For anyone planning to start selling real estate in Maryland, school has just gotten longer.
In the first overhaul of pre-licensing for agents in almost two decades, the Maryland Real Estate Commission last week doubled educational requirements, citing the ever-more complex regulations and paperwork behind every property sale.
Starting Jan. 1, applicants for a real estate license must complete 90, rather than 45, course hours in subjects such as contracts, agency and listings, title insurance, finance and ethics.
"There has been enough change since 1978 to warrant this," said Billie D. Landbeck, commission chairman. "The days of walking in and saying, 'I'll buy your house. Thank you. I'll sell it,' are gone. Our concerns have to be with the consumer, and are we putting people out there who don't know what they're doing."
Real estate agents and brokers filled a commission conference room in Baltimore Wednesday, as six of seven commissioners voted in favor of boosting requirements.
Some in the industry had opposed what they viewed as a drastic increase in hours that would deter potential applicants.
Some objected to any significant change, while others called for a more gradual shift from 45 to 60 hours, said Elizabeth Trimble, assistant attorney general and counsel to the commission.
One of those was James P. O'Conor, chairman of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn, who urged the commission to increase hours to 60, then phase in another 30.
"We think it's a pretty heavy burden for the new licensees coming in, and it would discourage people from doing it," Mr. O'Conor said.
Commissioner Lloyd H. Seay Jr., who cast the only dissenting vote, suggested expanding course hours to 60 and starting an apprenticeship program, in which experienced agents would closely supervise new agents.
But others on the commission dismissed that as unnecessary with the expanded education -- which they said is needed in light of changes that have increased the typical sales contract from a single page to about a dozen.
"If we get so small we can't spend one [additional] week to learn what we should do as salespeople, something is wrong with our priorities," said Commissioner Gene Floyd.
Currently, Maryland's pre-licensing requirement falls short of those in nearby states, with Delaware and West Virginia requiring 90 course hours and Pennsylvania and Virginia requiring 60 hours, Ms. Trimble said. She said Washington, D.C. intends to boost its 60-hour requirement, but hasn't decided by how much.
Maryland's newly adopted regulation applies to anyone seeking a license after Jan. 1, 1996.