Real estate agents spend lots of time in classes, houses

Last week's column on the worsening plight of real estate agents as American small businessmen and businesswomen irked some of my readers. One in particular, a 25-year veteran of real estate investing, wrote:

"If the real estate agent is the ‘ultimate example of small business in America today,' I think that it is an insult to the legitimate small-business owner. Most agents that I have tried to do business with demonstrate so much complacency, it is no wonder that they ‘drop' from the system. Most are not salespeople, they are order takers -- so evident in the last 5-7 years when Real Estate was at its peak. Calls aren't returned, follow-up e-mails don't happen, promises aren't kept.

"No one can run a successful business that way. ... Brokers are as guilty as their agents."

I am not exactly sure how to respond. My guess is that the correspondent has had more than one unsatisfactory experience with a real estate agent and has allowed that experience to color his view of all this class of salesperson.

The reality is that today's real estate agent in Georgia has more professional knowledge and more continuing education requirements than ever before.

Many of the best agents go far beyond the state's minimum requirements for education, obtaining certification in a variety of disciplines.

Perhaps the best known of these is GRI, which stands for Graduate Realtor Institute.

Developed for members of the Realtors trade group and offered through state associations, the GRI program includes 90 hours of course work on topics from marketing and servicing listed properties to real estate law. In recent years, classes have been added in ethics and mortgage fraud as well as technology.

Agents seeking this designation essentially give up three full weeks of their time to master these topics in order to better serve their clients and customers.

In addition, most agents seek out continuing professional education classes on topics that are of specific concern to their particular practice. For example, agents who often list or sell homes built before 1978 are not required to obtain certification under the new Environmental Protection Agency rules for lead-based paint. Nonetheless, many agents who specialize in older homes have chosen to attend the EPA training, pass the exam and obtain the information they feel they need in order to talk knowledgeably with sellers and buyers.

And that's just one example. The Georgia Real Estate Commission does an excellent job overseeing the courses offered to licensees and keeping up with approved hours earned for each agent.

My experience has been that Georgia agents and brokers are among the best the industry has to offer. Of course there will be an occasional bad apple, but I believe describing the real estate brokerage industry as unprofessional and complacent is simply inaccurate.

John Adams is an author, broadcaster and investor. He answers real estate questions at noon on Saturdays on radio station WGKA (920 AM).

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