Real estate is a very time-sensitive business. From setting up the showings to closing the contract an agent needs to be able to plan ahead, use time as a negotiation asset, and track their clients' deadlines. Failure to do so has all kinds of potential to cause you harm, cost you money or even lose you the entire deal.
They tried to warn us.
In January of 2010 the state of Illinois decided that 45 hours of lecture-based training was not enough for someone who's selling your home or helping you to buy a home. For years that had been the minimum entry level training required for an Illinois agent to get their license. Effective May 1, 2012, the amount of training required has doubled to 90 hours, a mandatory interactive portion was added, and every real estate agent, from the smallest underdog to the biggest broker in the state, had to get a new license. In order to get the new license, they had to take some continuing education classes and pass an exam. It's a 20 hour commitment at most - half a work week.
Normally licenses expire every 2 years on April 30. Half of the agents' licenses expire in odd-numbered years and the other half expire in even-numbered years. Agents who have not taken their required education credits and paid the renewal fee get placed "on hold" and have to pay a penalty for renewing late. In most renewal cycles, continuing education classes in April are jam packed with agents who have waited until the last minute. This time around, because of the new laws, every Illinois agent's license expired on the same day - April 30, 2012. If they don't take care of things they will lose the ability to practice real estate altogether. They will need to start all over again and take the 90 hour "Real Estate 101" classes. The stakes are much higher, the chances of getting a seat in a class much lower.
Every real estate agent in Illinois has known this is coming for two and a half years. We have all been bombarded by mailings, email alerts, phone calls and warnings from our office to take care of this important issue. We have all been made aware that if we don't get a new license by May 1, we can no longer practice real estate and it will be very expensive in terms of time and money to resume business as usual.
30% of Agents Listened.
I'm writing this in early April to run on May 2, as I know that early May is always a mess. I have already completed the transition - in fact, I was finished with my continuing education credits by December 14, 2011 and had renewed my license by early February. Many agents will talk in their bios about how they "maintain awareness of current real estate trends through ongoing education." They're talking about continuing education classes here. I don't even mention it in my bio as I think this should be a given for professional in any industry. For all that agents claim to do the expected training, only 30% of my compadres have taken the necessary classes that will allow them to keep practicing real estate after May 1, 2012. First off, this means that it might well have been 2-4 years since your agent last had a refresher in the laws and restrictions that govern our business. But beyond that, let's talk about how a last-minute agent can harm your attempt to buy, rent or sell a home.