Part-time Realtor? Disclose it.

In his latest Trends Report, Stefan Swanepoel makes a good point in a chapter titled “Are You Committed?”: Realtors® who are working part time should disclose that fact to their clients.

Why? Well, he spends four full pages (with charts!) explaining, but in a nutshell:

When real estate agents take on second and third jobs and decide not to disclose that fact to their client, it raises questions concerning their level of commitment and service.

Hard to argue, isn’t it? I mean, if the pilot on my flight was a part-time freelance writer, I’d kinda want to know that he may spend some of his cockpit time on his laptop.

Likewise, shouldn’t a Realtor® who is also a home organizer, or who owns an appraisal firm, or who’s a landlord also disclose that? (I’m sure we can all agree on what constitutes “part-time.”)

As Swanepoel put it, “Realtors® that have chosen to maintain dual-careers [sic] face an uphill battle to remain in the game at an effective level.”

His suggestion: Realtor® associations should “develop the necessary support systems” to help part-time Realtors who want to be full time “rejoin the industry in full… or get out.

About Andrew Kantor

Andrew is VAR's editor and information manager, and -- lessee now -- a former reporter for the Roanoke Times, former technology columnist for USA Today, and a former magazine editor for a bunch of places. He hails from New York with stops in Connecticut, New Jersey, Cincinnati, Columbus, and Roanoke.
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20 Responses to Part-time Realtor? Disclose it.

  1. Joe Vita says:

    The writer stated that “shouldn’t a Realtor® who is also a home organizer, or who owns an appraisal firm, or who’s a landlord also disclose that?”

    Perhaps such things should be disclosed to affirn” the agent’s “level of commitment and service” as opposed to attesting to some professional shortcoming.

    Long gone are the days when a Realtor was thought of as being a licensee who just lists and sells real property. Appraisers can be Realtors and often are. Real estate consulting is part of our profession as is property management. Diversty can serve to affirm one’s committment to the profession and demonstrate the breath of one’s knowledge and experience. In the current economy such diversity can also save a career.

    I believe the writer should adjust his point so that the part time agent he is referring to is defined as one who is also gamefully employed in one or more totally unrelated fields of endeavor.

  2. Lenn Harley says:

    It isn’t the Realtor who is also an appriaiser, a home stager, etc. that is the problem. Those are all businesses whereby the owner of the businesses can schedule their time to provided needed services, tour, inspections, closing, etc. for buyers and sellers.

    It is the full time programmer, government employee, grocery store clerk with fixed daytime hours that short changes the home buyer or seller consumer when they don’t answer their phone, can’t attend inspections, closings, etc. that interrupts the flow of a transaction.

    I view this as a broker problem. If brokers didn’t hold the licenses of full time Realtors, they wouldn’t exist. A person has the right to “go into the real estate business” if they so choose. However, the broker who is committed to offering good service to the home buyers and sellers doesn’t have to hire them.

    Lenn Harley
    Broker
    Homefinders.com
    800-711-7988

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  4. If the Realtor can perform 100% I don’t care if they have another job.

    I would submit that there are “full-time” agents who sit from 9-12 gossiping about other companies or agents, 12-1:30 lunch, 1:30 – 3 nap, 3pm pickup the kids at the bus stop, 4pm – 5pm running kids to after-school functions, 5-6pm dinner 7-10 TV and might – just might answer an email before going to bed.

    I’m more concerned about if the professional can perform all the functions. There are a number of them out there that may another job, but that job allows them to answer emails and phone calls related to RE. An example would be an agent with a part time job working at mom and pop’s hardware store where they can leave for closing inspections etc, and may be able to generate potential client contacts.

    Again, I’m more likely to consider them a professional when they are learning about their industry (which should be happening constantly) answering the phone / email and know what they are doing.

    Here was the ‘stupid line of the week’: “My business isn’t great and I want to learn more about marketing, but all the classes start in the morning and I have a hard time getting to them…” That was from a “full-time agent.”

  5. My initial reaction was all in favor of the premise, but in thinking about where to draw the line, I ended up in the same place as Matthew. Personal matters and volunteering and pretty much anything else can take up just as much time and attention from doing a job “full-time” — for that matter, so could attending too many classes. It’s about balancing all of your responsibilities, and that’s just part of the profession.

    I don’t think that we would jump to say that an agent that is taking the time to be more educated about the profession or volunteering with Habitat for Humanity is less dedicated and capable than the agent that is only out in the field working deals all day. Different ways of doing business.

    There certainly is a line that can be crossed, but figuring out where that line is and making someone disclose it is a difficult matter and not one to undertake lightly.

  6. Here’s how I see it – if you can’t call your Realtor during the day because they’re at their “real” job – said Realtor should disclose this fact.

    If you’re not living and breathing active real estate, and you’re passing yourself off as a professional at what you do, you’re doing yourself, your fellow Realtors and most importantly your clients and the public a disservice.

  7. Todd Hawkins says:

    Disclosure is never a bad thing, enables consumers to make informed choices. That said, being a sharp professional is about conduct, demonstrated ability and what’s between the ears, NOT just hours spent. The truly productive get more done in a shorter amount of time, and at better quality. Clients expect and deserve results, however those are legally and ethically achieved.

  8. Joe Vita says:

    Realistically, we all know in our hearts that unless it is required by law no agent is going to disclose to a potential client that they only work part time in the profession no matter how professional, competent, or successfull they may perceive themselves to be. True professionals in any field are on a much higher level of competence and skill than the amatuers no matter how much the amateurs believe they can compete with them. The amateurs don’t usually have a clue as to what it means to be on a professional level yet they perceive themselves as being there.

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  10. I’m with Lenn on this one. It’s a broker problem. I totally understand the need to feed your family. If real estate isn’t paying the bills, by all means find another profession. Don’t let your license go away, though. Become a referral agent.

    I would never hire anyone who couldn’t service the client because they’re tied up in another 9-5. If I hired a lawyer that couldn’t take my calls because he was busy stocking shelves at Walmart I would have serious doubts about his competency as an attorney … nevermind the bad taste I’d have in my mouth for the law firm that hired him in the first place.

    It’s no wonder real estate agents are looked down upon by the public.

  11. Erica Ramus says:

    I am with Lenn and James. I know plenty of BAD full time agents who don’t even return emails or cell messages. If a part timer is free to reply to my email/calls during the day I don’t care if he’s at another job. I do care when the job has no flexibility and the agent cannot be found until 5:30 pm at night every day.

  12. Karen Britt says:

    Maybe a full time 9 to 5 position could post a problem, although I have worked with agents who did have other full time jobs and did very well on her part. Speaking for myself I have had a part time jobs working 15 to 25 hours a week and it never interfeared with Real Estate… it was very flexible for me and all my clients have called on my services again for repeat business and referrals. In this economy you may see more agents following this pattern while housing sales have dropped. I dont see that disclosing this information is going to make a huge difference to clients…if your presentation and prompt service from the start will lay down the foundation and the client will have confidence in your ability.

  13. Lea B. Glembot says:

    I just happened to have Swanepoel’s Trends Report for 2010 on my desk, so I read the whole Trend #7 article before drafting this reply. I found the article interesting but frustrating at the same time, as I often do, when writers throw a lot of statistical data at the reader and then infer that there is a cause and effect relationship. Case in point ~ 26% of those surveyed report that real estate isn’t their only occupation….. and 36% of Realtor associations reported an increase in ethics complaints, while 39% report an increase in arbitration complaints. Hummmm….. so the reader is to conclude that one causes the other without any mention of potential other reasons for the increase in complaints? I beg to differ.

    I believe that any party to a transaction is much more likely to report a perceived ethics/arbitration violation when there is a significant negative financial impact or hardship (due to the economic downturn, short sale increase and general market conditions). Relatively few complained when the market was booming and everyone was making money. What kind of comparable is available for the last down market? The percentage increase is only important if you know the baseline and what factors affected it.

    I also beg to differ with the notion that “part timers” are inadequately prepared to perform their duties and provide ordinary care to their clients. Swanepoel’s article implies that those realtors who are generating additional income in other areas are somewhat less dedicated to their real estate profession. Frankly, many of them are very dedicated, but also trying to make sound financial decisions. We shouldn’t fault them for that. I applaud them for being responsible and doing what is necessary to make ends meet; lest we have more foreclosures and short sales to contend with ~ their own.

    The article also implies that a “part timer” would not be available as much, or be as responsive, as a full time realtor. That is an unrealistic assumption, implying that all realtors that have other jobs are on fixed schedules or lack the flexibility to take a phone call. I think most would agree, that many full time realtors are equally as unreachable. Afterall, busy people have appointments, meetings and golf games.

    Case in point, I chuckled when I read the intro…. if your pilot was also a freelance writer, wouldn’t you be concerned that he/she was spending some time with the laptop in the cockpit? One of my office’s top agents (in dollar volume) is a seasoned pilot with a well know international airline, and yet he closes more business than 90% of the agents in my office (and our entire association). He hasn’t lost business due to his other career. He represents builders, among others, and we all know how they are fairing in this market.

    That brings me to another point ~ the term “part time.” Should be easy to define? Really? So is that a person who spends less than 40 hours working as a real estate licensee? What if the person works 25 hours and is in the top 5% of your entire association? Still a part timer? What if they work 60+ hours a week and are in the bottom 25% (doing short sales, God bless ’em)? You want to ask the #5 realtor to disclose he is a “part timer” because just maybe he hired a marketing person and an administrative assistant to work on his team? I don’t think so.

    Here’s the bottom line, as I see it. I would estimate that 80-85% of the realtors in my association could potentially be deemed “part timers” yet they pay the same amount in dues that the remaining 20-15%. Realtors have financial responsibilities to themselves and their families so if they choose to work at another job to make ends meet, so be it. Their duties and responsibilities to their clients, customers and fellow realtors are unchanged by their personal decisions (that are unrelated to their real estate interests). They still need to be able to respond to the same demands or have a reasonable system in place to provide quality service to their clients. IF they are unable to be at a closing (even full time agents can’t be at 2 closings at once), they are still responsible for providing the same level of service in whatever way they deem appropriate for the situation.

    Our job as officers in our associations and fellow realtors is to provide services that meet the needs of our members while continuing to uphold the high ethical standards our NAR Code of Ethics requires. So, perhaps we offer more evening CE/PL courses, or we extend office hours a few days a week. And if we are dealing with a potential Code of Ethics issue, we address it accordingly. The market can correct itself within the realtor family if we simply did our jobs as managing brokers and fellow realtors.

    Sometimes it really is best to let the market weed out the under-performers and less regulation is better. Now, if only our politicians would agree.

  14. Lea,

    Thanks for the well thought out and though provoking comment. If you read my comment above, I think we agree in theory.

    I do have this question. If the agent is able to be available to the client and their dual-career isn’t a barrier to providing good service, why should night classes and extended hours be made available?

    Isn’t education and managing your resources part of providing good service? I would personally have my dues go toward building new and better tools to get my job done, than paying for extended hours.

    My reality remains that agents who have a 9-5 job are a tremendous obstacle in the real estate transaction. That is the majority of “part-time” agents. As I said before, if their competing job allows them availability than it’s a non-issue, but I think that’s the minority group of part-time agents.

  15. Let me add this to the mix:

    A couple of years ago, I had two transactions going where I was the selling agent and the listers were both county employees (one for the commonwealth attorney’s office and the other for economic development) both were using county resources and time to manage their part time real estate careers. They were both responsive and did a good job – here’s my beef: Why are my tax dollars going to enhancing a competing Realtor’s career?

    I bring this up, because I’ve found many of the part time agents are state, local or federal employees.

  16. Joe Vita says:

    There are exceptions to every rule. Some part time agents are very competent and make a lot of money while there are those who put in a 40 hour work week , do not perform very well, and seem to eek out a living each year. I believe we need to generalize here.

    By and large, a person who performs a task based upon limited available time, insufficient experience, incomplete knowledge, and divided attention probably does not perform it as well as someone who has devoted his entire time and resources to the assignment. If we knew all of these facts about two persons up for a job we need to have done we’d prefer not to hire the former unless our decision is purely a financial one and the former’s fee is much cheaper.

    What is the measure of success? Is it one’s annual income, the degree of aptitude, or a significant combination of both? We all know plenty of agents who have made a lot of money over the years and we wonder how they did it because we don’t have much respect for their competence. At the same time there are just as many thorough and professional types who cannot seem to turn their knowledge and good business habits into a sufficient number of closed deals each year. Some n both sides have guaranteed incomes, such as retirement money, that keeps them in the game.

    One thing I know for sure, however, is that our profession will not gain respect in the eye of the public or among ourselves if our general population of agents does not grow in accurate knowledge, integrity, and much better work habits. The amount of money any of us makes doesn’t enter into that equation. This is the biggest reason why I’m not crazy about the large number of part timers in our “profession”.

  17. Lea B. Glembot says:

    All good comments, gents! Thanks for the dialog.

    Matthew ~ to answer your question about why extended hours or evening classes if the dual-career person is able to successfully manage both careers? Well, let me put on my Association officer hat to answer that one. I feel that the role of the association is to provide the tools and services that help foster a member’s career, not be a hinderance to their ability to succeed. We have to keep in mind that, in the case of the association, the members are our customers in the normal sense of the word. I think this can be accomplished without any additional expense to the association, with a simple shift in employee hours and securing a speaker/instructor who might actually enjoy teaching an evening course. I’m not interested in increasing expenses (quite the contrary actually). It’s about providing the option for all members. Perhaps even full time agents might enjoy the alternatives. Afterall, education is mandatory.

    I used to work for a state agency in Norfolk and in our case we had to get approval for any additional work position in order to avoid any potential perceived conflict of interest. Matter of fact, I originally took my real estate courses and passed the exam when I worked there. The agency I worked for was completely self-funded through operations, but we had the same exact structure as Economic Development. I’m surprised these agents are permitted to do both.

    Joe ~ I think the bottom line of this is that as an industry, we do have significant areas of improvement in terms of the perception of the general public. And much of that is a general lack of professionalism at many levels. I am just not convinced that forcing a realtor to disclose if they are full or part time (or however it is defined) is the answer to the problem. The answer is to not tolerate less than a certain degree of “ordinary care” before addressing the issue with the agent’s broker, or ethics board. Requiring yet another disclosure that has multiple negative, unfounded connotations places an unnecessary burden on the realtor, in my humble opinion.

    Now, since we are on the topic of disclosures, I have been a full time realtor since I got into the industry in 2004, but I can easily see why others have taken on additional jobs, particularly in a market like mine (northern Shenandoah valley).

  18. Tina Merritt says:

    Interesting….

    I suppose many in the real estate industry would label me a “part-time” or even “no-time” agent since I live 5 hours away from my market area. I often have agents ask me “how can you work here when you don’t even live here?”. My business has actually increased since I moved and I feel more connected to my market area because I spend so much more time analyzing market data, Skyping with my clients, and marketing my listings.

    Do I disclose to my clients where I live and that other than Skype, they probably will never see me? Absolutely! I also compensate not being there “in the flesh” by having 2 other agents who work with me.

    IMO, as long as the communication and education is there, who cares if the real estate agent collects trash or runs a small country on the side?

    Oh – and Matthew, don’t knock taking naps….they’re good for you! ;-)

  19. Karen –

    Regarding this –

    I dont see that disclosing this information is going to make a huge difference to clients…if your presentation and prompt service from the start will lay down the foundation and the client will have confidence in your ability.

    I would argue that what we’re talking about is more about actually being competent than instilling confidence. This differentiation may be semantics to some, but I see it as a crucial difference.

    Anyone can instill confidence. Actually being competent is the crux of the issue.

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