President’s Message

The Society of Exchange Counselors is primarily an organization that exists to allow our members and guests the opportunity to gather and make “transactions.” We are unlike many organizations that serve primarily as education and networking vehicles. It is certainly true that the society offers tremendous networking opportunities, and that spending several days together five or six times a year working deals leads to the creation of a great network of brokers from across the country and Canada. This is certainly one of the great benefits of attending S.E.C. meetings in person, and one reason that I believe that remote Internet meetings never could effectively replace the personal touch of meeting in person.

Now, all of this leads to my primary message for this edition of the Observer. I would like to discuss the role of education and the delivery of education in today’s tech-savvy environment. I just completed an on-line certification class related to the affordable housing industry. Having spent about six hours reviewing the class material, taking a practice exam, and finally taking and passing the certification class, I am now “certified.” This certification was something that was necessary for the business I am involved in; however, I was lying awake last night thinking about how empty it all felt. How could it be that I became certified in an area of my business life that is important, and yet I felt totally empty inside?

This morning as I was showering (my best thinking always seems to come in the shower), it occurred to me why I felt the way I had the night before. Education is much more than just sitting behind a computer absorbing technical information. Great education is about the experience of the process and interacting with your peers in an open environment. A truly great education class should (in my opinion) be different every time based on the participants in the class. It is the experiences of your classmates that make education fulfilling and valuable. Sitting and memorizing someone else’s facts or opinions means little without the actual opportunity to discuss and apply that knowledge. The collaborative experience makes education grow, and helps give us better real-life applications of that education.

All of this leads to what I believe are the two greatest travesties of real estate education in my career. The first of these was the implementation of mandatory continuing education. The real estate industry allowed a good idea (everyone who is licensed should be better educated) to water down the quality of education. I cannot remember how many times I have heard it said that you cannot offer a successful education class in real estate unless it provides credit towards mandatory continuing education. The problem with that is that we now are letting bureaucratic agencies tell us not only what we are going to learn, but also how we are going to learn it (six hours, 50 minutes an hour, 10 minute break, etc). This takes much of the creative process away from education, and it means that someone else is dictating what we learn. The second of these travesties is the “online” course. I can sit in my living room reviewing material and then take a test to regurgitate the information I have been fed. There is no debate, no area to expand upon the information given, and certainly no room for me to gather ideas from my peers that allow me to expand the information or to figure out a better way to apply the information. NO THANKS! George Orwell certainly lives.

The Society of Exchange Counselors was formed in 1961 and has prospered as an organization for many reasons. The society believes that we must meet in person and present our opportunities in a live arena.

The society believes that you must meet your client and counsel him. You must not only find out everything you can about the real estate, but you must understand the needs and desires of your client. In a world gone cold, and in a world of online education, constant e-mail, lack of personal touch, and the constant barrage of technology, it is the client and his needs that come first.

It is the interaction of human beings that makes us, the Society of Exchange Counselors, stand out.


  1. Chris, How true about this education situation.

    I have to do the same for my 28 hours every two years as a certified general appraiser so I try to find some interesting courses to learn some new “creative” ideas.

    I fully understand the predicament we are in when it comes to RE brokerage, appraisal , and other like minded “certifications”.

    And I look forward to seeing you here in CT in January when I bring you my smaller but effective 40-100 unit South Downtown-SODO Hartford properties- that I have long-term owned across the street from where Dole and Clinton debated for the presidency-the Bushnell Auditorium-famous venue similar to Radio City Music Hall in grandeur-on Buckingham Street.

  2. Chris:
    Good article. If I boiled it down to just a phrase, I would use the old SEC phrase, We are a People Business, not just a keystroke.