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From apathy to action: How incentivizing engagement could reshape organized real estate

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In my last column, I mentioned what I believe is a major issue in our industry, apathy toward what happens in organized real estate. People only care when decisions they don’t like are made.

There’s a separate column about the pros and cons of the current governance models in the industry across Canada, but that’s for someone else besides myself to write. If that person is you, please reach out. 

I was recently at the National Speakers Association (NSA) Conference in Orlando called Influence. NSA for the speaking community would be similar to a provincial or national association in real estate, with the exception that membership is not mandatory. Yes, I realize that technically you don’t have to be a member of associations if you’re licensed, but we all know that using that argument isn’t truly made in good faith. If you’re serious when you get your license, it’s mandatory.

While in Orlando, I couldn’t help but notice all the similarities between those who run a business as a speaker and realtors. Everything from the volume of transactions/gigs separating the average from the great, the loneliness as a solo operator for many, the challenges, the full-timers having professionalism issues with the part-timers, and so many others. 

What could we learn from them about member engagement? NSA members continually rave about the value of membership at both their chapter and association levels. I love looking outside the industry for things we can bring in.

So here are two things I’d love to see brought in inspired by the NSA conference:

 

Meeting attendance

 

Attending chapter and association meetings isn’t mandatory to maintain membership, but once you obtain your Certified Speaking Professional certification, it’s incentivized.

To renew your certification, you have to earn credits during the renewal period; one way to earn credits is to attend local chapter meetings and association events. They also earn credits through courses, much like renewing your real estate license.

What if instead of taking courses, you could also renew your licence if you attended meetings at your local board, more for sitting on a committee, and even more if you get elected to a director position?

I believe this would foster more professionalism in the industry than just clicking next a bunch of times on videos. When it comes to licence renewal now, the most common comment you see online is some variation of “Just poured a drink so I can get through this.”

Does that sound like it has real value when that’s the reaction? I could count on one hand the number of people in Canada I’ve spoken to who took their renewal courses and said, “That was a good use of my time that made me a better realtor.” 

Let’s incentivize meeting attendance by making it contribute credits to renewing your license. This isn’t even a new concept; there have been boards that have done variations of this in the past. 

Compared to the current renewal options, I would bet attending meetings, joining committees and getting to know your fellow realtors better would foster more professionalism.

Certification

 

One thing that struck me that the real estate industry is missing: an easy-to-identify designation of a true professional. Since you have to be a member of the associations to sell, the comparison of being a realtor to a licensed non-realtor is watered down at best. Realistically in the eyes of consumers, the distinction is meaningless. 

The NSA has a certification called Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) which is an extra designation you have to qualify for. Only about 20 per cent of NSA members have the designation. Wonder what percentage of the business that 20 per cent does…

To earn it initially, you must have done 250 speaking gigs or more in the last 10 years. You also have to prove you earned at least $50,000/year minimum for five years of the last 10 years from speaking. These must all be proven. You also need to send questionnaires to people who’ve hired you; at least 20 of them need to respond, and then they’re followed up with to make sure they’re genuine. 

On top of the industry recognition as a top professional, some companies only book speakers who have their CSP because they know they’ll deliver. There’s also access to private CSP-only masterminds.

There are a few other requirements, such as some mandatory courses but those above are the main ones. If you go through the application phases and are approved, you are given the CSP designation. They only let one group of people in a year with an application deadline. If you miss or don’t qualify, you have to wait for the next year to try again. It becomes a celebration at the annual conference to get your official designation.

This gives you the CSP designation for five years. To renew it, you have to earn 24 NSA credits which you can earn by attending specific events. As in, you have to be active in the community to maintain your status as a Certified Speaking Professional.

 

How it could be useful in organized real estate

 

Let’s imagine we did this in real estate and created a Certified Professional Realtor designation (you might want a different acronym than CPR). Much like brokers are held to a higher standard than sales representatives, certified professionals would be held to the highest. 

Now there’s a true way to differentiate those who take this seriously as a real business and those who do it part-time as more of a hobby.

If you had ethics violations, your certification could be permanently removed. At the very least, you’d have to take it to a committee of your peers to convince them you should retain your designation.

 Here’s a start to the conversation of how I’d like to see the qualifications be:

  • A minimum of 200 transactions in the last 10 years — must be verifiable, and leases can count.
  • $75,000 in gross commission in at least 5 of the past 10 years. Not an average; it must be in individual years.
  • At least 30 submitted client evaluations, and clients contacted for the authenticity of submissions.
  • If you meet either of the first two conditions but not both, you may apply for an exception to a committee that hold their designations already. This would be, for example, for realtors who specialize in high-end luxury. They may not have the same volume, but they could deserve it — a committee of your professional peers would be able to judge. 
  • Any application fee should be the minimum needed to cover the committee’s time for processing the application and a small marketing budget to promote the value to the consumer of the designation.

Incentivizing involvement

 

While a private organization could create a designation like this, I think it has more weight coming from a national association. This shouldn’t be a for-profit certification.

It could become a worldwide designation as long as you meet the criteria. A Canadian-led initiative to raise the bar globally. An organization, even one like REM, could create this, but I genuinely believe it shouldn’t be a for-profit designation. Either the Canadian Real Estate Association or them in conjunction with the National Association of Realtors should.

It’s time more involvement was incentivized. Being face-to-face with the colleagues we work with day in and day out regularly would foster more professionalism. Decisions wouldn’t come as a surprise when they’re happening. By incentivizing participation, instead of making it mandatory, some can still keep their head in the sand if they want, but it’ll be easier to get involved.

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments on the following:

1. Licence renewal credits for attending board meetings, association meetings, and joining committees.

2. A not-for-profit designation for a “Certified Professional Realtor:”

        • What criteria do you think should be the minimum to get the designation?
        • What could we add as a benefit to the certification to make it more valuable to those obtaining it?

 


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