Are Real Estate Agents Facing Extinction?

[I’m very happy to introduce the newest addition to the Rain City Guide team. Joe Beitey is a real estate lawyer out of the South King & Pierce County areas who runs the EZLawCoach blog and is also the Corporate Counsel for the MLS4Owners website. Joe has been quite active in the RCG community lately and I look forward to reading his legal perspective as a contributor!]

(This article is NOT legal advice. Consult an attorney for any specific legal issues you may have.)

Oh my goodness, what’s with these trends!! Global warming, sub-prime lending putting banks at risk, a slow down in the national housing market (bursting bubble???), and Sweet Mother Mary & Joseph, what’s with this “Zillow thing

52 thoughts on “Are Real Estate Agents Facing Extinction?

  1. Welcome Joe. Nice post tad bit dramatic, but i liked it (thanks chex cereal commercial from the 80s). Anyway, you bring up a good point: real estate agents fearing extinction. Actually, that wasn’t your point, but there has been a lot of fear around the blogosphere since Zillow arrived, and I just chuckle at it. I’m a RE broker, and I welcome these new changes. I love Zillow, and am working feverishly to figure out the best way to capitalize on it – as we all should. Instead of fear, agents need to learn how to adapt to the ever changing face of real estate.
    I look forward to your future posts.

  2. Hi Joe,

    Welcome to RCG. I absolutely love the current MLS4Owners radio commercial playing locally on KIRO 710AM. The radio ads are very edgy and I’d love to see a youtube version.

    (as far as I can tell, it only seems to be creating more room for everyone to fit in…everything from full-service real estate agents, to limited service real estate agents, to good ole’, simple & straight-up real estate advertising firms)

    What about part time agents, real estate agents who are just starting out and aren’t quite making a living wage? Is there room for ALL licensees under the current business model of the major franchise brokers?

    You mention there’s a growing need for “good” agents: How does Joe define “good?”

  3. Hi Shaun,

    Thanks for the warm welcome, and yes, “Mikey” from 80’s Chex cereal commercials, I’m glad, “you like it”!! 🙂 I think you’ve got the right approach with Zillow…figure out a wise way to capitalize on the opportunities it’s opening up, (I believe there’s bound to be plenty). Guessing where Zillow is going is a little trickey, given that it’s growing itself and adding new features all the time. However, at the moment it seems to be engaged in a direct frontal assault on the MLS real estate “monopoly”. Who knows how far & long it may continue down this path…Zillow’s management may suddenly make an about face, and decide to sell FSBO leads to real estate agents, or sell their technology to other big players in the real estate industry, such as a banking conglomerate (everyone has a price at some point, right?).

    I hope you find my future posts enlightening, maybe even entertaining!! I have to admit, trying to write posts that are educational/informative and yet still entertaining/humorous are appealing. Hmmm…perhaps I should assume an alter ego? Super Crime-Fighting FSBO Lawyer, Tragic Greek FSBO Hero-Attorney, Super Sleuth Sherlock Holmes-like FSBO Solicitor/Barrister, or ??? Any better ideas (keep’em clean, please…this is a family-friendly site)? 🙂

  4. Hmmmm, how about a “007 license to thrill” us all here on RCG with RE Attorney savvy? How do you look in a tux holding a martini?

    Nice debut Joe…”call me Beitey, Joe Beitey” LOL!

  5. Hi Jillayne,

    Ugh…I just tried to respond to your comment #2; but lost it. Now I’ll have to do it over again…darn computers!! 🙁

    Glad you like the “Real Estate Mumbo Jumbo” ad currently has running on 710 KIRO AM radio. A former customer gave us the idea.

    Personally, I’d like to see everyone flourish in their chosen career(s). I sympathize a lot for those stuggling to make ends meet as a real estate agent…I had similar problems getting started as an attorney (long story). I’m certain there are those that have been mislead, either negligently or intentionally, into believing they can make a LOT of money easily as a real estate agent (mortgage banking has a similar problem from what I’ve heard…would you agree?). I don’t have a “cure” for this. Other than to say put forth your best effort, and if you still don’t like being a real estate agent, change to something else (make a personal decision, and try to be the best that you can be at whatever you decide). Thankfully, we’re still allowed to do this in America (but there are barriers to some careers).

    As to whether there is room for ALL licensees under the current business model of the major franchise brokers? I doubt it (and that’s more an economic answer than a legal answer). The franchises will inevitably pursue their own self-interests. If a licensee’s self-interest match those of the franchise, great, there is room for them. However, If they don’t match, I don’t think there is room for them w/in the franchise. Does anyone have a different opinion? To me, the rapid rise of Zillow clearly indicates that many consumers can and want to take ownership of their own home selling/buying transaction…we’ll have to see if Zillow stays their current path, or “sells out” in some fashion or another.

    Finally, as to what makes a “good” real estate agent? The best answer I have for that is the same thing a judge told me when I was sworn in as an attorney (which, btw, is the same basic advice my wonderful Grandmother told me): “Adhere to the higher tenants of your profession, and abide by the Golden Rule…treat others as you would want them to treat you.”

  6. Hi Jillayne (again),

    Oh yeah, that’s right, Mikey was Life cereal, not Chex…thanks for straightening me out on that. Whatever happened to Mikey anyway???

  7. Hi Deborah,

    Good ideas…I like the way you think!! 🙂 How do I look in a tux? Hmmm…I workout almost daily; but maybe I should let others answer that for me (I haven’t worn a tux in several years though). I’d definitely want to emulate Sean Connery…I think he’s the best James Bond by far. We’d need to fill out the rest of the characters though…since you had the idea, would you want to play a character? Moneypenny, a Bond girl, or the new “M”, perhaps?

    How about a spoof on “Joe Friday”? I know he’s a detective; but maybe there’s an angle to work? 🙂

  8. Hi Joe,

    Ah, I am not a fan of the Golden Rule because it doesn’t work.

    One person’s idea of “treating others as if” might be radically different from another person’s idea.

    So in the practice of law, attorneys abide by their code of ethics. In that code, attorneys are told in a very descriptive and detailed way how to treat people.

    Real estate agents do have their Realtor Code, but not all agents choose to join the Assoc of Realtors and it is not mandatory to join.

    So what is a “good” agent?

    This is the question that the real estate commission/dept of licensing has been working on, what the Realtor community ponders, what brokers think about and talk about day in and day out.

    I believe there is a growing need for agents who are:

    experienced OR are currently working with an experienced agent or under the guidance of an experiened mentor
    competitive yet cooperative when needed
    good listeners

    and so on. Anyone: feel free to contribute to the list!

    (sense of humor, generously gives out invitations to Joost to fellow bloggers…)

    I believe that there is not a growing need for agents who…..pass the licensing exam and enter the market with no additional guidance or direction, sell a couple of homes to friends and family and then find another job. UNLESS a large corporation creates a business model exactly for this type of agent and pays them a very small salary to do narrowly defined tasks such as unlocking a home for sale to show to potential buyers.

  9. Awh, Jillayne…come on…you don’t believe in the Golden Rule? That’s like saying you don’t believe in Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. 😉

    Actually, I agree with Joe and do believe in the Golden Rule…or even, “What goes around, comes around”. I treat my clients as I would want to be treated. It’s pretty simple. Overall, it’s worked fine for me.

    Welcome to RCG, Joe!

  10. Hi Jillayne,

    The Golden Rule has “worked” to help me, and I’ll continue to use it. I have an internal sense of good/bad, right/wrong, and better/worse, so it works for me (I give primary credit for that to my parents & grandparents…they took the extra time to try to raise my brothers and me “correctly”). However, I’m also not so foolish as to expect or rely on others to embody these same attributes, including “professionals” (and I include my own profession here).

    At the risk of sounding too metaphysical, and getting off point, to me, you have either an internal force compelling you to do “good”, or you have an external force doing this (I can also see a combo of these two; but we’re still talking the same basic elements). Ultimately, I feel our society is better served by putting forth a concerted effort to encourage primarily personal internal forces compelling us to do “good”, instead of external ones. I have a pretty good imagination, and I don’t like the thought of what the government could/would do to force me to be “good” (if the government could ever define such).

    I’ve found that ultimately, everything comes down to judgement. Whether something is “good” or “bad” is so often circumstantially driven. I, like probably a lot of people, can get very pessimistic at times…so many of our “leaders” and “professionals” don’t even try to follow the Golden Rule, so of course it doesn’t work.

    I agree with you that in many situations we’re better off w/out the “weekend real estate warrior” as you describe. However, I can also envision other scenarios in which these people were mislead into believing they’d make a lot of money in real estate (or mortgage, law, etc), and it takes them a little while to figure out this isn’t the career for them they thought it would be.

    I’m not sure if that really answers anything? As you asked…anyone out there in blog-land have anything else to contribute as to what makes a “good” real estate agent?

  11. Hi Rhonda,

    Thanks for the warm welcome to RCG. After Dustin’s initial welcome when I first joined RCG, you were the 1st person I talked to on RCG…woohoo…what an honor, huh? 🙂

    P.S. Thanks for checking up on the domain name availability of “FSBO Joe” for me the other day, btw. 🙂 Hmmm…my search for an alter-ego for myself seems to be elusive as the search for the Holy Grail. LOL 🙂

  12. So How DID Turbotax affect CPAs?

    Welcome Joe!! Do that article about the 6 mos. provision in the Listing Contract over here when you get a chance. Not a cut and paste of course, just a new article on that topic.

    I’d love to see the comment flow on that one. Of course I’ll be pushing the comment flow in the direction I want it to go, as usual 🙂


  13. Another vote for ‘The Golden Rule” from me!

    Nice list Jillayne, I would like to add “resourceful” and “professional” to your list. I know professional is overused and abused, but I think it implies a certain level of service or standard that should be adhered to.

    The winds of change in Real Esate are exciting and the changes are bringing choices to the consumer…a very good thing…although with choices comes the need/responsibility for the consumer to become educated to make good decisions.

    Something the wind does very well is “winow out the chaff from the grain”. So blow, wind blow…the RE agents and RE services who provide the consumers with value will remain, while those who don’t are winowed away.

    BTW Joe…While I’d love to be a Beitey Girl (I mean Bond Girl!), I am probably more of a Miss Moneypenny…providing help and support are more my forte! LOL!

  14. Hi Rhonda,

    I figured out Santa Claus at a very young age. The Golden Rule doesn’t work because not everyone wants to be treated the way you want to be treated.

    Why not turn it around: treat others as THEY want to be treated (instead of how you wish to be treated.)


    it sounds like you had a great family upbringing. Not every person does. Not every person was able to internalize good/bad/right/wrong. You would be amazed at the stories I hear during any random ethics class.

    I am an optimist in that I do believe everyone (with some very minor exceptions) has the capacity to develop ethically.

    A “good” real estate agent will be successful no matter where he or she works: traditional real estate firm, discount real estate brokerage, or some other business model.

  15. I would like to introduce a little twist here. A “good” agent for Joe is not necessarily a “good” agent for Rhonda. Every consumer comes with their own and differing set of needs. Every agent comes with their own and differing set of qualifications, specialties, and fortes.

    That we do all things, does not make us equally competent at all things we do. I usually know pretty quickly if I am not a good match for a given cosumer, and vice versa.

    Just because I choose not to work with a given consumer on occassion does not make them “bad”, just not suited to my talents.

    I once had a call from a repeat client saying he heard that a property could be had for 50% of value and wanted me to run up and help him get it. I asked why any seller would sell that low. He said the seller wasn’t aware of the real value so we had to hurry. I declined and told him I would not participate in that type of activity.

    Some people would say that makes me a “bad” agent. I say I was just not the correct agent for that situation, and told him so immediately, so that he could find somone else quickly.

  16. Ardell, your explaination of what a “good” agent would work for one and not the other also explains my point about “the golden rule”. If a consumer did not appreciate my defination of “the golden rule”, then we may not be a good fit for each other. And that would not make me a “bad” mortgage professional.

    I think the “golden rule” is a great basis to rely on when we have to make difficult decisions. “Would I sell this loan/house to my sister?” I think I do tend to treat my clients like family… at least those I have the opportunity to get to know.

    Jillayne, you might get a chuckle out of this…”the golden rule” was referenced in our WAMB ethics class. 😉

  17. Joe, you had me going for a minute. I was loading my canons and building up steam. Thanks for letting us down easy. I look forward to an attys perspective in the mix. Congrats on the addition as a contributor.

  18. Ahh Yes Rhonda, like family, not like myself. I don’t treat myself well enough to apply the Golden Rule. I often “pretend” they are my sister or my Mother or Brother or Uncle or many, many times, my child…I try to find the right image.

    Stuck my foot in my mouth this weekend though as I was using Mother when I should have used Sister…Mother fit my feelings better…but not her age LOL

    We have clients that are really like our children, many in fact. We get cards from them and I turn to Kim and say “Oh Kim, look what “the kids” sent us”. It’s really funny how we embrace them and they us. We actually become like family to them. Reminds me, haven’t heard from one of them for awhile…have to email them.

  19. Ethics takes a lot of work because it requires us to think.
    Sometimes it is easier for people to just memorize some basic principles and try to apply them to every situation.
    That’s okay.
    It’s a start.

    I hear alot of folks on raincityguide talk about being a “professional.”

    Being a professional means having to think further about ethics beyond the golden rule.

    In the class we teach, we help students understand why it doesn’t work, and especially why it doesn’t work in business.

    Take Lynlee’s story from the most recent RCG blog post. The retail mortgage salesperson in that example held a belief that taking the extra $3500 for himself or herself was completely fine. Some people believe that in dealing with a retail sales person (of any kind), you ought to expect that the salesperson is going to try and make as much money as possible. Therefore, the retail mortgage salesperson believes he or she is completely justified in making as much money as possible off the consumer.

    Treating others as if….works just fine for some people….as long as you understand that some people are completely at ease with expecting you to try to maximize your profits….and they will, in turn, attempt to do the same to you.

  20. Hi Everyone,

    Wow, I left for an appointment last night, and yet the conversation continues on…great!! 🙂

    Deborah, (or would you prefer Miss (or was it “Ms”) Moneypenny?), I can use all the help & support I can get…it’s comforting to know we have a good person like yourself back at MI5 (or was it MI6?). Yikes, I’d better get that correct, huh? 🙂

    Keith, Glad you didn’t hit the “launch button” on me…I wasn’t trying to trigger “Defcon IV” & anger anyone…especially on my 1st post!! 🙂

    Rhonda, I think you came closer in your post #20 to what I was trying to get at. When I’m hired as an attorney I owe a fiduciary duty to my client to act in their best interest (real estate agents have RCW 18.86, which is a codified version of their earlier fiduciary duty…in essence they’re the same thing…we’re acting in a position of high trust & confidence). I’ve found applying the Golden Rule has helped me in representing my clients. If my client & I are so mis-matched that I can’t keep their best interests in mind for some reason or another, we’re both better off not entering into an attorney-client relationship, and this would also work for a real estate agent-client relationship.

    Jillayne, I agree with your statements in your comment #23…we should think beyond the Golden Rule as much as possible. I think the inherent “adverse nature” of a commission-based payment structure that a real estate agent has with their client puts at risk the degree of representation the client may otherwise receive. Maybe you’d want to write a whole seperate post on this??? In theory at least, a move away from commission-based pay (such as a flat-fee or hourly-based fee) may help the ethical delima we’ve been discussing. BTW, I’m glad you’re more an optimist…in spite of the fact I said I can get pessimistic, I prefer to live my life the same. We lawyers are “trained skeptics”…we hear are everyone else’s problems…maybe that’s why they call us “counselors”?

  21. Welcome Joe!- Great to have another legal perspective here- and another being in the “non-traditional” broker camp..Chris Nye get in here and comment please…or become a contributor

    It’s always been Darwinian in real estate just not as much as other industries thanks to NAR…See DOJ lawsuit.. now that’s changing…

    Like Zillow I received a cease and decist order but from Washington state last year…talked to DOJ- fought it and WON..the state backed down before going to trial…looks like the same is happening to Zillow…it all started from a complaint from a protectionist competitor.

    Innovators like MLS4owners,, Zillow, and Redfin are having an impact and inproving the experience for the’s to less MUMBO JUMBO!

  22. You have ” Good Eggs” and ” Bad Eggs” In all professions. Real Estate Agents in my opinion, get targeted easily because it’s about the bottom line for the seller. Some sellers are realistic and some are not. When you cannot turn that HUGE profit they wanted or expected they assume you did not do your job.

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