By Nico Hohman
I am a 28-year-old broker-owner of my own independent real estate company, and I am running for a position on the board of directors for my local association, the Greater Tampa REALTORS®. The association has been around for more than 100 years and is over 10,000 members strong. It has been adding close to 125 new members every month for the last two years.
I am running for a seat on the board not for the prestige or the pay (which is none), nor for the tag on my resume, but because I believe in the future of my local REALTOR® board.
For me, the board should be shaped by three simple yet profound objectives: First, to educate our members to make them the most professional businessmen and women in any industry. Second, to enlist our members to support the local, state, and national initiatives of RPAC. Lastly, to engage the buying public to keep the agent as the focal point of the real estate transaction.
Educate. Enlist. Engage.
Three simple objectives. One important mission.
1. Educating our members. Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.
I had come from both corporate and institutional nonprofit jobs before getting my license. Both of those fields required the utmost professionalism from me at all times. I was disheartened and slightly ashamed when I found out that real estate does not require a higher level of education standards. I found myself defending my own career because of the poor performance and professionalism of my peers. But there are things an association can do to address these concerns. First, we must encourage our members to put education as their number one priority. Our members should want to go above and beyond getting the minimum number of continuing education credits.
We are working through a knowledge-based economy now, and the agents who hold more knowledge about the transaction and the market are the ones who will land all the clients. Buyers and sellers are too sophisticated to go with the agents with pushy sales tactics or cheesy advertising campaigns.
Second, speaking as a training and hiring broker, we must encourage member brokers and managers to seek out agents who are highly educated. We should encourage them to drop those agents who don’t put an emphasis on training and learning. If there are no repercussions for poor job performance, poor peer reviews, or lack of on-the-job knowledge, then there is no incentive for agents to want to improve. If individuals don’t get better, the group doesn’t get better.
The association can do its part by placing an emphasis on education, from the events they hold to the budgets they approve. If classes, activities, and events can’t show how they make the members better at their jobs then they need to be cut. Better education leads to better agents.
2. Enlisting member support. One of the strongest reasons the real estate profession and the idea of homeownership is as common as it is, is because of the work of the REALTOR® Political Action Committee (RPAC).
RPAC serves as the cohesive voice in county commissions, state capitals, and Washington, D.C., advocating for property ownership rights and the real estate profession. Without the contributions of RPAC to local, state, and national legal doctrines, I dare say the real estate transaction and industry would look unfamiliar to that of today.
Yet, with all of the great work done by those fighting for our rights as business owners and property owners, less than a quarter of the members of our association choose to support these efforts. For some agents, they might not know what RPAC does. When I first started as an agent, I certainly didn’t know what RPAC was. That excuse can quickly be remedied by my first objective: educating our members. Once I knew of the benefits of RPAC, I quickly became a supporter.
For some agents, they might feel disenfranchised by the whole legislative process. Sometimes it seems like lawmakers only make the news for their lack of getting things done or doing things that are scandalous. But lawmakers do introduce and pass legislation that has a major impact on our daily lives all the time. Issues like capping estoppel fees, removing sales taxes from service providers, keeping the mortgage interest deduction, implementing the 1031 exchanges, and limiting property tax increases are all issues that make our lives as business owners and property owners better.
But these issues would have never been passed or upheld if it wasn’t for the continuous support of RPAC. Our association—and every local association—should work to enlist 100 percent of its members to voluntarily support the contribution of RPAC.
3. Engaging the public. The times, they are a’changing.
The economy is changing. Work is being done differently compared to 20, 10, and even five years ago. The real estate industry has seen threats and challenges from discount brokerages to digital lockboxes to online portals. However, I believe wholeheartedly that none of these threats are as dangerous (or as imminent) as the threat of not having an agent involved in the real estate transaction.
Technology makes a lot of our job functions easier. It can even eliminate some job duties all together. But with better automation comes the real threat of eliminating the entire profession of the real estate agent. There are technology firms and real estate related companies out there today looking to do just that. They aim to make the real estate transaction as casual as buying a blender on eBay.
The association, on a local, state and national level, needs to insert its considerable might into the public sphere to showcase that buying and selling a home is not something that can be done with just a click of the mouse. The real estate transaction has many moving parts with several different players all working with different pieces of information. It can take weeks or even months for one transaction to close legally and correctly. Plus, an individual buyer or seller might conduct a single transaction once every five to 10 years.
It is the function of the real estate agent to coordinate the countless pieces of information and the multitude of personalities in order to achieve one attainable goal: to sell a home. A piece of software cannot do all of that on its own. If the association doesn’t engage the public on the usefulness of the real estate agent in every transaction, the duties of every REALTOR® will be reduced to that of a mouse click.
The future of the real estate agent, and, in turn, the future of a real estate board, is not as clear as it once was. Without a vision for future action, local boards may be caught reacting to the future instead of proactively shaping it.