Roy Morgan recently published its annual Image of Professionals Survey, with real estate agents rated as one of Australia’s least ethical and honest professions.
The public opinion poll rated 30 different professions, with nurses taking the top ranking (at 92 per cent), while real estate agents were the third-lowest (at 10 per cent), beating advertising people (at 9 per cent) and car salespeople (at 4 per cent).
Industry trainer Ian Grace said the public perception of the industry has remained at around 8-10 per cent for 13 years because many agents have learnt and developed bad habits.
“One of the worst things, I think, is having the industry teach the industry, because people from the industry [are] always giving it 8 or 9 per cent, so it's going stay at 8 or 9 per cent. We need to reach out and look at things differently,” he said.
“The biggest issue that we all know is communication, or the lack thereof, so you look at all the controversial things in the industry like cold canvassing or vendor contributions – take it, dissect it and have a look at it; people will find [this] distasteful because they don't want the truth.”
Mr Grace said real estate professionals need to offer greater transparency in order to improve the perception of the industry and earn the public’s trust.
“Have a look at the training you do with people – sales training, negotiation skills – and so often it comes across as adversarial, as if they're using scripts and dialogues to outsmart [clients],” he said.
“Personally, I would be happy to be teaching sales agents how to get more seller advertising contribution and have the public sitting in the same room, because it should always be done with [the public] as the main beneficiary.”
The real estate industry needs to improve its training and education standards if it wants to be seen more favourably by consumers, Mr Grace said.
“We don't want to be seen as attacking real estate, but to help people you've got to look at the stuff that you don't want to talk about, bring it up and look at it from the customer's point of view.”
“I think one of the most important things is for the industry to start surveys, so instead of just deciding what the people want, they should go and survey everyone and everything.”
According to Mr Grace, conducting regular surveys will help the industry better understand customers’ wants and implement the necessary changes to deliver on its promises.
“Don't just survey the people that you would call customers and the people who will spend money with you; survey internally, because many real estate offices have bad or even toxic relationships between sales and property management.
“Once you start surveying, you can start getting your internal customer service right, where the whole team is working together; for example, sales meetings and property management meetings combined.”