What Real Estate Agents Wish You Knew About Their Job, Part 3: What Motivates Them (It's Not Always Money!)

Real estate agent
Real estate agent

Few professions come in for more abuse than real estate agents. Maybe lawyers. And possibly politicians, but I hesitate to call that a "profession" in any sense of the term. And since housing is so much in the news these days, one can't help but pick up the animus of the general public against real estate agents.

Megan McArdle's recent post on The Atlantic website regarding Wisconsin's $1,000 down payment program, for example, was a critique of the government program. But in the comments, you find sentiments like this:

"I agree that this program doesn't make sense. But why do you end the post by saying that the motivation for it is to buy votes from low-income voters, when you have already recognized that it is surely the realtors* who are behind it. (And that it is not their votes that the politicians want -- it's their money.)

*'Realtors' is a trademark and you are supposed to capitalize it. Screw them."

From the outside, that line of reasoning makes a lot of sense. Real estate agents make more money when they sell more houses at higher prices, given the particularities of how they are compensated, and the National Association of Realtors has a lot of political power. Surely, they're conspiring with politicians in smoky back rooms trying to stick it to the average American to enrich themselves, right?

The thing is, when you're inside the industry, the picture is a bit more complicated.