Active Rain April 10, 2010

Online Licensing Courses are Bad for the Real Estate Industry

Not long ago, the licensing requirements for real estate salespeople in New York became more rigorous, with the 40-hour course expanded to 75 hours. It was a good move. I still recall my class in 1996, given by the real estate school at the Greater Rochester Association of REALTORS. My instructors were knowledgeable and engaging, the classes were lively and punctuated by debate and discussion, and I befriended a number of classmates at breaks, lunch and after class study sessions. Some of the throw away comments the instructors made even stick with me today. I was enriched if I never sold a house. 

New York has a 22.5 continuing education requirement for every 2 year license renewal, and we discovered a few years ago that I could take courses online for a fraction of the cost of live classes at my computer. Very convenient for busy people. So I took them. And learned nothing. And met no one. I witnessed no discussion, debate, or human interaction. It didn’t take 22.5 hours. It was mind-numbing. I passed online courses, but my education was not continued, I assure you. 

Now licensing courses are offered online, and I assert that whatever good the expansion of the course to 75 hours did, it is nullified by being taken online. You cannot convince me that the course which allows people to broker the largest transactions of most peoples’ lives is done justice by a mind-numbing reading and multiple choice process. This is especially the case in discussions of fair housing, agency law, and other matters of real estate that ought to be accompanied by discussion and direction by a competent instructor. Fair housing cannot be reduced to multiple choice questions. Fiduciary responsibility cannot be done justice by true and false choices. Ethics are far too important to be addressed with no discussion. 

I freely admit I am an education guy. I don’t have alphabet soup after my name, but I have a college degree and know know what role the campus, professors, and lectures played in my B.A. The only argument for online courses is convenience, but I would argue that ineptitude and lack of insight are far more inconvenient when introduced to a half a million dollar transaction. If you have to wait 6 weeks for a course to start you wait. Learning to plan is part of the business process. 

It is called education for a reason. It is not test-passing. We are about to introduce a generation of less qualified agents with this move. Convenience and microeconomics are bad reasons for weakening our collective minds. We need insight, linear thinking and empathy in licensees. The bar for entry needs to be raised, not lowered. Online licensing classes will end up being bad for the industry.