Arizona Licensed Agents
As of writing this, there are around 92k licensed Agents in the state of Arizona. About half of those are in the Maricopa Valley area, including everything around Phoenix.
It’s said that about 20% of the real estate agents sell 80% of the real estate out there.
Agents that sell about 15 homes a year will be in the top 10% of the industry.
That puts THOUSANDS of agents at the bottom of the list, selling one or two homes a year. A good part time agent may sell about 4 houses in a year.
If you did your job once or twice a year, would you consider yourself to be fully sufficient at what you do? I think it would be a stretch. You’d forget log in’s, you’d forget some of the rules… or even miss some of the changes that had occurred since the last time.
Real Estate is governed heavily, but the States Commissioner, the State Associations, the Local Associations, as well as our National Association.
Lets put this into perspective… House wise
The state has a process for getting license, no matter what your profession.
A General Contractor can build a home from the ground up. They’re managing the structure of the house, connecting the live wires, and plumbing that runs through your home. Those cabinets on your wall, filled with tons of heavy plates? Put up by Contractors. The outlets that you plug into daily? Put in by Contractors.
A Contractor has to take a rigorous test in order to become licensed, but there is typically no class required. There are other requirements… but they’re expected to just know the laws and codes.
A Real Estate Agent must attend 90 hours of classes, focused purely on legalities and statutes, with a little vocabulary (none that we actually use) and such mixed in. At the end, we take a long test on State and National regulations.
After licensing… A Real Estate Agent must continue on with education, taking 24 hours of state approved continuing education ever 2 years in order to continue working in our business.
We must abide by a national set Code of Ethics.
We are also regulated by a number of commissioners rules that govern our business.
A contractor has none of these hurdles to jump through… they are simply building and repairing the homes you live in.
Now… I say this with a little experience. While I myself am a Licensed Broker… my husband is a Licensed General Contractor and Electrician. I watch him research and study updated codes and learn from others… his dedication is amazing… but what amazes me more is that no one is watching him. The state doesn’t require he take the education he does…. He does it voluntarily.
Real Estate Agents however…. We’re expected to know all of our regulations, and we’re watched closely.
Apparently, the state feels that what we do is worth the extra guidance.
I point this out because I feel like it really puts things in to perspective… Most people think that a Real Estate agent is expendable… they can do our job themselves, no problem.
And it’s true… anyone can sell their house or find a home to buy… And they may even believe that things went well. Until they find out that what they didn’t know cost them thousands.
And THAT is why Real Estate Agents are so heavily regulated.
So, how do you know if your Real Estate Agent is one of the good ones?
Real Estate is an ever changing field. There are thousands of Real Estate Advocates out there fighting for regulations that govern our business as well as all things home ownership wise.
The affordability of our property taxes? Thank a REALTOR®.
No sales tax on services? Thank a REALTOR®.
The ability to decide how you get to live in your home, and not be restricted by your HOA? Thank a REALTOR®
Real Estate Agents are everywhere, and whether they close 1 transaction a year or 100, they are part of a large group of advocates fighting for everyone’s quality of life here in AZ.
With that being said… There are great agents, and there are not so great agents… and there is no rating system or sign on their back. In most cases, the not so great agents continue to represent their clients at a less than great level because their clients don’t know any different.
So, how do you know you’re hiring one of the Great ones?
Here are a few things that I’ve noticed from the truly exceptional:
- They are often found taking classes. Whether they can’t answer the phone because they’re in a class, or they’re posting pictures from their classes, you know when agents take classes throughout the year, rather than waiting till the last minute.
- They take more classes than are required. I think one of the first questions I’d ask an agent (or look up on the ADRE database for myself) is, “how many CE classes did you take last year?” Sure, we’re only required to take 24 hours for a salesperson 30 for Brokers… but someone that’s staying up to date on changes and risk management… they’re taking more than just the minimum. This is their “flare” on their apron. (Yes, my favorite movie is Office Space, in case you got that reference.)
- They often have or are working towards designations or certifications. Most of these classes will count towards an agents required CE… but they are often 4-6 times the cost, and 10 times as informative. When someone is investing in a high quality class, it says that they are investing in representing their clients at a higher level. See how that benefits you, as the client?
- Do they invest in RAPAC? Now, this can go either way… RAPAC is a political action committee that is comprised of volunteers that fight for homeowners rights. Each year hundreds of laws are presented that can affect the affordability in our area, or the quality of life in our state. These laws drive jobs to and from our state, and can have an impact on every aspect of our day to day lives. In most cases, the general public may have no idea that these regulations are even being considered. One of the biggest wins recently was when RAPAC helped to keep Arizona from having to pay a tax on services. How does this affect homeowners? Well, if you have to pay a sales tax on your gardener, your pool guy, your hair stylist, your handyman etc… it brings your cost of living up, tremendously. These taxes would have had a huge impact on our state and been devastating in many ways. So, next time you pay for a massage or a facial or haircut, imaging tipping AND paying an additional [nearly] 10% tax on top. So, when an agent says that they donate to RAPAC… this tells you that they stay informed, connected and involved in our local regulations and homeownership.
- Do they “get involved”? I find that classes can teach you a lot… working hands on in the field can make you a better agents… but getting involved in the local associations or in the local community will make you truly exceptional at what you do and the level of how you do it.
- Do they invest in Real Estate? It’s not a rule, that they have to own Real Estate themselves. Some Agents were highly effected in the crash of 2008, as they invested heavily, but were victim to the worst of the lending issues… the Stated Income Loan. We all shutter at the words. Some agents are still working towards buying their first home. And others are working on building a portfolio of investments that will sustain their lifestyle well into retirement. Either way, it’s important to know that your Agent supports homeownership and believes in what they preach. If they don’t… they don’t understand it well enough to guide you through it.
- The reason behind their choice in Brokerages can tell you a lot. There are a thousand reasons to hang your license with any Brokerage here in AZ. Some agents want as much of the education as they can get, from their own broker. Some agents will say that the tools provided help them run business more efficiently. Sometimes they say that Broker support is the most important aspect. (I happen to agree) And sometimes it’s the environment, the collaboration, the support from their peers. Or, maybe they just believe in the brand, their mission statement or involvement in their community. But the absolute WRONG reason is “Because my Broker leaves me alone and doesn’t charge me much.” …. The agent is representing the Broker… If the Broker doesn’t care enough to be involved, helpful and supportive… how are they guiding and educating their agents as things develop and change? It’s great that they aren’t pestered about paperwork, or nit-picked on wording…. Until their client ends up sued and loses, because the agent didn’t word something correctly on that legally binding contract. A good supportive Broker will spot these issues and help an agent fix things before the client is the one paying for it. Because they value the reputation of the brokerage enough to be known for great representation. And… it’s great that an agent doesn’t pay much for the opportunity to work under the broker’s license… but if their priority is to protect their nickel’s and dimes, sacrificing quality and growth in trade… do you trust them to protect you fully when the time comes? Or is their commission more important than your needs?
- Do they speak about the market and things happening in the Real Estate world? Not required… but isn’t it reassuring when you hire a professional, that they’re passionate about their field enough to talk about what’s going on? Not to mention that you have confirmation that they stay informed and educated… or not, based on how they speak about it.
How do you identify the Not-So-Great?
Identifying the bad agents is easy… they don’t care about your needs, only their commission. They don’t listen to you. They don’t have time to “waste” on you.
Are they part time? Not necessarily! Some of the most caring, knowledgeable and dedicated agents I know are closing a couple deals a year, while doing other jobs like teaching high school history class or running alarm system businesses.
The difference is, they KNOW their limitations and respect the complexity of the business enough to work closely with their Broker to ensure that every client gets top notch care and support. Their lack of experience is made up for by their attention to detail and willingness to ask for help. Sometimes, it’s the part timers that will give the best client representation because it’s in their heart to do so.
So what are some of the red flags to look out for?
- They proudly post about how many online CE courses they can complete, just in the nick of time to renew their license. Now… don’t get me wrong, some agents are GREAT at what they do, and represent at a high level, and just don’t have time to attend a lot of CE classes… I get it. I know some agents that would rather invest $300 in a quality designation on Risk Management, or even join the Risk Management Committee, getting involved at the top, over sitting in a 3 hour course aimed at the beginners. So, I’m not saying that great agents DON’T cram their CE in… But it’s certainly NOT a bragging moment, so I’d have to ask if they care at all about education… and decide from there.
- They proudly proclaim their “Lead Gen” activities on their social media. While every agent has to run a business, and that means marketing and getting exposure… there are many ways to get clients, and if their main source is from the 3 hour “power hour” sessions spent cold calling expired listings and FSBO’s… are they the agent who’s answering your call when you need them? They are typically more focused on getting new clients than taking care of the current ones. They can often be found saying that they’re in the business of lead generating, not sales.
- Their main source of business is from strangers…. Now, while a new agent may only do business with strangers in their first few years. After a while, past clients tend to seek out their old agent, if they valued the service they got the first time. If an agent has been in the business for a few years and isn’t working with repeat clients, or within their sphere… that’s a RED flag!
- They aren’t aware of (or potentially don’t care about) laws they may be breaking. Much of this can be put back on the Broker, for not educating the agent, or not supervising correctly. Many agents are out there advertising without disclosing their Brokerage, running lotteries and contests through Facebook or at Open Houses. Or they may be marketing “off Market” deals they have coming in a few weeks. These things may seem very typical… But what does it say about these agents, and the Broker they work with, that they are breaking the law, or their code of ethics when doing these things? If an agent doesn’t care about potentially ending up fined thousands of dollars to break industry guidelines… are they protecting your money when you’re investing hundreds of thousands into your home?
- Poor marketing… This is a big one! I hear often that an agent won’t hire a photographer to take quality photos, or they put a combo lockbox on a listing because the secure one is just too expensive. Maybe they don’t have signs or business cards to hand out. Not everything is cut and dry… some agents take great photos themselves, ok, we can let that slide. Maybe they don’t like killing trees, so they don’t carry a bunch of cards to be throw away immediately. BUT… There will never be an excuse for using anything less than a secured lockbox on a listing or investing in proper marketing for their business. People who don’t want to waste that $100 for a lockbox should not be in charge of your investment. Likewise, if they don’t care about how they market your home, or their own representation… they don’t care about how their deals turn out. It’s a hard core no from me.
- They are willing to slash their fee, right out of the gate! I know what you’re thinking…. Hey, less commission means more money in my pocket, right? Wrong sir! I’ve seen it time and time again… Agents that are actually willing to (without reason) slash their commission, simply because it was the first question you asked…. These agents end up fitting one of two categories. They are either too green to know better, and haven’t the first clue as to what they’re up against. These may be new agents and they either know that they are still learning and are going to do that on your deal… in which case, you should follow up by asking them about their Broker support… you don’t want them learning by mistakes, on your sale. Or, they’re desperate, lazy or just BAD negotiators. In which case, do you actually want them representing you? I once had a seller choose a cheaper agent than me on their listing… they lost thousands, sold for much less than I could have, and ran to me to help them buy because, as they said, they got exactly what their discount paid for, and it hurt their pocket book. A great agent is worth their weight in gold… but a bad agent can cost you their weight in gold.
Not everything is a red flag
There are a lot of misconceptions out there that shouldn’t be held against an agent.
- Agents that don’t answer their phone…. Does this mean they’re lazy? No. You can refer to another post on that topic, because I personally feel the opposite in most cases. Don’t get me wrong… some agents could use to at least answer their text occasionally… But a missed call does not mean that they aren’t working or aren’t great at representation. Sometimes it can mean quite the opposite.
- They drive an old car…. How good could they be? Lets not judge a book by it’s cover now. Many agents manage their money, with a priority on caring for their family and tending to business needs… and why dump money into a new car when the old one runs just fine? A new, fancy Lincoln doesn’t mean that they’re good at what they do, it just means that they like to drive nice cars.
- They show up in casual clothes, they must not be professional… I am personally turned off by this one. I spent thousands of dollars when I got my license, just on a whole new wardrobe. One that was fresh, clean with zero baby spit up on it. I felt like a power house! Until I spent 6 hours a day driving my car in uncomfortable shoes, sticking to the leather seat in the heat because my dress would slide up… and the day that I had to hop a fence to get into a listing (I don’t want to talk about it)… I said, THAT’S IT! I went back to my jeans and comfy shoes and never looked back! And I’ll tell from my perspective… I’m a better agent when I’m comfortable, able to move freely and unrestrained by business attire. I’ve even broken away from construction sites, covered in paint to show homes. On the other side, I’ve also gone from a siding, dressed in a blouse and heels, to help install baseboards… I’m flexible like that. My point is, maybe don’t judge solely based on their outfit when you meet up. There are PLENTY of way to tell if they’re good or not.
- They’re new in the business…. HUGE misconception here… not all new agents are too green to be good. Keep in mind that some agents hang their license at a brokerage because of how cheap it is…. And others will hang their license with a broker that will guide and educate. Some will offer mentor support and training and others will let them fend for themselves. This is the time when you simply ask about their reason for joining the brokerage that they joined… and other questions that may prove that their knowledge and care may be worth more than that agent going on 20 years in the business.
- Part time leaves no time for you… Not true. Some of the best agents I know are full time employees in another field. They’re business owners, teachers, parents first and foremost… But what makes them exceptional is that they CARE about their clients, and they CARE about the details involved in how they show up for clients. Just like the newbies, they get a bad wrap, as people think that because they don’t do this full time that they couldn’t be great at what they do… well, I’ve seen a lot of full time agents get a little too comfortable and make simple mistakes that could be detrimental to their clients and their Brokers… And I’ve also seen new and part time agents doubt themselves at every step, getting support from their peers and Broker to ensure that those mistakes never happen to their clients. Is anyone perfect? Nope… but being part time doesn’t automatically mean that they’re bad at what they do.
Who you choose as your representation is your choice.
Keep in mind that the state of Arizona has decided that an agent must go through 90 hours of training, pass a test that most don’t pass the first go round, then jump through all kinds of hoops in order to be licensed. At that point, they abide by a national Code of Ethics to treat people fairly and honestly. They are regulated by the state Real Estate Department, the Commissioner, a local association and they must work on the close guidance of a Broker.
That’s a LOT of hurdles!
On top of that, we were given Constitutional right to construct legal documents on behalf of our clients, for the purpose of buying and selling Real Estate, something that most states reserve for the lawyers.
Our association pays thousands of dollars to have a whole legal team, guided by a working committee of Real Estate Agents construct hundreds of pages and documents with terms, timeframes, disclosures and more… to guide our clients through an ALWAYS unique transaction, involved hundreds of thousands of their dollars invested. Transactions that include a various mix of licensed Lenders, Licensed Escrow agents, Licensed Title Agents, Licensed Inspectors and more…
All of these licenses, rules, regulations, and oversight… but why? Because real estate is easy? HA! It’s anything BUT easy…. And by now, I hope you realize how crucial it really is to hire an exceptional agent to represent you through the process.
Remember that an exceptional agent is going to protect you from law suits down the line, and either make you more money or save you more money… where a not-so-great agent may end up costing you more money than you ever realize. You may not even realize the extent of it until that not-so-great agent disappears and you use a new agent the next time… that’s when you’ll realize the difference and you’ll kick yourself for not choosing better the first time!