According to the latest Roy Morgan Image of Professions Survey, real estate agents ranked 28th out of 30 on the list based on ethics and honesty.
The approval rating from consumers has dropped for agents, from 12 per cent to nine per cent, a result which surprised industry coach and real estate expert Tom Panos.
"I thought in recent years that the quality of the people coming into the business, professionalism and the standards have definitely improved from my perspective," he told Real Estate Business.
"There's more information in the marketplace and online, so much so that real estate agents are no longer the gatekeepers of all information. Information is freely and readily available, so agents no longer have the power or knowledge to abuse."
CEO of Harcourts NSW Rob Forde agreed that he thought things would be improving.
“One of the things that's more evident is that agents are a lot more transparent than they’ve ever been. With the availability of information that consumers have, agents need to be aware that if you’re not doing the right thing by the client now, it's more evident.”
Comparatively, nurses recorded an approval rating of 91 per cent, with pharmacists ranked second at 86 per cent.
Bank managers (12), lawyers (13), financial planners (17), talk-back radio announcers (24), and even state (25) and federal MPs (26) all ranked above agents in terms of ethical integrity.
The only two occupations that ranked below real estate agents were ‘advertising people’ on 8.0 per cent, and ‘car salesmen’ on just 3.0 per cent.
Over the last 28 years, the highest approval rating for real estate agents occurred last year, at 12 per cent, with the lowest dropping to 7.0 per cent in 2011.
CEO of Peard Real Estate Group in Perth Peter Peard said it was a shame the industry still received a bad rap from consumers.
“I think it’s a little unfair, especially seeing how heavily regulated we are nowadays,” he said.
“In the past there were quite a few cowboys out there, but now it’s next to impossible to get away with anything at all. You don’t read about an agent screwing over a little old lady in the newspaper anymore, so it’s a shame that image has lived on.”
To improve public perception of the industry, Mr Panos suggested reviewing the standards the industry holds itself to.
"This goes to show the importance of training and continuing development. But real estate does have a rather low barrier to entry compared to a lot of other professions that deal with the assets and risk we're exposed to," he said.
Mr Forde suggested the results may have come from a large number of consumers who haven’t dealt with real estate agents in recent times.
“This survey is about the public’s perception of agents, but from our own surveys with clients who have dealt with us we’re finding that feedback from both buyers and sellers is improving in these areas," he said.
“Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen a strong push for auctions, which is a reflection of the client's trust in the agent, and in the market. The auction process is entirely transparent as well; there's no way for agents to influence the true market value if it's done at a fair auction.”