Polzler says his actions are motivated out of his concerns for consumers, some of whom are getting a raw deal thanks to inexperienced and “iffy part-time agents.”

By Kelly Putter

MIchael Polzler

MIchael Polzler

Re/Max Ontario-Atlantic executive vice-president Michael Polzler says he’s encouraged by reaction to his public criticism of the professionalism and value of part-time agents.

“Ninety per cent of the reaction I’m getting is very positive,” Polzler said in an interview. “People have told me I’m right on track and that it’s totally ridiculous what’s going on out there.”

Polzler launched his assault in REM’s March issue when he placed an advertisement with an open letter calling for tougher standards for part-time Realtors. He invited Realtors to voice their thoughts on his newly launched website, www.takingbacktheindustry.com.

“The apathy and lack of expertise among the non-committed affects the entire industry,” wrote Polzler in his open letter. “We need to send the message, once and for all – real estate is not a fall-back profession.”

Not all industry insiders see eye-to-eye with Polzler. Calgary’s Dick Oakes thinks restricting agents is akin to imposing quotas, a move that would have trouble flying especially in Alberta’s free enterprise business system.

Oakes, who owns one of the largest independent real estate organizations in western Canada, doesn’t buy Polzler’s argument that part-time agents are less effective.

“I believe his letter is self serving,” says Oakes. “He’s going after the discount houses, those Realtors who offer low fees. I think there’s a place for everybody. I know a great many people who do real estate full-time and they are miserable failures. I know of firemen and policemen who are in real estate part-time and they do a tremendously high-quality job.”

In his open letter, Polzler calls for introducing a one-year apprenticeship program, a referral license program in which inactive agents can earn a fee by referring clients to active agents and higher educational requirements.

“I’m not saying we should kick anybody out,” says Polzler, “I’m saying we should change what people are allowed to do. Real estate is far too big, far too complex to be letting someone whose main job is a school teacher or a bus driver to be showing property and trying to negotiate complex financial transactions.”

Polzler says his actions are motivated out of his concerns for consumers, some of whom are getting a raw deal thanks to inexperienced and “iffy part-time agents.” Polzler said his criticism extends to brokers as well.

“You’ve got companies out there who have hundreds of agents all based on cheap, cheap, cheap,” he says, “holding licenses where 70 per cent of their agents don’t do a deal per quarter. So then, the question becomes what about broker accountability? Are these agents even being monitored in the field? There are a lot of people that say this goes right to the broker level.”

Bernie Vogt, president of Aventure Realty Network, says the consumer is well protected by various legislative bodies and industry organizations.  He thinks it’s wrong to assume part-time agents are not as effective as full-time agents. Besides, adds Vogt, the real estate industry is heavily regulated and there are plenty of avenues for recourse.

“I think it’s wrong to decide that someone delivers poor advice based on the number of deals they do,” says Vogt. “Realtors over the years have been compared many times to used-car salespersons and I don’t have a problem with either. Some do a good job and some don’t. There is recourse if they don’t do a good job.”

HomeLife Realty president Andrew Cimerman thinks the industry needs to show a kinder, gentler side when it comes to dealing with part-time agents.

“There are individuals who don’t want to leave their family without food on the table,” Cimerman says, “so they want to make a transition into this business and work six months at two jobs. Is there anything wrong with this? I say no. It gives them the opportunity to feed their family and gives them the opportunity to learn this business. They are professionals and they are qualified individuals. They need just a little more time.”

CREA and the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) declined to comment specifically on Polzler’s letter, although RECO’s communications manager Sherri Haigh suggested Polzler take his concerns to Ontario’s Ministry of Consumer Services.

Despite his strong words and forthright tactics, Polzler suspects the industry will stay with the status quo.

“I understand I’m probably not going to get my way because the boards and CREA and OREA and RECO and all these organizations are about membership numbers,” he says.

Polzler says his comments apply to those Realtors doing less that one deal per quarter.

“Somebody explain to me why we need over 50,000 real estate agents in the province of Ontario?” he says. “Why do we need so many? How can these part-time people do a good job?”

Posted: 2010-03-30 08:00:56

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