Drop the word “real estate agent” into a conversation and anyone who has ever rented or bought a property (i.e. everyone) will start to regale you with tales of disappearing bond, mouldy walls, surprise inspections, and other reasons why they had/have the worst real estate agent ever.
I get that. While there are good guys and bad guys in every occupation, when it comes to the person whose job affects your home (you know, that place you go to escape from the outside world), having an indifferent or even downright incompetent agent can really tick you off.
Yet, last week when I saw news.com.au’s article “Proof Real Estate Agents’ Egos are Out of Control”, I decided that it’s time that I speak out in defence of my occupation. Because, believe it or not, becoming a real estate agent actually made me a better person.
A major problem with the way we do housing in Australia is that we, as a nation, simply don’t know our rights and responsibilities.
I first noticed this problem when I started selling and buying real estate at 18 years old. Even though I was young and completely green in the property world, I still found that I had more knowledge of the ins and outs of the industry (both rental and sales) than most people I encountered.
Even though property law is the one area of the law that affects literally everyone, the vast majority of Australians aren’t being taught how it all works.
This lack of education leaves the market wide open for unscrupulous actors who do know the ins and outs to take advantage of everyone else.
During my real estate agent training, I learned a lot about the rights and responsibilities of tenants, agents, buyers and sellers in Queensland. Before I knew it I was regularly passing on little tidbits of information to friends and family:
Did you know that, in Queensland, your agency must provide you with a fee-free way to pay your rent?
Are you aware that you can’t be charged for water consumption if proper efficiency measures aren’t installed?
Once I became an agent and got a little experience under my belt, these tidbits turned into a repository of real estate FAQs, and they soon started to dominate every conversation I struck up.
It seemed as though every time I went to a dinner party or down to the pub with my friends, the moment that I let on that I was an agent I was bombarded with horror stories and questions about what a tenant/landlord/buyer/seller should do.
However, instead of just joining in and disparaging the occupation as a whole like I previously would have done, as an agent I actually started to provide useful, practical advice.
I realised that, for the first time in my life, I was helping people.
By letting tenants know how to make their voices heard the legal way, telling landlords how to spot an agent with unscrupulous practices, and letting buyers and sellers know whether or not I thought they were actually getting the best value for money, I was helping others on a daily basis.
I understand that there are many real estate agents that do not share my attitude. For some it’s all about the bottom line, but that attitude is not held by the best agents.
The best agents care about people, not property.
It didn’t take long for me to see that this job is not all about quotas and dollars.
As an agent, how you treat people at work doesn’t always stay at work. Your actions affect people’s lives.
You can’t ignore genuine concerns, or you’ll end up being the reason someone’s kids don’t have hot water to shower in, or you’ll the person responsible for a client losing tens of thousands of dollars in a single transaction.
And, how you treat people outside of your office hours is just as important as how you act on the job. The acquaintance you gave tenancy advice to last year might be the buyer you sign up next year.
So, no matter what your occupation, you always need to be kind, honest and fair in your dealings.
Sure, there are agents out there who only care about their pay check. But then there are agents like me, whose egos aren’t “out of control”. We’re just trying to do our jobs and improve the financial decisions and living situations of the people we meet along the way.