When real estate agents receive their licenses, they have “just enough information to be dangerous.” They can list and sell properties, but they might not know enough about how things work in the field and how to protect their clients.
Becoming an expert real estate agent takes time and commitment. Not just in terms of energy and a client-focused attitude, but also in regards to education. Agents need continual learning to improve and ensure they serve their clients and brokerages as ethically and efficiently as possible.
Many agents lack the proper education and don’t know how to write contracts to protect their clients. They don’t understand the different clauses, amendments and contingencies.
The agent dynamic demands continual learning
Agents who transition from the corporate world discover that the responsibility for education and protection rests on them, not the corporation.
If they were previously a marketing representative for a firm, the company paid for frequent training classes and probably handled any lawsuits clients or partners brought forth. The company led these efforts.
Real estate, on the other hand, is a different animal. Agents are contractors, and their success is determined by what they put into their careers.
With real estate, there are three phases: the pre-license, post-license and continuing education (CE) phase. The ongoing continuing education phase is where agents receive the vital education to develop the necessary skills to provide clients with competent service.
The CE education also exposes agents to the latest regulations, strategies, trends and tactics. Agents must be accountable for their actions, and continuing education provides them with the skill set necessary to greatly lower risks for clients and themselves.
It’s the reason top-tier agencies have training, policies and procedures in place that require new agents to complete as soon as they become a part of the team. No broker wants to be involved in a lawsuit due to an agent’s poor practices, so agents need to learn the laws, rules and regulations.
Regulatory and legal protections
One area of learning expertise that pays immediate benefits is fair-housing-related education. Agents must be aware of what properties are protected by the fair housing guidelines. They must know the ins and outs of the various rules and regulations, so they stay out of trouble. Violation of fair housing rules can be extremely costly.
For example, if a prospective buyer asks about demographic information like crime statistics, agents can’t answer that question under fair housing guidelines, even if they have the data available or have strong opinions on the matter.
They can direct their clients to search for those statistics online or use the local police department as a source, but they can’t provide those insights themselves. Agents new to fair housing rules often feel crime and other inquiries are just everyday questions, but they must always understand what hat they are wearing and act accordingly.
On the property management side, fair housing guidelines and rules are especially important. For example, accessibility is a huge issue that landlords need to know and adhere to. Property managers work closely with owners to ensure they make necessary improvements to a property, like making it wheelchair-accessible.
Companion animals and pets are another sticky point when complying with fair housing. There are rules restricting asking tenants about emotional support or assistance animals. Agents and property managers should both understand these rules and exceptions so they can help clients make informed decisions and reduce the risks of fines or lawsuits.
Continuing education lets agents proactively build their knowledge base above state regulations. The average state educational requirements for agents are 30 to 40 hours of learning every four years — that’s a miniscule amount of education.
Agents who make real estate their livelihood will need much more education to stay informed on what is occurring in the market and as well as to follow the latest regulations and rules.
Protecting themselves and their clients
Agents who run afoul of fair housing and other regulations can’t use “I didn’t know” as a defense. They must educate themselves on the ever-changing rules, regulations and laws. They must know how to provide information to clients, how to protect themselves and their brokers, and how to construct well-written contracts.
Agents should ask themselves what kind of doctor they would be if they skipped classes about human anatomy or other essential learning concerning medicine. The same thing applies to obtaining knowledge about the real estate industry.
Agents have a massive responsibility on their shoulders. They help people complete the largest purchase of their lives, which is oftentimes an impactful and transformative transaction.
That’s why agents need to be knowledgeable, accurate and professional when providing their services to clients. They should do everything in their power to make the experience a “top 10” for their buyers and sellers.
Given their importance, the real estate industry needs better-trained agents. There are bad contracts still being written that don’t include provisions to protect clients. Continuing education classes on contract law give agents the opportunity to protect themselves and clients.
Benefits beyond legal protection
Continuing education classes provide agents with opportunities to grow their business, not just improve their legal protections. There are many resources that offer real estate agents a range of courses to help them succeed at their jobs.
Some courses give insights on using social media and other marketing tools to attract and inform clients. Agents who took a marketing class in 2012 probably need to think of taking another class. Marketing tools have changed considerably over the last eight years, and today’s digital world demands a different set of skills, strategies and knowledge of new platforms.
Other classes might encourage agents to think of their entire business as a whole, develop roadmaps that include vision and business statements and learn how to set lofty yet attainable goals.
Continuing education also offers a pathway to niche markets. So, if a residential agent wants to move into selling commercial properties, he or she can take classes, and learn the unique contractual and regulation requirements for commercial contracts.
Other niches include first-time homebuyers, luxury homes, vacation properties and other areas that each require a different way of talking to clients and a different set of underlying legalities.
Finding an education partner
There are several platforms and providers for real estate continuing education. Look for one that’s built by real estate experts. Having an instructor who’s still in the trenches of doing real estate on a regular basis will be far more informative than having someone teaching based on theory.
Agents are the conductors of real estate. They must keep everyone involved informed and protected. However, to function as valuable problem-solvers, agents need to invest in themselves with continual learning.
Moira Taylor is the co-owner and CEO of Cutting Edge Institute Worldwide, LLC and Taylor Made Realty in Atlanta. Raynae Taylor is the co-owner of Cutting Edge Institute Worldwide, LLC and Taylor Made Realty in Atlanta. Connect with them on Facebook and Instagram.