A Message from WRA President Mike Theo: Listening

 Mike Theo  |    April 10, 2013

I‚Äôve had the good fortune lately to spend some quality time with our members and listen to their business concerns and ideas for improving our marketplace. Some of this quality time was spent in five focus groups held across the state as part of our strategic planning process. Some of it came from large national conferences of REALTOR¬ģ leaders and some from small meetings of brokers and agents. Regardless of the gathering or individuals involved, I‚Äôm left with a far better understanding of the difficulties and struggles endured by those of you who endured these past few years, and with a deeper respect for the tough business decisions that were required to survive this ebbing recession. In many respects, these changes have permanently changed the brokerage business.¬†

But I also heard a great deal of concern over the quality of service some brokers and agents are providing to the public. Many of you feel that as an industry, and an association, we need to do more to raise the level of professionalism of some of our fellow practitioners. Ideas included association-centric concepts like greater use/understanding of professional standards, better enforcement of the Code of Ethics, and raising consumer awareness of our professional designations. 

But other ideas included changes in state licensing laws to elevate the profession. In the past, we have attempted to address these concerns by increasing the number of hours required to obtain or keep a real estate license, and this has helped. But many of you thought more can and should be done. 

To that end, the WRA has spent the past several years developing new legislation aimed at better protecting consumers and enhancing the level of professionalism within our industry by requiring transactional experience before real estate licensees are allowed to obtain a broker’s license. The new law, about to be formally introduced in the state legislature, will require two years of supervised transactional experience as a real estate salesperson within the last four years preceding application as a real estate broker.

Currently, Wisconsin is the only state in the country that doesn’t require licensees to have some experience prior to obtaining broker’s licenses and managing other licensees. In Wisconsin, an individual can receive a broker’s license, open up a real estate office, have agents work for them, all without ever participating in a real estate transaction. With the increasing complexity of today’s transactions including foreclosures, short sales and bank-owned properties, hands-on transactional experience is essential for brokers. Under the proposed law, the Real Estate Examining Board (REEB) will also be authorized to establish how agents prove their transactional experience, as well as the power to grant waivers to certain affiliated businesses and professions and to consider related experience like professional designations, certifications and education. 

Improving our profession and protecting consumers will be a never-ending pursuit of our association, be it through the REALTOR¬ģ organization or through state laws and administrative rules. Your ongoing ideas and input are critical in our quest to continually improve the quality of licensees and the market brand of REALTORS¬ģ. Keep those ideas coming and we‚Äôll keep on listening.

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