If you are looking to buy or sell a home, which is easily a $200,000 or higher transaction, you would think that the integrity of who is helping you through the process would be of paramount concern. In fact, according to the National Association Of Realtors’ 2016 Profile Of Home Buyers And Sellers, 21% of home buyers and sellers listed honesty and trustworthiness as the most important factor in choosing a real estate agent. That was higher than any other factor listed for home buyers and it was the second most important factor for home sellers.
However, depending upon who you talk to and what data you are looking at, you get very different answers on what the public actually thinks of real estate agent integrity. That same NAR profile report suggests a fairly high public opinion of realtor integrity with 89% of home buyers saying they were very satisfied with the honesty and integrity of their real estate agent. Furthermore, 73% of home buyers and 70% of home sellers said that they would use their agent again or recommend them to others.
How Real Estate Agents Rank Against Other Professions For Integrity
However, the Gallup organization periodically checks to see what the public thinks of the honesty and ethics of various professions and real estate agents haven’t come out looking too good. The chart below ranks professions based upon the percentage of survey respondents who rated the profession either very high or high. As you can see nurses came out on top and members of congress came in at the bottom. Real estate agents ranked in about the middle of the pack, just a smidgen above lawyers, governors, and business executives. Note that I inserted real estate agents in the graph below, using other Gallup data, as they were not originally included.
How The Perception Of Real Estate Agents Has Changed Over Time
Gallup has been collecting this data for at least 40 years and it shows that the public perception of real estate agents has actually improved a bit over that time. In the graph below I’ve aggregated the responses into 3 buckets to simplify the graph and it shows that the percentage of people who rate realtors very high or high has gone up from a low of 13% in 1983 to a high of 20% in 2015, which appears to be the last time they surveyed this question.
I can’t really offer an explanation as to why the public’s perception of realtors has improved but let’s face it…20% is really not that high for someone who is supposed to help you buy or sell real estate probably valued at at least $200,000. And it’s also interesting that, while consumers have a low opinion of the honesty and ethics of the real estate profession, they are pretty satisfied with the integrity of their own agent – i.e. the problem is everyone else’s agent.
This discrepancy in perceptions sounds like a rationalization of the consumers’ own choice of agents, which I see on a regular basis. The consumer senses that something is wrong in the industry but they don’t know how to deal with it. Whatever squishy process they use to select an agent they convince themselves that they made a good choice, whereas they would be better off simply employing a more rigorous selection process from the beginning. My advice has always been to check a realtor’s reviews – not just the number of stars, but the actual comments – before moving forward with them – even if you think you know them. You will find it enlightening.
Gary Lucido is the President of Lucid Realty, the Chicago area’s full service discount real estate brokerage. If you want to keep up to date on the Chicago real estate market, get an insider’s view of the seamy underbelly of the real estate industry, or you just think he’s the next Kurt Vonnegut you can Subscribe to Getting Real by Email using the form below. Please be sure to verify your email address when you receive the verification notice.