How About a Little Respect in 2017?

Hollywood real estate Suzanne DranowCatching up on articles and news stories I’ve been hoping to finally read, two jumped out at me — one of them was a film review of “Pocket Listing,” the other was a news story that South Carolina is now going to require background checks for real estate licensees because one of their licensed brokers turned out to be a serial killing sociopath.

I love what I do. I like houses and architecture, but even more so I like the art of the deal (the actual art of the deal, not the book by the same name). I also pride myself on knowing the market, knowing the inventory and knowing how to represent my clients. In short, I’m a professional, as are 90% of the agents with whom I work… And then there’s the other 10%, and they get all the attention.
Think about how agents are portrayed in movies and television: Hapless part-timers who ply their trade in between dropping off the kids and making dinner. These people are always brash backstabbers or oblivious hacks, trying to talk clients into making terrible choices, or explaining away the roof that’s about to cave in as “rustic charm.” 
There’s a recent ad for Time Warner Cable [now Spectrum — as they keep reminding me. And please, just change the name already, we’ll figure it out after the second late notice] that shows an overwhelmed real estate agent unable to get rid of the neighbors who have stopped in to use the high-speed internet. (I’d have assumed the owners would put a password on their network, but if they were unsophisticated enough to hire that agent, chances are they also proudly take photos of their Social Security Cards and post them on Instagram.)
But, I digress. 
The media are unkind to many different professions: accountants are nerds, flight attendants are promiscuous, and mail delivery people are one stamp away from… well, from going postal.
Attorneys fair slightly better: they are either sharks taking advantage of aged widows, or selfless individuals working pro-bono to right societal injustices. Real estate agents, on the other hand, are mostly portrayed as idiots. (Agents are partly responsible for this worldview — you never see a lawyer’s business card with a photo of him holding his dog accompanied by “Let John Smith and Skippy defend your capital murder case.”)
Many people get their “knowledge” of the real estate profession from shows like “Selling New York,” or “Million Dollar Listing,” but these programs portray everyday real estate about as accurately as “ER” portrayed a typical emergency room. I’ve worked in New York, London and Los Angeles and I can say that the vast majority of my colleagues are consummate professionals. It would be nice if real estate agents were portrayed more like the people with whom I work.
And every time I feel like the profession is making some reputational progress, there’s someone or something messing it up for the rest of us. “Pocket Listing,” a satirical thriller set in the world of Los Angeles real estate brokers came and went from the theatres in about a week. Okay, so maybe this movie didn’t move the pendulum one way or the other, but then there’s Todd Kohlhepp, the South Carolina serial killer (who kept a woman captive in a storage container), who, the news loves too keep reminding us, was a successful real estate broker.
Please note: These are not my peers!
There’s little I can do about all of this, I suppose, except to remember that my CPA is in a band and has a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu; my flight attendant friend is happily married for 22 years; and my postman has been pleasantly and dependably delivering my mail for almost 10 years. (Thank you, Marty!).  As for real estate agents, I think I’ll put on “House Hunters” — I’m in the mood for some fiction.

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