A longer road to agent's license Recruits now required to spend 90 hours in class, up from 45

January 07, 1996|By Daniel H. Barkin | Daniel H. Barkin,SUN STAFF

It got tougher last week to get a real estate license in Maryland, and that has some brokers concerned that it will also make it more difficult for them to recruit new agents in an industry with a high turnover rate.

And critics of the increase in hours required in pre-licensing classes -- from 45 to 90 as of Jan. 1 -- are trying to get help from the General Assembly.

Lloyd H. Seay Jr., a member of the Maryland Real Estate Commission who dissented from the commission's decision to increase the hours, has asked state Sen. Clarence W. Blount to look into the matter. Mr. Blount, the Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee, said he has taken no position on the doubling of class hours and he doubted that the legislature would roll back the requirement to 45 hours.

But in an interview last week, Senator Blount held open the possibility that he could invite the commission leadership to brief his committee on the 90-hour requirement, and its impact.

The chairman of the Real Estate Commission, M. Neil Brownawell II, said that he and most of the members are satisfied that they made the right move. Mr. Brownawell said he expects that more people taking the exam will pass it because they are better prepared. He also predicted that complaints against real estate agents will decline because of fewer "rookie mistakes." But the head of the largest locally owned real estate firm in the region said the increase was too much.

"It's overkill," remarked James P. O'Conor, chairman of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn, who said he favored increasing to 60 hours or phasing in the move to 90 hours over a longer time period. "Ninety is a very heavy burden."

D. R. Grempler, president of Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty, said that with a 28 percent turnover rate nationally in the real estate industry, brokers constantly need to recruit new agents. So the doubling of the pre-licensing hours is "going to be a problem," he said.

A former chairman of the Real Estate Commission, James Crockett, said he would like Mr. Blount to ask the panel to suspend the 90-hour requirement until the General Assembly can review it.

Mr. Crockett, a longtime member of the Real Estate Brokers of Baltimore, the nearly 50-year-old organization founded by black agents, said the additional hours are unneeded and will be burdensome to prospective agents. He questioned whether the commission can double the required hours without General Assembly approval.

Janice Blackwell West, president of the Real Estate Brokers of Baltimore, said that members of her organization initially supported the increase. But then the group's leadership began hearing concerns from members who teach real estate courses.

"Quite a few members are teachers, and they feel there's not enough course material," she said.

Ms. West also said she is concerned that the doubling of hours and course costs may reduce the number of blacks who go into real estate. "I know that there are few minorities" in the industry, she said. "There will be less coming in at 90 [hours]."

The Real Estate Commission approved the 90-hour requirement in March, the first change in nearly two decades. Virginia and Pennsylvania require 60 hours; Delaware and West Virginia require 90 hours.

Mr. Brownawell said schools have been given guidelines and "they got back to us" to satisfy the commission that the 90 hours will be well spent.

After passing the course, which is taught by a number of broker-run schools and area community colleges, students are eligible to take the state licensing exam.

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