Forgetting the fact that Bernadette McTighe (Readers Forum, Oct. 20, "Agents Are Bullying Home Sellers") is a real estate agent herself, her letter reminded us of the old axiom of shooting the messenger because she did not like the message.

Because our firm was specifically mentioned in her letter, a rebuttal is in order. To say that "when times get tough, the tough {real estate} brokers just turn against their clients ..." is rubbish. To say that real estate agents "manipulate the buyer" is not only misleading, but accuses the industry of illegal activities.

Every Realtor, particularly those who work for Long & Foster, builds business on referrals and reputation. Turning our backs on our sellers and buyers in tough times would be sealing our fate in the future.

The real estate professional's creed is to assist the seller in getting the best possible price for their home. In that sense, we become the messengers -- the professionals who carefully educate the sellers to the market conditions so they can set a price that will be accepted by buyers. Agents provide sellers with information about the market and share their knowledge and expertise. In the end it is the seller who must weigh this information and set the final price for his or her home.

When making such an assessment, the real estate agent has to take into account a number of factors which affect the housing market. In today's market, these factors include the budget cuts; the savings and loan crisis, which has dried up money for new projects; and the turmoil in the Middle East, which has translated into a tightened real estate market. Sellers have to be in tune with these current market conditions. Our goal, as real estate professionals, is to educate our sellers on current prices and help them price their home fairly so they will reach their ultimate goal of a successful sale.

It is insulting, and totally incorrect to suggest that yesterday's prices were high because real estate agents wanted a bigger commission, as Ms. McTighe stated in her letter plain and simple. The economy dictates pricing, supply and demanded, not real estate professionals.

Now is not the time to turn away from large real estate firms, as McTighe suggests. The reasons are simple: Marketing power and experience work. The successful real estate firms have the reputation and commission schedule to attract the best agents in the region. The successful real estate broker also has the funds to continue innovative marketing programs in tough times as well as create new programs to respond to changing market conditions. We are one of the leaders in the market because we have served the public well.

Finally, small or large, all firms in the profession have an ethical responsibility to act fairly to both buyer and seller. The implication that we "romanced {sellers} into buying" for the sake of a commission is insulting to us all. We don't want anyone to be in a home they don't like or can't afford. After all, today's buyer is tomorrow's seller, so excellence in service is a must.

The sky is not falling on Washington's real estate market or its economy. It is true that housing is not appreciating as much as it did in the mid-1980s and it may never again. Yet Washington has long experienced significant appreciation and it is not unreasonable to expect that even modest appreciation will continue in years to come. Further, as inventory reduces -- and we are seeing that now -- housing prices will stabilize and move forward again as demand created by new jobs exceeds limited supplies.

Now more than ever is the time for buyers and sellers to turn to professionals in the industry who have staying power. Home buyers and sellers need a firm that has the reputation, training programs, financial backing and marketing support to help. Real estate is a cyclical business and this downturn is not forever. To impugn these Realtors is to impugn the very industry that Ms. McTighe calls her own. Further, it is misleading and self-serving.


President, Long & Foster Real Estate Inc.


In reference to the letter in Readers Forum on Oct. 20, as a Realtor, I am appalled to see such letters in The Post, with points of view that are not only not valid for all of us, but also fundamentally false and harmful. We are all in the kind of whatever market we have at the moment; Realtors are not different than road builders, teachers or IBM executives. The economics of the marketplace levels the playing field the same degree for all of us.

It is ludicrous to try to play the big company against the small company, in an attempt to polarize positions for and against. I suggest that is not only irresponsible, but also has the appearance of seeking an advantage at someone else's expense.

Buyer brokerage is the wave of the future and all of us are adapting to it, even at traditional brokerage agencies. That is a fact. Belaboring that issue simply is false and is an injustice to other Realtor professionals, as well as misleading to buyers and sellers.

With regard to pricing of sellers' properties, it is very simple: If a shoe store has a shoe that is not moving, the merchant will feature it in a sale and reduce the price. The same may be said for real estate. If a property is not moving, a price adjustment may be appropriate. It certainly is inappropriate for agents to second-guess listing agents in The Washington Post. One of the toughest jobs a listing agent has is realistic pricing and we all work very hard to do an accurate job. It is not taken lightly.

It is well known that recent years' appreciation in certain market segments has outdistanced incomes and buyers' ability to pay those prices has become less feasible. There have been numerous reports of employers being unable to transfer employees due to the cost of housing in some market segments. They simply were not able to act due to the economics of the move. We, as Realtors, know this firsthand, out of inquiries made to us by people looking at the possibility of relocating to this area.

I suggest we stop this Realtor bashing and finger pointing, especially by our fellow Realtors, and get our jobs done: that of educating buyers and sellers to the opportunities of this market. There are opportunities and our jobs are to be of service to the public, not being out to make our competition look bad or blaming Realtors for fundamental economic workings of the marketplace.


Realtor, RE/MAX

Falls Church

{Bernadette McTighe} provided a great disservice not only to the Realtors of the Washington Metropolitan area but to many buyers and sellers also.

To read the letter, you would have concluded that Realtors who earn their living in the traditional sense, representing sellers and trying to secure buyers for those sellers are, by definition, unscrupulous and incapable of treating prospective purchasers honestly and fairly.

The Realtors in this community are hard-working individuals who take their profession and their responsibilities seriously. Many are paid by the seller and have a fiduciary responsibility to that seller. We make no secret of that responsibility. In fact, there is an agency disclosure form that our association provides to prospective purchasers which outlines our responsibilities. The Washington, D.C. Association of Realtors Inc. initiated the suggestion that this notice become law so there would be no misunderstanding. Once this form is provided, an agent can begin to show a prospective purchaser properties and offer professional services to help facilitate the home-buying process. While we often do represent the seller, our National Code of Ethics require that we treat all parties fairly, including purchasers.

{McTighe's} letter creates an image of a Realtor and a seller plotting to take unfair advantage of a purchaser. In reality, what usually happens is that there are two brokers involved who are often from different firms. One broker has listed the property and could have had a long-term working relationship with the seller. The other broker could have been working with the prospective purchaser for a year and may never have met the seller. This does not relieve the second broker of his fiduciary responsibility to the seller. However, as a practical matter, the second broker is not stupid. Today's purchaser is tomorrow's seller.

A second prevailing theme of the letter was very confusing. The author drew the conclusion that Realtors have some great power over the decisions made by both sellers and purchasers. I had visions of naive sellers and bullying brokers with loaded pistols pointed at the sellers' heads and demanding that they sell "at the broker's price."

In the Washington area, two things are certain. First, we are in a housing recession if you are a seller who is not selling his home and immediately reinvesting in another residential property. You can look around your own neighborhood and determine that there are many overpriced properties on the market. Brokers are not beating the prices down, rather they are in sympathy with an unmotivated seller who doesn't have to sell quickly. He is not going "to give his property away." Contrary to what {McTighe} suggested, many Realtors have accepted listings that were priced high because we wanted to give the seller the opportunity of getting the best price possible.

Second, today's purchasers are studying the market more closely and are taking a longer time to make a decision on a new home. While there are great opportunities in the marketplace, everyone is concerned about making a mistake. The idea that the broker is "shoving a price down a purchaser's throat" is ludicrous.

Another point I take issue with is the author's criticism of large brokers (in this case Long & Foster) who make a decision not to list a property that, in their opinion, is overpriced. The great thing about a free-market economy is that a business person is free to make whatever decisions he or she wishes. If you make enough wrong decisions, you're out of business. In today's market, I contend that any broker, large or small, who is not making the same type of decisions that Mr. Foster is making is doing everyone a disservice. Just because a seller wishes it were true doesn't make it so. Any broker that encourages such a seller is not providing a service. We don't make the market, we reflect it.

Realtors provide a valuable service in the marketplace. If they didn't, the market would put them out of business. Realtors as a rule are educated, motivated persons with high moral values and integrity. As in any other profession, some of its members could do better. On the whole, however, I am proud to be affiliated with such a group of individuals.

{McTighe} has chosen to provide a different kind of real estate brokerage. That's terrific. The consumer should have choices and there is room in the marketplace for all. What there is not room for is petty self-serving correspondence to the public through the media.


President-Elect, Washington, D.C. Association of Realtors Inc.


The Washington Post invites readers' commentary and letters on real estate and development issues. Offerings should be submitted to The Washington Post, Real Estate section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.