
Rainer
134,769
Jamie King
Hoty Enterprises, Inc. - Huron, OH
Sandusky, OH

Atta girl, Leslie!!!

When I tell new acquaintances I'm a Realtor, I joke that I enjoy working for free. So much of what we do, we are never compensated for, but it's expected of us none the less. Maybe, we're just fools?

Sep 09, 2010 01:46 PM #122
Rainer
22,260
Lisa Schmitt
Coldwell Banker Honig-Bell - Plainfield, IL

Terrific blog Leslie!

I'm going to take some time to ponder it, as you touched on several points that are blog-worthy on their own.

Sep 10, 2010 05:26 AM #123
Rainer
19,137
Judy Graff
Aaroe + Williamson - Burbank, CA

Late to the party here, but I love your post.  I blame the broker community for pressuring the states' DREs to license...well, just about anybody.  Here in California, getting a cosmetology  or esthetician license (guys, ask your wives what this is) costs (much) more and is more time consuming than getting a real estate license.

Sep 10, 2010 12:55 PM #124
Rainer
70,850
Dave Miller
RE/MAX Integrity, Dumont, NJ 201-385-8100 - Dumont, NJ
RE/MAX Real Estate Dumont,NJ - Bergen County, New Jersey Homes for Sale

Real estate is the great equal opportunity career.  Those who make the sales make the money.... reguardless of gender, formal education, age, race, etc.

Sep 10, 2010 02:15 PM #125
Rainmaker
50,861
Lynn M. Bower
John R Wood Realtors - Naples, FL
PA, ABR, GRI, RSPS, AHWD, PMN, CNE

Wouldn't it be fun to insist a prospective Real Estate student must be interviewed before entering the classroom for their license? The interview would include a sheet listing all the costs (monetary and time) that is needed to receive and maintain a license. THAT would be a world class education for them and possibly a weening out of the weak for us.

Sep 11, 2010 12:36 AM #126
Rainmaker
334,002
Ty Lacroix
Envelope Real Estate Brokerage Inc - London, ON

Leslie: Real estate is one of the few busineses that gender is not a roadblock, the will to succeed and persistence equals the playing field.

Ty

Sep 11, 2010 02:34 AM #127
Rainmaker
427,389
Leslie Ebersole
Swanepoel T3 Group - Saint Charles, IL
I help brokers build businesses they love.

aTy:I actually don't think there is gender bias on day to day practice, but I do feel like there are lingering elements of the "housewife as realtor" model. More of a broker organization issue to me.

Lynn: Really good point and an idea I hadn't thought of. A few years ago, if you didn't make money it really was your own fault, so maybe a broker wasn't as obligated to make sure the recruit really understood all the costs. When I started in 2005, all you had to do was show up for floor and do a few mailings to get enough transactions to hit the mandatory minimum in the first year. Now....phew. 

Judy: I checked this for Illinois. 45 hours for a real estate sales person, 1500 hours for a manicurist. Wow........

Dave:The opportunity is equal to all. Public perception of men and women realtors may be tied up in old ideas about whether this is a real profession.

Hi LISA! How are you? Lot's of follow up here for many moons. Thanks!

Jamie: Occasionally I refer to it as my full time community service program....that I'll be done with my 10,000 hours of work release time in about another year. ;-)

Brenda:I 100% agree. Maybe it should be required as part of the pre-license work. Thanks!

Sep 11, 2010 12:49 PM #128
Rainer
135,626
Matt Robinson
Professional Investors Guild - Pensacola, FL
www.professionalinvestorsguild.com

Very good points indeed.  When you look at how much money the average agent makes, it's amazing how much is expected of them.  I was fortunate to be successful early on, and so it's helped me get through the tough times with repeat business and referral.  But so many of our agents make less than they would working the drive-thru at McDonald's, and yet they are expected to be experts in contracts, home values, property condition, legal issues, and the list goes on and on.  It's not surprising that so many give us so quickly, with the attitude, "it's just not worth it."  For many, it truly isn't.

Jul 01, 2011 05:46 AM #129
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Leslie Ebersole

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