Sloppy & Misleading Article from Consumer Reports about Our Industry

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Austin Texas Homes, LLC 453249

I recognize that it's sometimes fun or even fashionable to pick on the real estate industry if you're an outsider. You know next to nothing about what our lives are like, or the struggles we deal with every day, yet you want to claim that we're greedy, or dishonest, or both.

Grow up.

In late January, Consumer Reports published an article about real estate agents that is incredibly misleading and, frankly, pretty sloppy journalism. Entitled "Real Estate Agents Confess Their Dirty Little Secrets", it reads as though the author of the post, who is anonymous, simply got burned by a bad agent at some point, then decided to write a slam piece about our industry.

In a graphic included with the article, it mentions that 303 licensed real estate agents were surveyed to get the information cited. I looked it up today on the NAR website, and there are approximately 2,000,000 licensees in the U.S., so this represents 0.015% of agents. Of that number, 86% have witnessed something which would constitute bad business practice. That means that 260 agents (out of 2,000,000) have WITNESSED something bad in their careers. In the case of the most prevalent bad practice, 32% of the 260 agents claim to have witnessed it. That means that 0.004% of real estate agents saw this happen. The bottom line is that these numbers are a statistical anomaly at best.

Despite it's clickbait headline, NO agents confessed any dirty little secrets. That, however, didn't stop the author from writing the following types of quotes as though they were first-person, rather than passive observations:

“I sometimes steer clients toward houses that will bring me a higher commission, rather than the best house for them.”


“You can’t believe everything I say about myself in my marketing material.”

Keep in mind that none of the "quotes" they use (and yes, I realize that I just put the word quotes into quotes - how very meta of me) were ever uttered by anyone real. They didn't pull these from an interview, or read them on a blog. They took the passive observations of real estate agents and created these fun, seemingly real quotes instead. 

Would you like to hear about one of the examples they actually used to describe misleading marketing material? "Others pay to rank high in Google and Yahoo searches." The last time I checked, this doesn't constitute fraud at any level. It's just a way to get more traffic to your website. As business owners, that's kinda part of the game. 

Newsflash: I'm relatively certain that any agent who has been around for more than a couple of years has probably seen and/or encountered a bad agent working on the other side of a deal. I have seen my fair share of questionable behavior, too, so I guess I would be in the 86% cited. However, the vast majority of agents I work with are ethical and honest, and frequently they are overly cautious. One reason for this is the fact that most initial real estate classes focus heavily on the potential liabilities and lawsuits that could result if you mess up or fail to disclose, or accidentally misreprent ANYTHING. I am truly thankful that I've made it through 18 years of full-time sales, and 10 years in real estate management, and I have never had to deal with a lawsuit or mediation. When I started my career, I assumed that lawsuits were common, based on the stories I heard from instructors and in the curriculum.

Beyond the obvious sloppiness of this article, I realized that they referenced "agents", not "Realtors". There is a difference. As Realtors, we voluntarily hold ourselves to a higher standard, which you alluded to, via our Code of Ethics. Only about half of agents are Realtors (thanks to my limited research).

This link has a nice summary:

So, Consumer Reports - Thank you for nothing. You have disseminated a garbage article with nothing substantiated which provides any real value for consumers, which ostensibly is your primary goal. I did see links to for school data, the FBI website for crime stats, and Kudos for that part. 

If you're reading this, and you'd like to give some feedback directly to Consumer Reports, feel free to do so here: 

Thanks for reading!

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If you're looking for a home in the Austin area, you can also visit my primary website at  Thanks!


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  1. John DL Arendsen 03/09/2015 03:20 AM
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Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

First, I agree that headlines like that are infuriating, and I believe the writer broke some kind of code of ethics in using quotes which were not quotes at all. 

I also agree that most who have been in real estate for any length of time have seen things done that made them cringe. There are agents out there who are dishonest, unethical, and downright crooked. So are there similar people in every occupation under the sun. 

Who doesn't know of a crooked mechanic or building contractor? How about lawyers? How about cops - they're taught to lie. 

That said, I do disagree about real estate agents, REALTORS(R) and the Code of Ethics. I don't think it's a code that keeps people honest - it's what's inside.

Some would be ethical and honest in the absence of any codes, licensing regulations, or laws. Others simply will not - no matter how many times they swear to adhere to a code. 

Mar 09, 2015 03:46 AM #65
Chris and Berna Sloan
Group 1 Real Estate - Tooele, UT
Tooele UT

No need to panic folks, or to swing at every pitch in the dirt. The only stat that matters at a national level is the percentage of consumers that DO use a Realtor®, and that those that do report high satisfaction rates. FSBO numbers are dropping, so the right message is getting out. Controlling your own conduct is the key. NAR can't do that for you, and I don't expect them to. Just do your thing the right way, and be comfortable knowing that it will show results in your own business, no matter what ANY publication says.

Mar 09, 2015 04:04 AM #66
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Interesting comments especially from Richard, #63, who views this challenge as simply apathy. While I'm not ashamed of the real estate profession, the issue of agent apathy is a challenge, however, supervising brokers who fail to monitor and manage their agents are IMO the real challenge and therefore an essential solution to maintaining professional conduct.

Mar 09, 2015 04:18 AM #67
Nancy Holloway
REgeneration Property Group 714.317.7140 - Anaheim, CA

Kimo, I totally agree.  Yes having been on our board's grievance committee for quite a few years, there are some bad players (some very stupid too).  We need the good Realtors to come forward and report the 'bad practices' of the others.  Then it will change.

Mar 09, 2015 04:49 AM #68
Tg Glazer - The Right Realtor® for the Right Results!
Coldwell Banker, Westfield, NJ - Cranford, NJ
Westfield/Cranford, NJ area

Great post, and thank you for pointing out the difference between a Realtor® and any old agent.  Big difference.

This is also the reason that I NEVER watch any of those real estate "reality" shows on tv.  They make it seem like we work for 3 days and make $50,000.  It's time that people knew what REALLY happens in our industry!

Mar 09, 2015 04:54 AM #69
Brenda Mullen
RE/MAX Access - Schertz, TX
Your San Antonio TX Real Estate Agent!!

One of our news stations KENS5 did a reworked spot on that report.  We were all outraged and commented on their FB site.  I was so dissappointed, as were many of my collegues on the nonsense that was spouted on there.  Ugh

Mar 09, 2015 05:18 AM #70
Mike McCann - Nebraska Farm Land Broker
Mike McCann - Broker, Mach1 Realty Farmland Broker-Auctioneer Serving Rural Nebraska - Kearney, NE
Farm Land For Sale 308-627-3700 or 800-241-3940

Congrats Jason on hitting 1,000,000 on AR this week. 

Mar 09, 2015 05:43 AM #71
Elisa Uribe Realtor #01427070
Golden Gate Sotheby's International - Oakland, CA
Opening the Doors to California Homes -East Bay

Thank you for posting this information. So many times people read something and don't really spend the time to be thoughtful about what is actually being said.

Mar 09, 2015 05:50 AM #72
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Jason, I just have to say it.  

I clicked on the article and didn't find it to be one that is helpful to consumers.  But guess what?  I know every one of these agents.  They are in all of our market areas.  There is nothing in what he (or she) writes that shocks or surprises me.  

The article certainly isn't true of all of us, but it may have struck a nerve because it is indeed true of so many members of our profession - NAR Code of Ethics notwithstanding.  

Also, in Consumer Reports long history, the authors have never had by-lines.  I collaborated on a series they did on air travel overcharges back in the day, and when I asked them not to give me a by-line, they explained they never did.  

Mar 09, 2015 07:01 AM #73
Rudy Sedano
San Antonio, TX

Richard Foster, as one who holds a degree in economics, this is a statistics 101 issue.  As several mentioned the rate of 303 to 2 million is extremely small.  That is not to mention that we are not told where these "303" came from nor so we get to see who the author is.  Anything "anonymous" that claims any kind of "survey" is suspect in my view.


That being said, "bad behaviour" is everywhere and every profession.  Pretending that the title Realtor makes us above any other profession is something we should not claim.  Humans are Realtors. 


Humanity is full of both good and bad.  If a Realtor has been around long enough, or in my case, done enough transactions a year, one realizes that there are plenty of  the lazy, the arrogant, the aggressive, short temptered, and the list goes on.   I have personally worked with all those on the other side and more.  However, I have been in sales all my professional career - having to deal with stuff like that is just part of life.  People who get into one career or another do not just drop the bad part of their character or personality at the door once they enter the industry. 


I will say that I pick up at least a couple of people a month who left the person who was supposed to be helping them (and obviously was not).  No agreement with the client and then they don't send properties, promptly return calls, etc... but thats just laziness not ethics.  The worse experiences I have had with other Realtors seem to be those who have been in the business for more than two decades...but it has nothing to do with ethics either.   I'd say poor business practices or maybe just a bad day - arrogance - but nothing to deserve writing an article to consumer reports over.  That is for sure.

Mar 09, 2015 07:03 AM #74
Pat & Wayne Harriman
Harriman Real Estate, LLC (203) 672-4499 - Wallingford, CT
Broker/Owners, Wallingford CT Real Estate

I saw this posted in a facebook real estate group a while back. Didn't impress me then, and still doesn't. The only statistic I really care about is: "0% of the clients of Harriman Real Estate LLC have ever seen their agent do anything remotely even close to a bad business practice."

Or ever will. Period.


Mar 09, 2015 07:09 AM #75
Travis "the SOLD man" Parker; Associate Broker
iXL Real Estate-Wiregrasss\ - Enterprise, AL
email: / cell: 334-494-7846

hmmm - wonder if they'll do a similar "hit piece"...I mean ARTICLE on how "reporters" use misleading headlines for ratings.....

"Physician, heal thyself" & "Glass houses..."

Mar 09, 2015 09:16 AM #76
Travis "the SOLD man" Parker; Associate Broker
iXL Real Estate-Wiregrasss\ - Enterprise, AL
email: / cell: 334-494-7846

I followed the link to comment and this is what I wrote. Others here can, and should, write even better complaints than I did:


Real estate agents confess their dirty little secrets

hmmmm - you could change a few words and use the same template for almost ANY business! And I've worked in or owned several businesses.
Better yet, make it about how LAZY "reporters" (no cap & in parenthesis for a reason) can write general statements and try to sensationalize them to get Clicks.

And yes, I'm a "REALTOR®", which is NOT the same as a "Real estate Agent". It's a shame that you didn't mention the difference in the article. Guess you might have had to do some RESEARCH first and actually read the NAR link that you mentioned. Sorta like the difference between a "Reporter" and a "reporter"... (see second sentence).

And by the way, we can NOT "disclose problems with the neighborhood to potential buyers".  Again, a little RESEARCH would've let you know that! Yeah, I know, again with the "R" word...(hint for LAZY you - Google "Fair Housing Laws" - duhhhh).

REALLY disappointed in CR. My father and I have subscribed to your magazine for probably 40 years or more. NOT much longer with junk like this.




Mar 09, 2015 09:39 AM #77
Kari Walker
Keller Williams Beach Cities - Hermosa Beach, CA

I read this article in consumer reports. Thanks for doing something about the untruths that were included. Everyone knows of certain agents that give us a bad name. When  I either experience something like this or hear about it I remind myself that in every profession there are the bad ones even in medicine. Years ago I chaired the grievence committee at our board and discovered when those people when brought up on their actiions disciplined, they usually joined another board or did not belong to any board, They were then not a Realtor but the public does not know the difference between being a realtor and not being a realtor unfortunately. Thanks for a great article.

Mar 09, 2015 12:46 PM #78
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

I read the same article and thought...this would be a good blog topic!  Ugh, it was sensationist and I was very disappointed in their 'reporting'. Made me question their other consumer investigations.

Mar 09, 2015 01:29 PM #79
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg IL Real Estate

Thanks for pointing out the article Jason as I hadn't seen it. There seems to be a few pins & other things with that lead line closely phrased.

You know honestly I thought they wrote about washers & dryers?

Mar 10, 2015 08:38 AM #80
Nancy Laswick
United Real Estate - Phoenix, AZ
Your REALTOR® For The Valley Of The Sun

Good Afternoon Jason Crouch I was a consumer reports subscriber for many years but canceled my subscription a few years ago when I found out how some of the articles were assigned and researched by a couple of people who had actually worked for CR. They aren't exactly what they project themselves to be.

And with regards to the comments about small number samples accurately predicting for large numbers of anything, the key is in the "random" selection process and if you won't disclose your method of selection, at the top of the article, it's pretty suspect from the get go.

Mar 10, 2015 08:58 AM #81
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

I agree with Travis.  This could be written about any group of people.  There are people in any group who could benefit from manners, ethics training and communication training.

Mar 10, 2015 03:05 PM #82
Randy Mitchelson,APR #goipm & Homeland Heroes Home Loans - Bonita Springs, FL
First Impressions are made at First Click

Not defending the article but will defend the math. Assuming CR took a scientific sample, for populations over 100,000 a sample size of 303 will result in confidence level between 94%-95% (this a margin of error of  5%-6%).  Similarly, there are tens of millions of people watching television but Nielsen only needs to retain several hundred or thousand (depending upon their desired confidence level) to attain a the ratings they produce for the networks.

Mar 13, 2015 01:03 PM #83
Winston Heverly
Winston Realty, Inc. - Atlantis, FL

Hi, I can't believe I missed this post, great read on todays hot topic. Thanks for sharing.

Apr 15, 2015 12:27 PM #84
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