experts: real estate column Tuesday, April 30, 2002

The poor public image of Realtors

Do we have a poor image? Of course we do but for gosh sakes, let's stop the wailing and have a look at the opinions a little closer

By Marty Douglas

As published in REM - independent news and opinion for Canada's real estate industry.

Because of the REM Reader Survey, Editor Jim Adair and Publisher Heino Molls are pleased to announce I am now earning twice as much per column as before. I want to thank those of you who mentioned Metes and Bounds - the name of this column - in your survey returns. For those of you who meant to vote for Craig Proctor but could not remember his name - it's too late.

One survey result struck me - "Other than economic trends [and professional associations] what other important issues are facing the real estate profession in Canada?" The number one answer? "The poor public image of Realtors."

Talk about things that make you go hmmmm?

Poor public image? After the Herculean effort of CREA's image campaign for two years? Following the many provincial initiatives for the public benefit, particularly from the BC and Alberta Real Estate Foundations, driven by interest from our trust accounts? And the hundreds of local real estate board charitable campaigns especially at Christmas? Not to forget the individual initiative of Realtor John Ryan's regeneration Tour, crossing Canada for spinal research.

The latest Gallup Poll of occupations rated for Honesty and Integrity did not include Realtors. However, the prior poll in 2000 indicated as follows:

The Gallup Poll has just released its annual Honesty and Ethics rankings of the top 46 professions. Nurses ranked first for the second year in a row, and car salesmen came in dead last. Where did real estate agents rank? Right in the mediocre middle where they have languished for most years. This is only the opinions of 1008 adults contacted randomly by phone, but they are still holding a grey cloud of disapproval over the industry.

(Let me give a plug for editor Jim Adair who led me to www.realtytimes.com and www.realtorlink.ca as research sites for our industry.)

Do we have a poor image? Of course we do but for gosh sakes, let's stop the wailing and have a look at the opinions a little closer. Gallup surveyed 1008 adults. Were they in the real estate market at the time? Of course not. Probably fewer than 150 of them if the seven-year real estate cycle is still current. Based on my experience of asking my buyers and sellers what they think of us after a listing and sale - those people who actually buy or sell a house, questioned within thirty days of the event, think we walk on water!!

Ask those same folks a few years later, after our sales person has forgotten to say thank you for the business, failed to follow up on a minor problem, forgotten their name when met at the supermarket and needless to say, enthusiasm has waned. There's a reason firemen and policemen top the poll in 2002. But if you had asked me a minute after I got my last speeding ticket about the RCMP - they would have rated closer to Osama.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If anyone has a poor image of the real estate profession it's us. And it's not just real estate sales but sales in general, including those poor guys, the used car salesman. It sucks to be them. And who could blame us? Our upbringing tended to slant us toward suspicion of strangers who knocked on doors offering brushes or phoned at dinner time. How many times did the word "damn" precede the word "salesman"? Playwright Arthur Miller, perhaps indicative of his future relationship with Marilyn Monroe, had nothing cheerful to say about salesmen.

So lets accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, highlight the goodworks of others and ourselves when appropriate and get on with the business of having a career rather than the business of public relations apolgies.

Our problem is scarcity mentality. We think there isn't enough to go around as if that somehow justifies why we don't have enough, in this case, public good will. We ask "What's wrong?" and get answers filled with negatives. Instead we might ask "What's missing?" and get answers filled with solutions.

Focus on winners, be intolerant of mediocrity, and while you're up, would you get me a beer?

Marty Douglas is the sales manager for Coast Realty Group (Comox Valley) Ltd., one of nine Coast Realty Group offices on Vancouver Island. He is a past Chair of the Real Estate Errors and Omissions Corporation of BC, the Real Estate Council of BC, the BC Real Estate Association and the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board. email mdouglas@island.net, 1-800-715-3999, fax 250-897-3933




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