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Ohio REALTORS voice strong support to modernize the state's licensing system

May 21, 2021

Ohio REALTORS voiced strong support for a bill designed to modernize the state's licensing system, one of the top legislative priorites of the 35,000-member Association.

Beth Wanless, director of government affairs for Ohio REALTORS, testified before the Ohio House of Representative's Technology & Innovation Committee in support of House Bill 230, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Ray (R-District 69) and Rep. Thomas Hall (R-District 53), on May 19. In the testimony, REALTORS’ experiences with the outdated and inefficient licensing system was detailed. Below is an excerpt of her testimony:

Many policymakers in Ohio are unaware and surprised when they learn that nearly all real estate licensing functions are paper-based and not available in an online platform. We believe House Bill 230 will not only shed light on statewide technological inadequacies, but we also hope it will lead to the modernization our industry desperately needs.

…there are more than 41,000 active real estate brokers and salespeople currently practicing. There are 2,684 active real estate companies and 835 sole proprietors. The real estate industry provides many economic benefits here in Ohio. Data and research show the Ohio real estate industry accounted for $103.5 billion dollars, or 15.3 percent of the gross state product in 2020. Additionally, the total economic impact of the average home sale in Ohio puts $61,500 back into the state’s economy through construction, commissions, moving expenses, furniture, appliances, remodeling, and other expenditures. In short, the real estate industry and REALTORS are most certainly keeping the Ohio economy moving forward.

Unfortunately, the professional business needs of tens of thousands of real estate brokers and salespeople are not being met. Instead, our members are reliant on a slow, antiquated, paper-based licensing system.

Although there are several licensing functions that should be transferred to an online platform, I will focus on the practice of transferring a license from one brokerage to another. Before COVID-19, real estate professionals could come to the Riffe Center to transfer licenses, and file other necessary paperwork to get their license updated and active. In fact, some of the larger real estate brokerages have a dedicated staff person who used to drive to Columbus to conduct some business in-person as it was the most expedient manner to handle certain licensing needs.  However, the pandemic halted all walk-ins and instead a practitioner must now send the forms in through the mail. This shed light on the inadequate, outdated system 41,000 real estate licensees are forced to use every day.

Currently it takes 4-7 days to transfer a real estate license, which means the licensee cannot legally conduct business while awaiting processing and transfer. The waiting period of 4-7 days may seem insignificant, but for professionals who depend completely on commission to make a living, every day is a lifetime.

To make matters worse, Ohio REALTORS and prospective licensees were at the mercy of a mail system that was also experiencing significant delays and other issues. Even if a real estate professional decided to spend the extra money to overnight an important licensing document to DREPL, there were potentially long delays with this process as all mail was first sent to the Department of Administrative Services for sorting, and then sent to the Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing for processing. This process could take several days and even weeks as the virus spread requiring DREPL staff to work at home and only be in-office during limited periods. I would be remiss if I did not express our Association’s sincere gratitude to the Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing staff for their dedication, long hours, and tireless effort processing the paperwork they receive.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, our REALTOR members tolerated the antiquated, paper-based system. During the pandemic, the outdated system literally stopped our members, small business owners, from working. This is unacceptable. If our industry has learned anything over the past year it is that we desperately need an online system for all real estate licensing functions.

Depending on a paper-based system and the mail does not allow for a seamless, efficient licensing system. The system is outdated and does not represent the high-caliber industry professionals who deserve and need an online system to keep their licenses current and active. House Bill 230 will help the policymakers better understand how the system works, how it does not work, and how to get it up to the speed of business that Ohio real estate professionals should enjoy.

The Committee followed up with questions and thanked Wanless for sharing Ohio REALTORS’ experiences.

Ohio REALTORS will keep you updated on HB 230 as it moves through the Ohio General Assembly.

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