Agent Education: How to stay sharp at every stage of your career

by Jason Porterfield

“Nothing that they learn in pre-licensing actually prepares them for the real estate business,” says Lynn Madison, president of the Mainstreet Organization of Realtors. “They come out of pre-licensing — some of them — with the idea that they are ready, when in fact they are not.”

Madison argues that even though the licensing laws in Illinois place responsibility for training agents on the shoulders of managing brokers, many are not adequately fulfilling that responsibility. Managing brokers themselves may be ill-prepared to give new licensees the training necessary to succeed.

“The burden then falls onto continuing education or the post-licensing 30-hour course that the agents all have to take in Illinois,” Madison says. “The problem is they only have to take that in their first renewal period.”

Madison recommends agents take the 30-hour course early in their first renewal period. That way, they can use the information provided to get their business up and running properly.

The pre-licensing training does provide useful information on running a brokerage in compliance with state law. Unfortunately, the public image of real estate agents has taken some hits over the years. There is not much trust in a profession whose practitioners are responsible for handling the single-largest financial transactions that most people experience. Gallup’s “Honesty/Ethics in Professions” list, released in Dec. 2015, found that only 20 percent of those surveyed rated the ethical standards of real estate agents as “very high/high,” slotting them just below lawyers (21 percent) and above only eight other professions — labor union leaders, business executives, stockbrokers, advertising practitioners, car salespeople, telemarketers, members of Congress, and lobbyists.

Toban believes that though current education requirements do a good job of teaching agents how to avoid making the kind of legal and ethical mistakes that can get them into trouble, they still leave agents with significant knowledge gaps.

“One of the biggest problems is employee agreements with missing provisions or other incomplete areas,” Toban says. “Beyond that, there are other types of record-keeping issues, from failures to sign agreements entirely, to failures in properly managing the movement of money, to getting written consent from customers when necessary.”

From Madison’s perspective, lead generation and following a transaction through to completion are two of the many areas where newer agents need additional training.

“You can’t just sell a house and walk away,” Madison says. “You have to make sure it gets to the closing table.”


Designations and trust

One way that many agents elect to increase their knowledge and prove their legitimacy is by obtaining certifications. The list of acronyms trailing an agent’s name are designed to demonstrate their dedication to rounding out a practice and learning as much as possible about the profession. The National Association of Realtors and its affiliates currently offer 25 designations, ranging from “Accredited Buyer’s Specialist” to “Resort & Second-Home Property Specialist.”

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