“In Need Of Repair”

I recently read an article by a highly recognised real estate training guru about the “normalising” of the market following the unprecedented property price growth over the past few years. All in all it was quite an interesting read, but not really offering any ground shattering insights to those of us who have been in the industry for more than a few cycles.

In a nutshell, the trainer indicated that a super-buoyant market tends to level the playing field for agents whilst a declining or softening market separates the wheat from the chaff, i.e. sorts out the good agents from the bad. He goes on to indicate it’s going to be “turnover that’s most important”, pointing to an operational focus in a changed property market environment. Beyond that simple statement, there are the usual offerings and metric headings that all agents are aware of that advance an agents’ “success”: GCI (gross commission income), contributed to by an understanding of the agents list-to-sell ratio, average days on market and clearance rate by property type (is it easier to sell a particular property via private treaty or auction).

That may be all well and good, but the whole underlying thrust of the article was flawed in my opinion, a missed opportunity to re-establish that, whatever the market conditions, an agents’ first responsibility is to secure the best possible outcome for the client; not to make life easier for the agent. I flatly object to the assertion that turnover should be an agents’ No.1 priority – whatever the market conditions.

In light of the declining market, someone said to me recently that agents will now have to start working for their commission after an extended “sweat free” few years. Yeah, . . . . . . . No. Well, sort of. I agree that in a market where buyers are fighting each other to be top dog, it CAN be easy for an agent to achieve a result, but for an agent to know that they’ve achieved the BEST result actually involves a lot more work, as there are a great many more parties to “manage”. In a cooler market, with fewer buyers, the volume and intensity of work is a great deal less, notwithstanding that a great result can be harder to come by. This is where a skilled agents’ forte in negotiation, marketing and communication are absolutely critical – it’s a case of working smarter, more skillfully, not harder.

However, what really frustrates me about this article is the use of the key word “turnover”. This word focuses on an outcome primarily for the agent, not the clients. It is about getting a result, it is about “educating” your clients (read browbeating), it is about days on market (read quick sale). “Turnover” is not about sharing the journey with your client in the sale of their most important asset, it is not about giving the property sufficient time to find its very best level, it is not about acting in your clients’ best interests at all times, it is not about the agent making personal sacrifices to further their clients most favourable outcome.

So, once again, the article really only seeks to heighten the sense of an agents’ greed by putting the agents’ interests at least ahead of their clients’ interests, if not at the direct expense of their clients. What a shame that the fundamental values and integrity of the industry remain broken with no obvious will to repair it in sight.

I appreciate that any positive change will only come about with a shift in mindset, but I also welcome an industry discussion around what steps can be taken to encourage an environment where the players are motivated to generate that self-change and don’t just see it as an obstacle to wealth creation. The future can be bright, we just need to put the spotlight on a different set of values, they are not illusive.