Tuesday, April 28, 2009

So, how much blame do Realtors deserve for the mess we're in?

ActiveRain is a great resource for anyone interested in what troubles concern the men and women who sell real estate for a living.

Lately, at least ever since the housing slump started dragging down the rest of the U.S. economy, the Realtors posting on ActiveRain have been a obsessing a bit about how they've viewed by the general public.

I guess this makes sense. The public has put a lot of blame on real estate agents, along with mortgage loan officers and real estate appraisers, for helping to cause the housing industry's collapse. The reasoning goes like this: appraisers valued homes too high, largely at the insistence of mortgage loan officers who needed residences to come in at certain values for their deals to close. Real estate agents, goes the theory, did little to prevent their clients from overpaying -- sometimes immensely -- for these homes.

After all, everyone made lots of money during the housing boom, right?

This all relates to commercial real estate in a big way. Once the housing market began collapsing, the commercial market wasn't far behind. After all, if no one's building big housing subdivisions, we don't need any new strip malls, either.

If you want to see what real estate agents think about all this Realtor-loathing going on now, check out this discussion on ActiveRain. It's really quite fascinating. There's a great back-and-forth going on between agents who say they've saved their clients tons of money over the years and consumers who aren't buying it at all.

Personally, I think there's plenty of blame to go around for the housing mess. Yes, some mortgage loan officers steered buyers toward crummy loans. But many of those buyers knew exactly what they were getting into. And, yes, some real estate agents probably never did warn their buyers that they might be overpaying.

But what about the media? We happily went along with the real estate pros on the housing-boom ride. It gave us plenty of fodder for stories and TV shows and breathless news reports.

So, yes, agents are partly to blame for the housing mess. But they have plenty of company.

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