PHIL HARRIS: Industry needs higher education standards

The real estate profession needs to be sent back to school. To a good school. And not just for a refresher course.

Our industry has a poor reputation. We were recently ranked the second worst for customer service and the third least trusted profession.

But we don’t deserve this – and if you think about it, we have a perfect position to turn it around.

We deal with a complicated area of law that is constantly changing, so we need to possess excellent contemporary technical knowledge that must be constantly updated. We must develop relationships of trust in short periods of time to achieve the best outcomes in a transaction that is the biggest investment most people make during their lives. And all of this must be done for multiple assets being marketed in a variety of ways all at the same time.

The fact that our industry is so successful proves that real estate professionals are true professionals who more properly deserve the rank of trusted advisor rather than shady dealer.

So why do we so often fail to make the mark we deserve? I believe our industry fails to take itself seriously.

Our state-based licensing and education systems aim to produce more agents, not better agents. We should be encouraging people to want to move into the industry because it is a fantastic place for motivated people to make a difference. But we need to raise our standards to prove that the people in our industry can make a difference because they are trained and capable professionals.

Recent proposals to offer weekend-only courses for licensing are a case in point. Yes, they offer an easy and time-flexible way for people to enter the industry – but how can the profession call for more trust if it is turning out agents with only two days’ training?
A new model is needed if we are to become the trusted agents we seek to be.

First, a national approach with national standards would be preferred. Our profession will gain little if our clients and detractors see a piecemeal approach that differs from state to state. This could be set as a national standard with state-based legal units as an entry-level qualification or introduced as a new professional qualification that commands respect – just as lawyers have nominated their best as Senior Counsel.

Second, we should value thoroughness. Potential agents should be exposed to the best the industry has to offer and the theory underpinning those standards. We are going through a rapid change that sees industry benchmarks quickly replaced. A thorough grounding in marketing, contracts, negotiation techniques and trust accounting can only better prepare incoming professionals for the changes ahead.

Third, we should recognise these changes and embrace them in tacit acknowledgement that change is needed. But we also need to clearly communicate the positive benefits these changes will offer to clients: better educated professionals with a greater capacity for growth and innovation.

This is a long-term change we need to introduce a life-long culture of learning and improvement.

We need to prove to our clients that being a real estate professional is more than making a sale or getting a signature. And the only way we can do that is if we start with the basics – and go back to school.

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Phil Harris

Phil Harris

Phil Harris has been in real estate for 12 years and is the only South Australian to be recognised by the Real Estate Institute as the state’s top sales person, and as the state’s best auctioneer at the Golden Gavel Auctioneering Championships. He opened Harris Real Estate in 2010 with only five staff. The company now employs more than 50 people and is recognised as one of the country’s fastest-growing agencies. Phil is dedicated to ongoing professional education to boost the calibre of the industry and to ensure the success of his business.

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