At press time, there are 45 days and counting for all agents to get their licenses renewed. Are you one of the many, many agents – and there are many out there – who have been procrastinating this necessary need to renew your license? If so, it’s time to reevaluate your priorities, and not just with renewing your license, but with education.
The real estate industry has grown so much that specialties in marketing, geography, economics, finance and law, amongst others, have become integrated into the field, and, with the way the market has changed, created a multitude of pathways for professionals to diversify and specify their careers. Popular agent niches include foreclosure and short sale specialists and international sales.
The growth of the industry has also conceived the need to provide the highest level of professional service and standards to clients and consumers – a notion linked to the changes in Illinois license regulation. The key to achieving these standards lies within education.
Alan Toban, founder of the Real Estate Institute, recognizes two main components that comprise Illinois requirements for continuing real estate education programs. First, there are the core requirements that cover specific laws and practices administered by regulatory agencies; second, there are a number of allotted credit hours that schools leave open for electives that focus on current issues in the marketplace, such as consumer protection and best practices.
After revisions of the License Act of 2000 by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) take effect on April 30, 2012, three real estate licenses will be available for merit: the broker license, managing broker and sponsoring broker license – salesperson licenses will officially be obsolete.
As an agent, you should already be aware of what will happen by the deadline of April 30, but in case you haven’t been listening to what association executives have been stressing, all salespeople must get their broker license, and brokers must either get their broker or managing broker license. Agents who don’t get their “new” license by April 30 will have to basically start over – unless agents complete 90 hours of pre-licensing coursework, they can’t serve clients.
Why are these changes to Illinois license regulation made now? In part, the changes are meant to mitigate disparities found in the quality of realty services offered between, and within, companies. “There can be tremendous differences in the quality of services received [by consumers], even within the same company,” Dawn M. Svenningsen, current president of the Association of Illinois Real Estate Educators, says.
Rozanne Reynolds, president/administrator of AHI Real Estate & Insurance Services, Inc., agrees that there is a divide in service quality, and attributes this to education and training. “Many times, real estate schools tend to teach students how to pass the test,” rather than training students how to deal with the day-to-day realities while on the job,” she says.
The IDFPR revision to the License Act will potentially bridge this gap in service quality by requiring additional education for licensees. “The biggest change last year was the addition of an interactive course, which is now required as part of the pre-license and post-license curriculum,” Toban says. “Previously, students would complete pre-license education entirely through self-study methods. Under current state rules, pre-license education must include at least some real-time interaction with instructors, in-person or online.”
The difference in quality can apply to supplementary courses. While education in a variety of different fields is important, the quality of the course and education matter obviously plays a part in how much an agent is actually learning. Though supplementary, courses that teach agents how to pass the test aren’t as useful as a quality course taken with valuable knowledge absorbed and expertise put to use – unless the agent is aware of the course’s quality.
“I believe almost any additional learning is beneficial,” Toban says. “Even if a licensee attends a seminar and disagrees with the trainer’s approach, they have learned what they don’t want to do.”
To avoid a poor-quality course, Toban adds that there are numerous published texts available for licensees that focus on sales techniques, self-promotion and advertising. But poor quality shouldn’t be confused with a different method of teaching.
“There are certainly differences in the practices of various licensees. Too often, one licensee thinks the way another licensee practices is wrong just because it is different than the way they have learned,” he says. “This is the reason that, in our classes, we stress the alternative ways a task can be completed and still be compliant with the law and the rules of good practice. When we compare field-training methods, it gets personal. This is where regulation steps out and an individual licensee has the opportunity to make his or her own choice. A licensee can decide if he or she will work for a firm that provides highly structured classroom training or provides mentors that will accompany them to appointments with buyers and sellers, or both.”
Creating an Education Plan
With so many courses, seminars, designations and classes out there, the key for all agents is to plan out your education.
Dr. Margot Weinstein, CEO of MW Leadership Consultants LLC., and broker associate and marketing expert with Metropolitan Real Estate Group, highly advocates licensees to pursue coaching services to further their career, and points out that many top-producing agents have a coach.
“Coaching services will provide (licensees) with the tools and resources to help them learn the nuances of business,” she says.
When helping agents plan a career and educational roadmap, Weinstein provides seven questions they should ask themselves:
Do you have a business plan?
Do you have a mission or philosophy that guides you?
Do you know the numbers you must make to succeed?
Do you know what skills you need to develop to help you succeed?
Do you know the latest tech trends to make money?
Do you know what organizations to attend to make money in your area?
Do you know how to network to build relationships?
If you answered “no” to any of those questions, Weinstein suggests hiring a coach or asking a mentor to help create a plan that will help you navigate the “ever-changing, competitive, global business environment,” as she describes it.
Reynolds is also an advocate for personalized coaching for agents. “Real estate licensees should affiliate themselves with a sponsoring broker that offers proper training for their marketplace,” she says. “They should also build relationships with real estate attorneys, lenders and education providers in their market area who are willing to provide advice and counsel or education programs through seminars and education material to assist the real estate licensee.”
A yearly education plan should have three goals: mandatory education for license renewal, time for advanced training, and coaching on professional development and motivation. Real estate networks and associations commonly offer services to members to help meet these goals; Realtors affiliated with the National Association of Realtors (NAR), as well as licensees who are members of the Illinois Association of Realtors (IAR), for example, are required to periodically take ethics courses to sustain their membership in the network.
Real estate networks and associations also provide a locality for professionals to seek the advice, counsel and coaching from accomplished professionals by supplying a wide range of programs and services to assist members in furthering their career by increasing their skills, proficiency, knowledge and contacts.
Weinstein can attest to the benefit real estate networks offer. She holds the Certified International Property Specialist (CIPS) designation, a specialty focused on expanding international markets in local communities by centering education on culture, exchange rates, investment trends and legal issues; she is also an active member in the CIPS network, an organization of 2,500 real estate professionals from 50 countries.
In addition, Weinstein is the president-elect of the Chicago and Midwest Council of FIABCI-USA. “These two networks provide me with contacts and information to do business with an international audience in Chicago and around the world,” she says. “When you work with a diverse audience, it is really important to be able to learn the latest business information. We may be Americans, but it is not always proper to shake hands with our clients, so connecting with top professionals who can guide us for working with our clients is the only way to be very successful.”
Designations and certifications, such as the CIPS designation Weinstein holds, give real estate professionals the ability to diversify and specify their expertise in the industry. “Designations give the licensee additional education and knowledge in certain areas of specific skills,” Reynolds says. “Once a licensee chooses to specialize in any specific area of skill, getting these designations insures the client that they are receiving specialized assistance to help them in their area of need.”
Some designations are presented by NAR, which include: At Home With Diversity (AHWD), which certifies that agents are professionally trained in and are sensitive to a wide range of cultural issues; Short Sales and Foreclosure Resource ( SFR), which certifies agents in the complexities of short sales; and Broker Price Opinion Resource (BPOR), which provides agents with skills to reduce risk, increase opportunities, and create professional BPOs. But there are several designations offered by accredited independent schools, such as Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR) and Certified Real Estate Brokerage Manager (CRB); however, there isn’t a designation that can hold an agent back – anything that makes you look like even more of an expert in your field is a plus.
Tool Belt of a Top Producer
Expertise in working with certain tools and being able to confidently handle diverse aspects of a transaction are a necessity for anyone looking to become a top producer in their field. While you may not enroll in a certification program for these skills, you might enroll in a single course. For example, Reynolds says studies have shown that many real estate licensees are not properly up to date with license law and agency issues when employing social media marketing to promote themselves and their listings.
“More education of all kinds is needed in this area, and AHI offers such courses to meet the need of the market place,” she adds.
Adept knowledge of pricing and negotiation, as well as expert paperwork negotiation, is another chief area of concern to a licensee’s education. Real estate professionals need to have expert knowledge of MLS tools if they want to determine the proper pricing of a listing, or want to determine the market value for a buyer. Licensees can use MLS data to determine past and current sales, and other information regarding the value of a property.
The ability to successfully navigate through the paperwork of a transaction is definitely need-to-know for licensees, as well. Knowledge of paperwork negotiation is knowledge of agency, disclosure and representation and the proper handling of trust accounts, and an absolute necessity for a professional that aims to be the top in their field.
“In the current real estate climate, pricing and negotiation skills are paramount,” Svenningsen says. “Many great agents love the ‘business’ but hate the paperwork. The paperwork is what protects everyone involved in the transaction, including the consumer, the agent and the brokerage firm.”
Looking Into the Future
Taking a look at current real estate education programs and enrollment, Reynolds and Toban have noticed differences in students, the educational options they are choosing and trends arising as the April 30th transition deadline approaches.
“The license law changes have been extremely confusing for licensees,” Toban says. “There has been a lot of confusion over why, when, and how licensees are expected to satisfy the new requirements. The months preceding the new 90 credit hour broker pre-license requirement, we experienced a large increase in enrollments as candidates raced to complete the coursework before the requirements for licensure doubled. The enrollments were down sharply in May and June after the new law went into effect. We’re now seeing steady enrollments again.”
Reynolds foresees students taking more pre-licensing courses and elective courses for their own personal benefit, since most licensees have already met their education requirements until the 2013 renewal. “The students taking the pre-licensing courses are much more serious than ever before due to the increase of the required hours and the market,” Reynolds says. C.A.
Founder, Real Estate Institute
Dawn M. Svenningsen
AIREE President 2012
AHI Real Estate & Insurance, Inc
Dr. Margot Weinstein
Founder and CEO, MW Leadership Consultants LLC
Broker Associate, Metropolitan Real Estate Group Inc.