What if Realtors were Ranked from White Belt to Black Belt?

by Steve Crossland, REALTOR in Austin TX on September 23, 2009 · 7 comments

blackbeltImagine your grandmother needed to be escorted through a dangerous part of town, and you had to select from available bodyguards. One is a White Belt, a part timer with very little experience, but he returned your call in less than 10 minutes.

Another is a Black Belt with 20 years experience and hundreds of successful missions. Who would you pick for this important assignment? You’d go with the experienced veteran with the proven track record of success, right?

What if your child needed a special surgery, and you wanted to interview surgeons? What sort of criteria would you look for? What sort of questions would you ask? You’d probably ask “how many of these procedures have you completed, how long have you been doing it and what is your success rate?”, right?

Make up your own scenarios – you need an attorney to defend you against a frivolous lawsuit, or an accountant to assist with an IRS audit, or a tree person to work on your 300+ year old trophy oaks. Would you hire newbies with no track record of success? Probably not.

Buying or selling a home is an extremely important financial event, with many variables and 100’s of different ways that things can go wrong, yet the real estate industry, for whatever reason, is not one in which the customer typically uses a strong selection process when looking for professional help. Why is that?

In a real estate seminar I attended recently it was stated to us Realtors, “if you’re not returning your phone message and emails in less than 10 minutes, you’re losing business. 70% of buyers and sellers go with the first agent to respond, so you need to make sure you’re that agent”.

Crap. I’m still “old school” and think that it’s ok to return a non-urgent call within one business day, though I’m usually much faster. But I don’t go for the 10 minute rule. I don’t live my life in permanent hyper-response mode. I’d go insane.

So what would be better selection criteria that would be easy for consumers to understand and relate to? What if Realtors had a ranking system, such as in martial arts, where one earns progressively higher belt color rankings as their experience and competence grows?

And what if we had to wear these belts to listing appointments. Might that change things a bit for agents and the customer as well?

Brand new Realtors, fresh out of real estate school and passing their test, would have to wear a White Belt, signifying to all that they’ve never closed a real estate transaction and they’re brand new. After one or two completed deals, they could be promoted to Yellow Belt, and so on. Of course Realtors like me and Sylvia, with 20 years experience and hundreds of successful transactions would be Black Belts, as would our peers who have paid the same dues and gained the same level of experience.

In the martial arts world, it takes about 6 years to achieve Black Belt status, depending on the discipline being studied. To become a Master Plumber in Texas takes about 7 years. I’m not sure about Electricians, or HVAC specialists, but there are many examples in life of individuals having to work long and hard before achieving a status that is recognized as being a “master” level.

Yet in real estate, if you can pass the test and return your phone calls and/or emails in less than 5 minutes, that will be the main selection criteria used by the majority of consumers who are looking for help. That’s it! Be the first one to call back and you might have your first listing. Is that stupid or what?

What’s really unfair about this is that when one of these White Belts Realtors screws up a deal big time, the entire industry gets a bad rap but nobody ever asks the person telling everyone about his lousy Realtor what sort of questions were asked before hiring that Realtor. They never scrutinize the hiring process that resulted in the hiring of the deficient Realtor.

We run into agents regularly who have no business being in the real estate business. They don’t know what they’re doing. Yet someone hired them anyway, using criteria and rationale that would never be used to hire equally important advisors or councilors in other industries. I guess real estate is just weird that way.

So, next time you’re interviewing Realtors, talk to more than one. Not just the one who you reached first. And ask them what belt they are. Make them tell you, if their real estate experience were equated with martial arts, what “belt” they’d be. Why pay the same fees to a White Belt Realtor that you would for a Black Belt Realtor?

Better yet, here are some sample questions:

1) How many homes have you sold in the past 12 months?
2) How long have you been selling homes?
3) What is your success rate? (Percentage of listings that actually sell)

I could write a longer list, but these three questions alone would provide enough insight to help most customers get started with a proper selection process.

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