Last week a letter written by a real estate agent appeared in this column which described real estate agents as "bullying home sellers." As a real estate professional, I owe it to my fellow, hard-working agents and consumers to set the record straight.

Over my 19 years in residential real estate, I have witnessed a variety of markets. Through all of them, I have maintained my license with one large, local real estate company. I am consistently a top producer, specializing in resales in Montgomery County and in the District, and I believe I achieve this goal because I conduct myself as a professional.

Any good real estate company, large or small, must be comprised of sales professionals; otherwise, sooner or later, it will fail. In retrospect, I think my behavior has been consistent over the years -- I am an educator. What has changed, however, is the way I conduct my business -- the education I impart -- based on the market. My bottom line has never been my commission, but rather how well I serve and educate my clients and customers, for only this will determine who will return and refer others to me over time.

I continue to work very closely with sellers, showing them what is selling, for how much and why, and then helping them set realistic expectations. Some sellers need more orientation to the market than others, but this is accomplished through clear, accurate communication and facts -- not bullying or manipulation as previously and unfairly described. I have not yet encountered a seller who would not respond to this.

I also work closely with buyers to first educate myself as to their needs so I, in turn, can educate them and ultimately meet those needs.

As part of a larger real estate company, I am able to offer, at my expense, specialized, state-of-the-art tools that better market property in our ever-changing, sophisticated marketplace. These tools not only provide a tremendous advantage for me over a counterpart in a smaller company, they have become a necessity. Smaller companies without them simply cannot market property as well. My company has always been there for me when I need resources, flexibility and creativity.

As a professional, I learn and sell the strengths of the market I find myself in, but I am also knowledgeable and honest about weaknesses. I am successful at what I do because I can teach people how to overcome any obstacles. By doing this I have earned respect and trust over the years, and that's why people come back to me.

It takes greater effort to find the right buyer now than it has in previous markets. Consumers need to be aware selling homes today requires a tremendous cooperative effort between agents from all companies. Today's buyers are tomorrow's sellers. A sales professional, in business for the long term, has to be working for all parties. As in most other service industries, anyone working with self-serving interests will not flourish or survive.

I advise prospective home buyers and sellers to listen carefully to their selected real estate professional. If he or she does not speak highly of his or her chosen profession, ask yourself "Why?" SHEILA L. LEIFER Shannon & Luchs Washington

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