Fewer agents in the pipeline 90-hour course isn't attracting as many students

Protecting the public

Sojourner-Douglass cancels class after only two sign up

March 24, 1996|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

An effort to produce better trained real estate agents in Maryland has backfired and is keeping people out of the industry, say real estate brokers and educators calling for the repeal of new education requirements.

The course work it takes to become an agent doubled in January from 45 to 90 classroom hours, the first increase in the state in nearly two decades. The Maryland Real Estate Commission raised pre-licensing requirements to equip agents for increasingly complex buying and selling transactions.

But the 90-hour course is excessive and cost-prohibitive for many students and fails to cover some pertinent material, educators from colleges and realty agencies told the commission Wednesday.

As a result, enrollment in real estate classes at colleges and agencies has dropped, they said. Students must complete a class and pass a state exam before they can apply for a real estate license.

"I am decidedly against the 90-hour bit," said Lu Fischbeck, director and coordinator of the real estate program at Catonsville Community College. "I don't think it's necessary and don't think it does for the students what it needs to do for them."

Yvette Chapman, director of education for Coldwell Banker Grempler Real Estate Institute, echoed the sentiments of others at the commission's monthly meeting, saying she supported some increase in course hours to keep up with law and industry changes.

"We are not against education," Ms. Chapman said. "We're not fighting that we need more time. It's how fast we can turn around and put together a substantive course."

Ms. Chapman and others from large agencies James P. O'Conor, chairman of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn Realtors, and Hattie Scott, vice president and a regional manager of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. asked commissioners to temporarily roll back the requirement to 45 hours. That would give the commission time to restructure the material and keep it to a more reasonable 60 hours, they said.

"What I've found to be the missing link is the mathematics side of real estate," said David Johnson, director of admissions at Sojourner-Douglass College in East Baltimore. "This is the one area that needs to be enlarged."

Instead, he said, the expanded course repeats much of the first 45 hours, which covers subjects such as contracts, agency and listings, title insurance, finance and ethics.

Educators complained that increased costs have deterred students.

At Catonsville, only 10 students enrolled in the current class, instead of the usual 28 to 38, Ms. Fischbeck said.

"We have no young people taking the course," which now costs $295 instead of $170, she said.

Catonsville offers the class through its continuing-education program.

But the college has been forced to drop its real estate credit program because it can't format expanded hours into TC four-credit class, she said.

Sojourner-Douglass canceled its class after only two students registered.

"We've put the course out of reach of the common people," said Mr. Johnson, who added that other students inquired but indicated that they could not afford to pay $300.

Commissioner Billie D. Landbeck countered that the commission never intended to keep people out of real estate.

"The public needs to be protected, and that's why this commission exists not to help the licensee," Ms. Landbeck said.

"If you think education is expensive, think of the cost of ignorance. We hope we are helping the licensee to understand what they're doing better."

Ninety hours will also help bring Maryland's pre-licensing in line with nearby jurisdictions, such as Washington, which just raised course hours to 180; Delaware, which requires 99 hours; and Virginia, which requires 60, she said.

"These are the places where we're hearing our agents say, 'I can't get into these states. I live on the border, and I want to be reciprocal,' " she said.

"We don't want to be last man on the totem pole. We want to be a leader."

Commissioners said they would respond to the requests in writing but indicated that without further evidence, they would not likely change a regulation that has already gone through a public process.

Commissioner Julian L. Morgan Jr. said he will watch how the new requirements affect the industry through the end of the year.

"If the industry is adversely impacted, I, for one, am going to be taking a hard look at that point at modifying or changing it," Mr. Morgan said.

Pub Date: 3/24/96

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