Sponsored by Oregon Business

First Person: Commentary by Scott Taylor, outgoing real estate commissioner

| Print |  Email
Monday, January 01, 2007

ScottTaylor0107.jpg Getting real in real estate

The industry has evolved. It’s time for brokers to catch up.

By Scott Taylor

For the past 11 years, I’ve told myself that when I quit thinking like a broker, I should leave my post as Oregon Real Estate Commissioner. That hasn’t happened yet, but as I prepare to return to the private sector, I have the experience of a real estate broker, with the benefit of a broader perspective.

Real estate brokerage — residential and commercial — is a complicated business, which should require a high level of pre-license education, a commitment by brokerage firms to train and manage their associates, and a commitment by brokers to continuing education so they can effectively represent their clients. I believe brokers who show this commitment and dedication to their craft should be well compensated. The good ones are worth every dollar.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that becoming more efficient and meeting consumer demands may require changing the traditional brokerage business model.

In a recent online article for the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors, attorney Phil Querin wrote: “So, the Mission Impossible for realtors today is to learn, learn and learn more about their marketplace: their industry, the laws and regulations affecting it, how to maneuver  clients through this maze to a successful closing.” What Mr. Querin said so well is that the business is no longer about selling, but about providing a service.

Oregon’s broker continuing education law is unique among U.S. jurisdictions, with licensees certifying the courses rather than the regulator. This system isn’t working and it should be changed.

The industry has recently come under attack from the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice for what they believe to be anticompetitive practices in the way the industry handles brokers with nontraditional business models (such as discount brokers).

Rather than proposing minimum service laws like some other states, Oregon should require brokers to disclose to consumers what services they do and don’t provide.

Legislation should be introduced in Oregon to repeal the prohibition on brokers who rebate commissions to a principal in the transaction. This prohibition is widely violated and difficult to enforce and it restricts competition, without protecting consumers.

The real issue, in my opinion, is the industry’s reluctance to change a business model that may be outdated and is inefficient. Traditional real estate firms hire associates as independent contractors, maintain a nominal amount of control over their activities and pay them commissions. Associates may hire assistants, licensed or unlicensed, to help them. In essence, they become companies within companies, each with its own business model.

Fees traditionally have been based on a percentage of the selling price, and usually are paid by the seller at closing. This is a holdover from a time when brokerages had a monopoly on information about properties and represented sellers. But the Internet, and the fact that most agencies now also represent buyers, changed all of that.

Brokers usually are not compensated for their work with buyers and sellers when a transaction doesn’t close. Many brokers representing buyers don’t enter into a contract with the buyer, although seller contracts are almost universal. Unfortunately, without a contract, neither party is obligated to the other and consumers end up paying for brokers’ unproductive time in the form of higher fees. 

Many brokers can’t arti-culate what they do. Recently, the Orlando Association of Realtors pre-pared a list of 184 things real estate professionals must do to close a transaction. The National Association of Realtors presented this list to Congress to demonstrate the value of real estate professionals.

I wonder how many real estate brokers know what these 184 things are and, if they do, how many actually do them. I’ve reviewed it and can say that if more brokers in Oregon did what was on this list, complaints by consumers would be down dramatically.

I believe the industry must hold itself to a higher standard and become more efficient to reduce costs for consumers and prevent brokers from wasting time with uncommitted clients.   

Basic marketing tenets dictate finding out what customers want and what price they are willing to pay, and designing a business model around that. I’m not convinced the traditional brokerage model does that any longer. 

Scott Taylor resigned as Oregon Real Estate Commissioner effective in January. He plans to return to the real estate industry.

Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


More Articles

Run, Nick, Run

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

Controversial track star Nick Symmonds is leveraging his celebrity to grow a performance chewing-gum brand. Fans hail his marketing ploys as genius. Critics dub them shameless.


100 Best Nonprofits: Working for equality inside and out

October 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Striving for social equity is the mission of many nonprofits, and this year’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon survey shows employees are most satisfied with their organizations’ fair treatment of differing racial, gender, disability, age and economic groups. But as a national discourse about racial discrimination and equity for low-income groups takes center stage, data show Oregon’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For still need to make progress on addressing these issues within their own organizations.


Back to School

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Oregon is home to an abundance of gritty warehouses reborn as trendy office spaces, as well as crafty hipsters turned entrepreneurs. Does the combination yield an equally bounteous office products sector? Not so much. Occupying the limited desk jockey space are Field Notes, a spinoff of Portland’s Draplin Design Company, and Schuttenworks, known for whittling Apple device stands. For a full complement of keyboard trays, docking stations and mouse pads, check out the GroveMade line, guaranteed to boost the cachet of even the lowliest cubicle drone. 


Child care challenge

Wednesday, August 26, 2015
0927OHSUhealthystarts-thumbBY KIM MOORE AND LINDA BAKER

Child care in Oregon is expensive and hard to find. We delved into the numbers and talked to a few executives and managers about day care costs, accessibility and work-life balance.


Inside the Box

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Screening for “culture fit” has become an essential part of the hiring process. But do like-minded employees actually build strong companies — or merely breed consensus culture?


Social media transforming sports business

The Latest
Thursday, September 24, 2015

The traditional model of sports teams using paid media to get their message across is disappearing as teams look instead to social media to interact with fans.


Storyteller in Chief: Brew Stories

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

Over the years, many mentors have taught me lessons that have helped shape the way I view the world of work and our business.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02