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.
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: http://www.realtor.org/sites/default/files/handouts-and-brochures/2015/2015-COE-Poster.pdf
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 GreatSchools.org for school data, the FBI website for crime stats, and NeighborhoodScout.com. 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: http://web.consumerreports.org/customerservice/customer-service.html
Thanks for reading!