I was reading an article the other day about how realtors aren’t sufficiently educated when they get licensed. Seeing the things my wife – a realtor – has done over the years I found the article to be less than persuasive. That it was written by an appraiser, a field loaded with people the depths of whose incompetence I’ve heard wonderful tales over the years, made it less so. But that’s not really what I was going to write about today.
After reading the article I made the mistake of wading into and reading the comments. This is almost never a good idea and more so when the commenters have no idea what they’re talking about. In this case there was a lot of discussion on how realtors (and magically not appraisers) were somehow responsible for the housing bubble & its resulting troubles. People suggested that banks should employ brokers instead of them being independent for some (almost certainly) stupid reason. And a lot of people thought that realtors were mistreated by their management because they’re often hired as independent contractors rather than employees.
One thing I didn’t know before marrying a realtor was how the whole independent contractor thing works. I’m betting most other people don’t either because it’s not something they tend to run across. Basically most realtors are really self employed, even when they have remax or century 21 on their signs. This means they (usually) only get paid on what they sell and Remax or Century 21 don’t take taxes out of their pay. They also don’t tend to get employer-provided health insurance or any other real benefits that most Americans expect for full time work in this day and age.
At first it seems crazy, like the idiot comments make good points. Their employers don’t provide insurance or a 401k? Nazis. No paid vacation or sick leave? They probably have handlebar mustaches and tie pretty girls to railroad tracks and run around with fully loaded burlap sacks with dollar signs on them too.
Then I actually thought for a second and my outlook changed a lot. Maybe being the tech and finance guy for a real estate company and being married to a successful broker influences my attitude, I don’t know. But it seems to me that companies like ours are among the few in this country that actually treats its people like responsible, independent adults.
Seriously, why should your employer buy you health insurance? Or finance your retirement? Or pay your taxes for you*? If he or she does it’s nice of him or her, but nowadays if s/he doesn’t you we see outraged comparisons to silent movie villains.
* – I understand that in most cases income tax withholding is the law, which in my opinion is one of the most brilliant and evil things our government has ever done. If people had to do their taxes like we do every quarter/year, there’d be blood in the streets.
Independent contacting has its advantages too. You don’t have set hours to work, or set days. If you want to take a week off your “boss” – such as he or she is, can’t really do anything about it assuming your contact doesn’t say otherwise. You can make a ridiculous amount of money if you work hard enough and do your job well enough. But ultimately it’s on you and you alone. And that seems to be a rare thing in this country.
Please don’t take this to denigrate the great majority of people who work jobs with benefits. I’m not criticizing them at all. It’s the system. As with income tax withholding, the state of employer/employee relations in this country is how it is in many ways because of stupid decisions by governments past. If the government in the 40s hadn’t created wage caps for businesses, the businesses wouldn’t have started offering health insurance to their employees in lieu of added pay. At the time it could’ve been done away with but by this point it’s expected. I just think it’s kind of dumb. Why not expect your boss to buy your food too, while you’re at it?
That’s all. Feel free to disagree. Opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one and yours is probably really stupid.