Alan J. Heavens wrote an article for the Philadelphia Inquirer that was re-printed the last few days in the Seattle Times, The Denver Post, the ContraCosta Times, The Detroit Free Press, The Mercury News, The Milwaukee Journal , and other newspapers around the country. Each newspaper writes their own headlines and they ranged from “Agent commission coming under fire from consumers” to “Commission system attacked — Consumer groups say agent fees are inflated”.
It must have been a slow newsday as the article was basically a rehash of the June report from the Consumer Federation of America that accused the residential real estate industry of functioning “as a cartel that tries to set prices and restrict service options.” (“New CFA Analysis of Real Estate Cartel Explains How It Can Set Prices, 06/19/06“).
So, this article comes across the wire and I’m assuming each editor independantly decides this is hot news and decides to reprint it as a lead story.
Being familiar with this 6-month old report, I wonder why does this catch the imagination and interest of these editors again and again?
I think we all understand that the advertising and the editorial departments are completely separate and it’s important for the integrity of journalism that they not be allowed to influence each other.
However, there is a difference between “news” (which this is not) and sensationalism, which this borders on. If you reprint the same old tired story every few months just to manufacture controversy, it seems more like sensationalism. Like the tabloids who trot out a Michael Jackson or Paris Hilton story with regularity, that’s what this could become, and the story gets legs of its own.
We’ve all heard these predictions and many advertisers are looking at other mediums to sell their wares, especially as newspaper advertising gets more and more expensive.
It would just seem to me that a prudent newspaper editor might give this some thought and make some connections.
Many of the new internet-based real estate firms are jumping all over themselves to herald the end of the “industrial real estate complex” and are throwing out words like “disruption” and “disintermediation” and are making allegories between real estate agents and travel agents.
Travel sections in the newspapers have shrunk in half as travel agencies have disappeared…..
Uhmm… I am not suggesting that editors censor real news in the real estate sector. But I do question increased and continual hammering on the industry, its commission structure and the people who are employed in the business. If real estate editors hasten the demise of real estate agents, who will be left to advertise in their newspaper? Homesowners? They’ll just turn to Craigslist and Google and other free services.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average real estate salesperson makes $52,000 a year. This is considerably less than the average stockbroker ($87,990) and about the same amount as insurance (56K) and advertising (50K) salespeople. All of these jobs have minimal training requirements and none require a college degree. Sales representatives in wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products might require a background in the field before selling, but those jobs pay more and average $68,940 a year.
A salesperson has always played two primary roles that add tremendous value. One is convenience. Convenience for the customer is helping the customer get their exact needs met when they want them. The other role that the professional salesperson has always played is that of an advisor, or a broker of expertise. Helping a customer to understand the real estate market, the ins-and-outs of the buying process, escrow, title insurance, mortgage options, home construction methods, and other issues.
To continually beat up on the workers in a particular industry without balancing the story with “the other side” is irresponsible journalism and becomes “Realtor-baiting” that only creates hostility and rancor towards a segment of society gainfully and honorably employed in a service sales business.