The fall in real estate markets has not only cost property owners their equity and many times the loss of their homes, it’s also been a magnet for scammers. Some are licensed real estate agents; others are not. Since the top of the market in fall 2006, there has been a flood of real estate crimes consumers had no concept of: real estate fraud, short sale fraud, REO fraud, Ponzi schemes, real estate investment fraud, foreclosure rescue scams and loan modification scams. In a number of cases, those crimes were carried out within certain ethnic or religious circles (affinity fraud).
The California Department of Real Estate, the primary means of investigating housing-related crimes, has responded by revoking a record number of real estate licenses for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2012. Here is a summary of the DRE’s August 6 press release:
781 real estate licenses revoked (up 14% from 681 the prior fiscal year)
190 real estate licenses suspended for cause (up 80% from 106 the prior fiscal year)
138 real estate licenses surrendered by the licensees (up 20% from 115 the prior fiscal year)
213 desist and refrain orders, typically ordered against an unlicensed individual or business
And now . . . my editorial
Why are there so many disciplinary actions in real estate? Very simply, because the barrier to entry is so low. This I blame on the California Association of Realtors, the trade and lobbying association for Realtors®, which gets its strength from the number (=volume) of dues-paying members under its wing. If you’re 18 years old and haven’t committed a major financial crime, you can get your real estate license.
Real estate training schools are big business. RealEstateExpress.com, a real estate “training” website, starts the first paragraph of its web page on licensing requirements by announcing “Getting Your Real Estate License In California is Not Difficult…” Although they state that “eight statutory college-level courses” are required for a prospective licensee to sit for the salesperson’s (aka “real estate agent”) exam, anybody who has attended even community college knows these courses are anything but college level. Prospective licensees are encouraged to sign-up for “boot camps” that are simply mass cramming sessions that show attendees what questions they must know in order to pass the exam. The purposes of these schools is in no way to inspire learning or to impart knowledge. That, along with taking online “practice exams” over and over until the answers are memorized, constitute the sum-and-total of what it takes to get a real estate license.