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Part-time realty agents can pose risk Property transactions could be too complex


Part-time real estate sales associates can be dangerous. Because of lack of knowledge and experience, they can create problems in handling property transactions and run a high risk of sparking liability problems for the firms they represent.

That's the consensus of several broker-owners of real estate firms, expressing their candid view on part-timers in the real estate sales field.

"Real estate sales is a complex field and should be the primary focus of a salesperson's career," said Jim Garfield, owner of a firm associated with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Service.

John Dennis, owner of a large Century 21 affiliated firm, agrees.

"A contractual agreement to market a property is a major responsibility commitment," he said. "It calls for serious work by full-time professionals."

It should be pointed out that there are part-time salespeople who take the time and effort to become well-educated and proficient in real estate sales.

And some are only holding another job until the real estate market swings back into a more active mode. They will then return to full-time status.

In fact, there are plenty of part-time salespeople listing and selling property for brokerage firms throughout the country. Two-thirds of all real estate firms use part-timers. Within those firms, one-quarter of the salespeople are part-time.

Overall, nearly one in every five real estate salespeople is a part-timer, according to most recent figures from the Research Department of the National Association of Realtors.

That number has been declining since 1984, when 27 percent of real estate salespeople worked part-time.

One key reason for the decline is the increasing complexities of real estate transactions. The demands for continuing education and sharpening of skills adds up to the necessity for a full-time commitment.

Also, in recent years there has been a strong effort on the part of organized real estate to enhance public perceptions about practitioners, improving their professional image.

This emphasis motivated many brokerage firm owners to weed out incompetent part-timers.

The worst image-makers are probably firms known in the trade as "body shops."

These firms operate on the premise that the more licensees a company has, the larger the company's net commission income will be. Many licensees of such firms are part-timers. And all those bodies receive minimal training and supervision from their broker.

The anticipated big bucks are not materializing for most body-shop firms. The average cost for a firm to maintain a desk for a residential salesperson now is up to about $13,700 per year. Desk costs for commercial or industrial property salespeople are two to three times that amount, according to the Realtors' association.

Considering these factors, along with the increased risk of liability suits with part-timers and a possible adverse impact on the firm's reputation in the community, an increasing number of company owners are putting "full-time only" notices in ads soliciting salespeople.


Question: What's a realistic prognosis for the home-sale market during the remainder of 1992?

Answer: The market is steadily becoming more active in most areas of the country -- more listed homes and sales.

"A healthy housing industry is surfacing," said an economist for the National Association of Realtors. "We have every reason to believe 1992 will shape up to be the best year for home resale activity since 1988."

Q: Why don't more real estate firms in the United States do business in Canada?

A: There is a strong trend for real estate firms in both the United States and Canada to extend their marketing areas across the border.

"There are more cultural similarities between the two countries than there are differences," said Steve Bauer, president of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates.

Q: Is there a general trend today for single women to co-own and co-reside in a house?

A: Yes. Brokers throughout the country are reporting more transactions where two or more single women buy, finance and plan to live in a residence. Frequently, these co-owners are young, single professional women.

In most cases, it seems to work out satisfactorily for all parties. In some cases, where it becomes apparent the co-owners are not compatible, the arrangement can be disastrous.

Questions may be used in future columns; personal responses should not be expected. Send inquiries to James M. Woodard, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 190, San Diego, Calif. 92112-0190.

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