Real Estate Brokers can Stop Learning After 15 Years

This bill in the General Assembly makes no sense.

Or … get away with it for fifteen years and you’re good to go. Or … after fifteen years, there’s nothing left to learn. Can’t teach old dogs new tricks?

I’ve been assured that the Virginia Association of Realtors will fight this bill; hopefully they’ll have better luck in the House of Representatives, because the bill has unanimously sailed through committee and the Senate. The red italics indicate the proposed change

C. The Board may waive any requirement under the regulations relating to education or experience when the broker or salesperson is found to have education or experience equivalent to that required. The Board shall waive the broker education requirement for any applicant for a brokers license who has, for more than 15 years, owned a real estate brokerage firm and during that time, maintained an active license as a real estate salesperson.

What? If nothing else, this proposal highlights the remarkably low barrier of entry to the real estate profession. That not one Senator felt compelled to vote against it is either astounding or not surprising at all.

This strikes me as an attempt to shore up the flagging real estate business model that has dominated the industry for the last thirty forty fifty plus years. Pure politics wielded by those who are seeking to stave off evolution and obsolescence. Or as Rob says so eloquently:

But at the heart of evolutionary theory is the notion of competition. Evolution is not, as popular usage of the phrase has come to mean, a peaceful, gradual change from one state to another. It is a violent conflict, with winners and losers, and the losers in evolutionary struggle almost always die.

Why are education, evolution and innovation so anathema to many of those in power, who have been in the business for so long?

If time allowed I’d go to the General Assembly and wander the hallways making inquiries of those who have already voted for this bill and lobby those in the House who have yet to vote. But, this is the best forum I have available.

I’m trying to be open minded about this, trying to keep perspective. Maybe I’m mis-reading the bill’s intent. I welcome any defense of the proposed change. Please – educate me (and do it quickly, because there might be another bill out there removing all real estate education requirements).

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  1. Keith January 30, 2009 at 18:34

    If this wasn’t supported by VAR, who did push this through? I find it hard to believe that any Senator thought this idea up on his or her own. Is this an effort by an individual Area Association?

  2. Anonymous January 31, 2009 at 21:10

    The dumbing down of yet another “marginal” service profession in the US. Since the early ’70s the National Association has been pushing education so realtors will be on par with other professions. When will we wake up and smell the roses? A true professional realtor is difficult to find. Jim you may just be the last man standing.

  3. Jim Duncan February 1, 2009 at 09:10

    I would expect the Virginia Association of Realtors to put out a “call to action” for its members to speak out against this tragic, asinine bill. If they don’t speak against it, I read this as tacit support. Had this been a close vote in the Senate rather than a 40-0 vote in favor of the bill, I would likely have a different opinion. If this bill passes, it will be a major setback for the public, but more importantly in my opinion, will seek to enhance the public’s opinion of Realtors being self-interested and not interested in furthering their profession or education.

    Keith –

    I’d love to know, but have not yet done the digging to figure this one out. My assumption is that the proponent is an “old-guard” broker.

    Anon –

    I can’t say I disagree with you.

  4. Paul Erb February 1, 2009 at 11:45

    Whoa, Whoa–and caveat lector here, too, because I am no expert on real estate.

    I can see why Rob thinks evolution has winners and losers, competition, death, struggle. But that’s not it. “Fittest,” for Darwin, meant “best adapted,” not “strongest.” Sure, there might be a few realtors whose education in the school of hard knocks lets them hold on to licensure. I suppose that was the point of giving property-owners privilege in the Constitution: if you can manage a property over time without losing it, you’ve passed every conceivable test, and you’re probably fit to weigh in on important decisions.

    So from an outsider’s perspective, this looks to me like a market-based change to the bill–one that reasons, if you can survive, you must have adapted, and to adapt, you must learned and evolved. That’s compared to a certification-based bill, which is by definition a lagging indicator, and would suggest that grades on tests are the best predictors of success in life. Uh, I don’t think so. Most grades are the best predictors of success on the next test.

    The best-educated realtors will survive–thanks to folks like you, Jim, who keep pushing the limits–and will not rely on the law alone to tell them what they need to know. If there are troglodytes who are trying to control the industry and its standards, this downturn will test them and their cave-life, too; and you who are thinking innovatively will feel uncomfortable for a while, as you are in fact changing a status quo “fitness landscape” that they are dreaming of.

    Bottom line: I think the market will naturally eliminate brokers who try to hoard info, shark off competition, or maintain the outmoded model.

  5. Rob Hahn February 1, 2009 at 14:08

    @Paul –

    The trouble with this is that it isn’t market-based change. It’s government action to protect a government licensed profession. If it were market-based change, with consumers choosing to pay brokers with 15+ years experience with no continuing ed more than they do brokers with 15+ years experience who take continuing ed, then I think I would support it 100%.

    What it does, frankly, is prevent the market from naturally eliminating brokers who are out of date, and unable to adapt. Which, of course, appears to be the new mission of government these days… but that’s another story.


  6. anonymous February 1, 2009 at 16:18

    This bill does not protect the consumer. It appears to protect brokers who ignored the continuing education requirements over the past 15 years. Are we expecting lawsuits against realtors and/or perhaps an unaccountable regulatory enforcement body? The fact that this got to vote is telling in itself.

  7. Jim Duncan February 2, 2009 at 07:59

    Anon –

    You’re absolutely right. It seems that with a lot of things in the real estate profession, lawsuits may be the only recourse to right some wrongs. Darn it.

    Ben –

    It’s simply astonishing to me that this bill passed unanimously. I can’t figure that out …

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