The evolving dynamics in real estate are leading potential homebuyers to scrutinize the expertise and competence of their agents. A startling statistic has emerged, revealing that the majority of real estate license holders sell merely two to ten houses annually. This has sparked debates around the reliability and trustworthiness of real estate agents.

Securing a real estate license involves varying criteria across different states, though some level of education and a passing grade on the Real Estate Sales Association Exam are common requirements. For those aiming to elevate their status to a licensed broker, additional educational strides and tests are typically needed. The specifics of these requirements, however, differ from state to state. Take Florida, for instance, where aspirants must complete a 63-hour pre-licensing course before their exam. Contrast this with California, where candidates are expected to pass three college-level courses prior to their exam attempt.

The education required and successfully passing the examination may satisfy buyers of their agent’s knowledge, but what about the experience? Recent statistics show that the majority of those with real estate licenses sell between under ten homes each year, but many real estate agents may only sell one home per year. Does this give a real estate agent enough experience to guide you successfully through purchasing property? In light of this, buyers must become more educated on how to choose their agent or broker before trusting them to help in the home-buying process.

Recent upheaval in the U.S. real estate industry has augmented these concerns. The National Association of Realtors (N.A.R.) has been upended due to massive personnel changes, harassment claims, and billion-dollar lawsuits. In place for the last century, the N.A.R. holds control over the Multiple Listing Service, boasts over $1 billion in assets, and even controls the word “realtor.” Only dues-paying members can legally call themselves realtors, while others are simply labeled “real estate agents.” 

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However, due to imminent bankruptcy and the exposure of negative practices, the organization is now on the brink of collapse. After a New York Times article accused former N.A.R. president Kenny Parcell of several instances of sexual harassment and retaliation, he stepped down in August 2023. Shortly after, chief executive Bob Goldberg and head of human resources, Donna Gland, retired early. Former N.A.R. president Tracy Kasper was forced to suddenly resign after a strange incident seemingly involving blackmail. Kevin Sears has now stepped up as N.A.R. president. 

But the organization’s troubles do not end there. A recent lawsuit discredited the organization by ruling that the N.A.R. conspired to raise agent commissions without the knowledge of home buyers. The organization was ordered to pay $1.8 billion in damages from the initial lawsuit alone. Smaller lawsuits are popping up all over the country, leaving the N.A.R. in serious jeopardy. 

Amid this negative press, companies like Redfin, Re/Max, and Coldwell Banker have distanced themselves from the N.A.R. by allowing their agents to no longer be members. While many good agents still fight to provide their clients with impeccable service, these scandals have cast a shadow over the industry. All of this has compounded to drive homebuyers toward one question: “Can I trust my realtor?”