Agents placed third-last in an annual Roy Morgan survey of 30 professions, with only 9 per cent of the 598 survey respondents saying agents scored highly for ethics and honesty.
Since the survey started in 1987, the highest score agents have received for ethics and honesty is 12 per cent.
Nurses topped this year’s ranking with a score of 92 per cent, followed by doctors and pharmacists on 84 per cent.
Bank managers placed 14th with 34 per cent, lawyers placed 15th with 31 per cent, state MPs placed 23rd with 14 per cent and federal MPs placed 25th with 13 per cent.
The list was rounded out by advertising people with 5 per cent and car salesmen with 4 per cent.
Real Estate Institute of Australia chief executive Amanda Lynch said agents have historically ranked low in these types of surveys, in line with other sales professionals.
Ms Lynch told Real Estate Business that the negative view of agents is based on false perceptions rather than reality.
“The only way to address this perception is to maintain high-quality training and standards, and continue to fight against the proliferation of three-day quickie qualifications which are offered by outliers in the industry,” she said.
Real Estate Business spoke with two other agents, both of whom also believed the industry’s reputation suffers at the hands of poorly trained newcomers who find it too easy to get licensed.
Belle Property Neutral Bay principal Mark Jackson said another reason people have a negative view of the real estate industry is because they are often in a vulnerable position when they deal with agents.
Buying and selling real estate is a major financial decision for most people and the process is often confusing, which can make people stressed and suspicious, Mr Jackson said.
Daniel Warne, principal at Carter’s Real Estate Bayswater, said the negative perception of agents can make it harder to win over consumers.
“Trust is something you earn and it can be hard to do when you only see someone twice before they give you their most precious asset to sell,” Mr Warne said.
Ms Lynch from REIA said a national marketing campaign was not the answer to the industry’s perception problem.
“The public is rightly cynical about expensive image-building campaigns,” she said.
“The best way to address this misconception is through a national approach to weed out rogue operators, embed excellence into the profession and nail our colours to the mast, which is what we are currently working on.”