I’d rather be poked with a pitchfork than be told to shut the hell up…

I spend quite a bit of my time digging through various groups and forums that deal with real estate in my efforts to keep abreast of current goings on, sentiments, et al.  It’s my way of staying on top of my game as a marketer with a lot of real estate agent and brokerage clients.  As is to be expected, some discussions get rather heated, and our egos and tempers occasionally get the better of us.  I’m as guilty of this as the next guy or gal, or likely more so than most, but… even in the midst of a really heated debate, I can’t imagine winning an argument by telling someone who disagrees with my point of view to take a hike, for any reason, or that they need to meet some professional or educational requirements in order to be entitled to an opinion.

For years now I’ve been fighting the prevailing sentiments that all vendors suck, or slightly more nuanced interpretations of the same.  For years we are being told that unless we make our living by transacting real estate, we should refrain from voicing our opinions on the state of the industry on a whole or on any specifics, less maybe those that pertain to what we do.  I’m sick to death of hearing that we are not qualified to judge or opine because we  don’t know what it’s like to sell real estate day in and day out.  The latest blowup revolved around a rather eloquent post by Marc Davison of 1000Watt Consulting>> where Marc provided an account of one of his friends’ real estate experience gone wrong as a segue into a plea to help make the industry better.

I am not surprised to see that some people got offended at what they perceived as some broad brush strokes, but I am surprised and offended at the anger directed at what amounts to as a messenger in this case.  Without quoting everyone from the thread in question>>, which you can click through easily enough, the overwhelming sentiment among the shallow readers seemed to be that one, especially an outsider, should not criticize the industry.  We should all instead engage in collective peace pipe smoking or some other kumbuya alternative.

And of course the oft voiced refrain that as vendors who are “fed” by the real estate industry, we should all tuck our tails between our legs or risk losing our shirts.

I am one of those vendors.  I am also a consumer and a marketer.  Part of my job is to try to see the world from as many different perspectives as I can get my virtual hands on.  I spend the majority of my time predicting people’s future reactions to the messages and collateral that we create.  This applies to any responsible marketer (or should).  That’s just what we do.  That’s what Marc does.  That, in fact, should be the reason that people hire an ad agency or a marketing company in the first place.  In all the other industries we’ve ever worked with, it seemed to be understood that consumer opinion was not only important but imperative to the success of their campaigns, and to the success and reputation of their business.  When Dominos chose to face the criticisms head on, they earned a ton of fans in the process.  They created media assets around how horrendous their old pizza was.  They (humbly) but publicly apologized, and, from what I’m told, made their product better.

I would love nothing more than for this industry that we work in daily to come to terms with those consumer and outsider opinions, no matter how unpleasant.  It’s easier to bury a crappy real estate transaction than a lousy pizza, of course, if only because real estate transactions for most people simply don’t occur often enough to generate consistent expectations and consequent feedback.  But I’d venture a theory that precisely because real estate purchases are so rare over the course of our lives, every single transaction gone wrong has a tremendous impact on the overall reputation of the industry.

I would posit that for every lazy or incompetent agent, good agents are losing money every time the former butchers the deal.

I’m told that all a consumer has to do is make sure they choose the best agents, and that should they have a bad experience, simply realize that it is their fault for not having chosen more wisely.  I’d like to challenge my real estate agent and broker friends to create a list of criteria that a consumer should use in order to determine competency level of any given real estate agent.  I’d like for that list to include actual resources where consumers could verify any transaction numbers, should those be part of the criteria.  As it stands right now, I don’t think anything like that exists.  I also know from a few previous attempts to bring such transparency to the consumers that agents were the first and loudest to fight such efforts (successfully, I might add).

Until that happens, I will loudly and publicly fight the status quo.  I will stick up for people and businesses who have something important to say and for their right to say it.  And I will keep staking our very reputation on the idea that if we are not passionate about the space we operate in, we have no business being in it.  And that anyone who is passionate about any industry will never stop trying to improve it, which requires being willing to state the negatives wherever they exist.  Anything short of that would indeed be a disservice to the industry, to our clients and most importantly – to those very consumers that we all serve.

Your thoughts?

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15 Responses to I’d rather be poked with a pitchfork than be told to shut the hell up…
  1. Jeff Turner
    October 18, 2012 | 11:10 pm


    A while back I wrote a post about the copyright dangers of Pinterest. A commenter left this: “it is your position to figure out ways that they can use this FOR real estate instead of identifying ways in which Pinterest is not relavant to R.E. today. You have the voice and real estate is relying on you for this.”

    No. My job is to state my opinion. And if my opinion is that something is primarily a waste of time, or that there are dangers that people should be aware of, then it’s going to get stated. There are plenty of people willing to gleefully jump on the latest bandwagon, some of them with good intentions and some of them with no so good intentions. My job, as a friend of the real estate industry, is to try and make it better. Sometimes that can be accomplished with a pat on the back. Sometimes it may require a kick in the butt.

    • inna hardison
      October 19, 2012 | 10:13 am

      I recall that, Jeff. Interesting how the person doesn’t get that you only have the voice precisely because you state your opinions on things in the first place.

      There are far too many calls for cheer-leading lately, and maybe I am weird or cynical or both, but I just don’t have the stomache for it.

  2. Vic Yepello
    October 17, 2012 | 3:54 pm

    Criticism is good. Without it we as agents will fail. That said….

    I read much of the thread, I read the 1000 Watt article and I read this post ( Great post Inna). All is good except for one question I’d like to pose regarding the 1000 Watt article.

    What I believe I read in the article was an assumption that because one guy had a bad agent – then it stands to reason all agents may be the same. If my understanding is correct, then I can see why some the FB group got their panties in a bunch. And it may be that some were being overly defensive too.

    Did anyone else get that from the article?

    What the root cause may really be is something we covered ages ago in Jimmy Mackin’s Tech Group and that is training, re-training and some brokerage’s failure to keep an eye on their agents. Agents demand supervision because some are indeed lazy and should be weeded out.

    But the worst of all offenders are the broker/agents who answer only to themselves. I find those types to be my nightmare every time I do a deal with one of them because they answer to no one and unless they cross an ethical line, my hands are tied.

    And should a seller come along who has this breed of agent, then yes, that seller may not end up having the best experience.

  3. Miriam Bernstein
    October 17, 2012 | 2:07 pm

    this is a well thought out piece Inna. Your idea of putting in an area and having those agents that produce in that area come up with reviews is interesting but I wonder how then a new agent would break into the area or how to prevent consumers making the assumption that those are the agents to contact when there can be wonderful agents who just need a chance?….perhaps you have some thoughts and this idea can be tweaked a bit….

    and one sentence in your piece puzzles me and perhaps I misunderstood it – “that we work in”

    “I would love nothing more than for this industry that we work in daily to come to terms with those consumer and outsider opinions, no matter how unpleasant.”

    • inna hardison
      October 17, 2012 | 2:33 pm

      Hi Miriam, and thanks for the comment. As to the one line that confused you, here is the way I see it. About 90% of our clients are real estate agents and brokerages. We handle everything, from business planning and recruitment strategies, to helping them streamline their processes, in addition of course to marketing that we do for them. So in that way, yes, we do work within the real estate industry daily. Hope this helps.

  4. Sharon Steele
    October 17, 2012 | 9:22 am

    Great post, Inna! I have to confess that I rather enjoy the knee jerk reactions and defensive stances I see from my colleagues. The obsession agents seem to have with perpetuating poor business practices and the lack of a willingness to accept constructive criticism from people outside of the industry has actually afforded me an advantage. While they are out there moaning and groaning about how difficult their job is and no one else can possibly understand it, and while they are steadfastly holding on to their outdated methods, I am quietly watching, listening, and learning. I am focused on building my business and branding myself as an agent who works hard and who works smart, and an agent who hears what the consumer is looking for. I sincerely hope that these ridiculous debates continue, i appreciate the distraction it is to agents locked in their ways. While they are lamenting their past, I will forge ahead differentiating myself from the pack.

    • inna hardison
      October 17, 2012 | 2:36 pm

      Sharon – I don’t think lousy or lazy agents help anyone. I really don’t. Every time you end up dealing with a client who may have had a crappy real estate experience in the past, you are fighting an uphill battle, at least initially. Consumer perception of the industry as a whole isn’t something any individual member of that industry can walk away from completely unscathed. 🙂

      • Miriam Bernstein
        October 17, 2012 | 3:52 pm

        Actually it does clear up where you are coming from and I understand now, thank you.

  5. Kelly Mitchell
    October 16, 2012 | 11:15 pm

    As a licensed practicing agent AND vendor, I am incensed by the perception someone has to be licensed and practicing to voice what is wrong with the real estate industry. I personally welcome anyone who has ideas and input on what needs to be fixed (the list is long and the mentality not always open). Most importantly those who have had a negative experience. When we cease to listen to our clients and the consumers who experience practices that need evolving, when we cork that information so vital to understand, we have truly screwed ourselves. Truly.

    • Inna Hardison
      October 19, 2012 | 10:27 am

      Hi Kell. I am always incensed when anyone is told to shut up, no matter the circumstances, less maybe fools who talk through the movies in theaters. 🙂 Thanks for reading me and getting me!

  6. Betty Jung
    October 16, 2012 | 7:57 pm

    When I go on appointments, I provide documentation for my sales, testimonials, references and my manager (broker’s) phone number so that any prospective seller or buyer can verify what I say and make a decision based on their needs. I have had many buyers and sellers use that information to verify and check up on me. In our State now, you cannot say you are #1 without proving you are. I am all for improvement and constructive criticism in our industry but felt the article wasn’t constructive at all, but rather negative – which is of no use or of any help. Further, I am continually trying to improve my service, education, etc. even after 37 years, for my customers’ benefit.

    • Inna Hardison
      October 19, 2012 | 10:29 am

      Betty, part of my frustration, if you will, comes from a consumer perspective of one who doesn’t WANT to go through a few dozen agent meetings/appointments only to be sold to. How does a consumer find agents to even interview, and at what point is it ok for me us, consumers, to say that we don’t necessarily trust what someone “pitching us” at the moment tells us>?

      I’ll also say that there was a ton of constructive advice in Marc’s article.

  7. Michael McClure
    October 16, 2012 | 6:25 pm

    Inna –

    Great post. I totally agree with your perspectives.

    Also, as the founder of the Facebook group in which this conversation took place, I too am consistently frustrated by the knee-jerk defensiveness and categorical, abject denial of my industry’s reputation problem by so many real estate professionals (and this reputation issue seems to be a secret only to those who actually work in the industry).

    As I said in the aforementioned thread:

    “It’s interesting how people react to criticism of “their population.”

    I, for one, never take it personally, because:

    [1] it’s entirely possible for an observation about “my population” to be true….but to not apply to me personally (so it really has nothing to do with me, so why would I take offense?), and

    [2] the criticism may actually have merit, be rooted in reality or be founded upon surveys or studies conducted by reputable sources that are readily locatable by doing a simple Google search (so, if it’s true, being angry or defensive is just a form of denial).

    And, if [2] happens to be the case, I certainly would never discriminate against anyone – vendor or otherwise – for simply echoing a perspective that is substantiated by more than whimsy, an axe to grind or random opinion. I only shoot the messenger if that messenger is delivering false information.

    Also, FWIW, if you missed this from a few years ago, REALTOR® Magazine conducted a readers poll, which I wrote about in the post below. I reference this simply to show that this is the perspective FROM INSIDE the industry, NOT from “an outsider.”


    Stated differently, if there isn’t a problem, why is so much written about it?

    Either there IS a legitimate problem, or you, me, Marc Davison and a lot of other people have pulled off a massive, brilliantly orchestrated conspiracy to besmirch an entire industry.

    More likely, where there’s smoke, there’s fire…

    In terms of services that Verify the credentials of a real estate professional, the absence of such is why we created VerifiedAgent.com just about a year ago. No solution is perfect, but ours aims to do precisely what you are suggesting.

    Thanks for continuing to speak your mind. Our industry is the better for it…

    Michael McClure

  8. gorgeous george
    October 16, 2012 | 6:23 pm

    Those that proclaim only members of an organization have the right to criticize the organization need to recall the holocaust.

  9. Coleen DeGroff
    October 16, 2012 | 5:18 pm

    My thoughts??


    My thoughts are 1) last time I checked this was a free country; 2) in said free country there is supposedly a nifty little document floating around which says free speech is our right; 3) real estate is not brain surgery – why the hell can’t anyone who is not in the industry — including brain surgeons — express their opinions about their experiences, or share their views about real estate professionals?

    If we are TRULY invested in changing our industry for the better, it seems to me that we ALL must quit trying to make lists re who is allowed to weigh in, then put on our collective big boy and big girl panties and get to work.

    And if this opinion pisses anyone off, grab a number and get in line. You’ve got a long wait.

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