Realtors, it's time to appraise yourselves
By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
Published February 29, 2008
Just when you start to feel for Realtors' plight during these crumb-scrounging times in the housing business, you happen upon a couple of sympathy-squashing stories about rampant greed in the profession.
Case 1: Pinellas County property records disclosed a big-shot Clearwater Realtor who helped jack up property values all across the waterfront. He pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in murky deals, then let the homes slide into foreclosure. To give you a sense of the flimflam potential, at least one of his properties is selling for a third of what it sold for two years ago.
Case 2: In a scene reminiscent of a shakedown, Realtors are trying to dupe desperate condominium owners into paying them double commissions. They'll take your listing, but you have to give them 10 percent for their trouble. I was glad to hear one would-be target offered the Realtor the one-finger salute.
These manipulators shouldn't define a whole profession. Most Realtors try to make an honest buck. And it's a rotten time to sell houses. With home sales down nearly 60 percent since the 2005 peak, the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors lost 1,200 members this month when it came time to renew their affiliation.
The federal government is pursuing an antitrust lawsuit against the National Association of Realtors for essentially running a price-fixing cartel. The association's lock on the Multiple Listing Service, the most popular database of homes for sales, smacks of a monopoly.
The Internet lets more buyers and sellers bypass agents. One of the latest is called Pad4Pad. As the Web site's founder described it: "You buy mine and I will buy yours." Of course, bartering doesn't command 6 percent commissions.
Most Realtors display an endearing optimism. Paychecks are slim, but you'd think most just sold Eddie DeBartolo's mansion to Donald Trump.
Here's hoping for a self-critique of a business that, through a minority of bad actors, conspired to bring about the current turmoil. Blaming reckless mortgage bankers and property speculators gets you only so far.
James Thorner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813 226-3313.
[Last modified February 28, 2008, 22:54:23]
[an error occurred while processing this directive]