Agents of change: Crye-Leike Danny Burke Joins The Discussion – Realtors work to protect credibility in bad market, Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Agents of change: Crye-Leike Danny Burke Joins The Discussion – Realtors work to protect credibility in bad market, Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tennessee, USA
Thu, 22 May 09 (bdbroker2) Photo by Brandon Dill / Special to The Commercial Appeal - Crye-Leike broker Danny Burke turns out the lights after showing a house to potential buyer Patrick Maier.Crye-Leike broker Danny Burke turns out the lights after showing a house to potential buyer Patrick Maier. (Photo Courtesy of: Brandon Dill - Special to The Commercial Appeal)

Business News

 

By Don Wade, Memphis Commercial Appeal

 

Sunday, May 31, 2009

 

Shakespeare’s line, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” has endured.

 

And inspired: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the …”

 

Used car salesmen.

 

Reporters.

 

Real estate agents.

 

Mike Lawhead isn’t a lawyer or a used car salesman. But for 14 years he was a television reporter at Channel 3 and he’s now a broker with Caldwell Banker in his 18th year in real estate.

 

In the midst of a tough residential market and in the aftermath of a presidential campaign in which the only common ground was disdain for the mass media, he isn’t sure who the public trusts less.

 

“It’s probably a tossup these days,” Lawhead said with a laugh. “Neither one of us is near the top of the credibility chart.”

 

Yet as any agent — or reporter — will attest, credibility is all.

 

“Memphis is not a huge market, like a Chicago, so word spreads quickly,” said Jules Wade, executive vice president with the Memphis Area Association of Realtors. “If one or two agents aren’t knowledgeable or their ethics aren’t great, then they can damage the reputation of everybody.”

 

Most people actually seem to be satisfied with their experience buying or selling a home. The 2008 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers found that nearly nine out of 10 home buyers and sellers would “definitely” or “probably” use the same agent again, or recommend the agent to others.

 

“Not that there’s not money to be made, but we’re in the service business,” said Danny Burke, 48, a broker with Crye-Leike. “We’re more of a concierge.”

 

That same survey also found that 38 percent of sellers found their agent as a result of referral, while 26 percent had used the agent in a previous home purchase. Similarly, 43 percent of buyers relied on referrals to find an agent and 18 percent of repeat buyers used an agent from a previous transaction.

 

“It’s word of mouth recommendations,” said Walter Molony, spokesman for the National Association of Realtors. “The most important thing to consumers is trustworthiness and knowledge of the market.”

 

The dramatic change in the market over the last couple of years also may have influenced some attitudes — and there are some strong attitudes out there.

 

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, wrote in a column for Inman News that while checking out various consumer Internet sites she found a post with more than 2,000 views that declared, “Realtors are like vultures.”

 

Ross went on to write: “This level of contempt seems to be aimed at everyone in the industry. This is unfortunate because there are thousands of agents who put their customers first.”

 

But there aren’t as many agents as there once were. Both MAAR and the NAR report membership has dropped.

 

In 2007, MAAR membership stood at 4,981. In 2009, it’s at 3,949.

 

“When the market was really hot, so many people were (selling real estate),” Lawhead, 63, said. “You got some bad apples. The really committed people are still doing it. There are no fast-buck artists now.”

 

The 2009 National Association of Realtors Member Profile shows more than one-third of Realtors are now using social and professional networking sites. Many also have secondary business activities, Molony says, such as property management, appraisal or insurance businesses.

 

NAR’s membership stood at more than 1.3 million in 2006 and was just under 1.2 million in 2008.

 

“But we’re still beyond where we were before the boom began,” Molony said, noting that membership was at 767,000 in 2000.

 

When it comes time to sign, home sales are still about competing agents working together. Wade says in the Memphis market, about three-fourths of multiple listing transactions involve competing agents.

 

“It can’t be done just by technology,” Wade said. “It has to be face to face and working out everything from contract to closing.”

 

So, too, is trust from a public that may or may not understand what it’s really like to be in the business.

 

Burke enjoys the freedom to somewhat set his hours and takes advantage of that to begin each school day by playing catch at the bus stop with his 12-year-old son Logan.

 

“But doesn’t mean I’m not leaving the house at 9 on a Saturday morning or getting home late Sunday night,” said Burke, who has been in real estate since 1988.

 

“I’m certain there’s a small percentage of people out there that are thinking, ‘You’re getting yours now.’ They see it as an easy industry.

 

“It was never easy.”

 

–Don Wade: 529-2358