For longtime Stamford-based real estate agent David M. Michonski, the pursuit of homeownership is a noble odyssey.
“I think a home is the most important thing in most people’s lives and we are entrusted with that dream,” he stated. “It might be the first-time homebuyer’s dream. It might be the person who made his first million bucks and wants to make a statement. It might be the pregnant lady with three kids who needs more space. It might be segueing mom and dad into a better place to live.”
However, Michonski is less than sanguine in considering many of the professionals who are supposed to help potential buyers achieve the American Dream.
“People open themselves up to real estate agents and trust us with their secrets and their hopes,” he continued. “And it’s kind of embarrassing with what goes on out there. Out of 1.3 million agents, 500,000 haven’t done a deal in a year. They should be out of the business. Choice Home Warranty had a survey that found 67.5% of consumers say they do not trust real estate agents. No one in the industry wants to talk about that. And 72% of buyers and sellers under 44 say they don’t trust agents. The bar is so low.”
Michonski conferred with his wife Linda, herself a veteran real estate professional, on a possible solution that could keep real estate agents focused on the process of buying and selling property. One problem they recognized was the ephemeral nature of continuing education for real estate agents.
“Education is not going to work,” Michonski continued. “Throwing three hours every two years at somebody to learn the National Association of Realtors’ Code of Ethics doesn’t work.”
Michonski realized that consumers are often the last to know what is going on during this process.
“Twenty-five years ago, the industry gave the consumer transparency into the listing, but it never gave transparency into the transaction,” he added.
Michonski labored for four years on a digital solution, which resulted in Quigler, an app designed to ensure the real estate agent is following the federal and state regulations on residential property transactions while allowing the consumer to keep a respectful eye on how the process unfolds.
Quigler culls its data from federal and state law as well as the National Association of Realtors’ Code of Ethics and presents the requirements that an agent and/or consumer must follow along each step of the real estate transaction. These requirements are organized sequentially in a checklist that asks for a simple yes or no answer. A negative answer results in a stop sign icon flashing on the screen, thus calling the user to go back and properly address the requirement.
Upon the completion of each requirement, a text or email notification is sent to the consumer regarding the agent’s actions. All actions are time stamped and dated. For actions that remain incomplete, Quigler’s database offers a listing of potential regulatory penalties for noncompliance. For example, if the property was built before a certain year and was not examined for lead paint, Quigler details the fines that could be levied for failing to address the issue.
“This is the first time in history that the consumer knows everything their agent is required to do,” said Michonski. “We’re empowering the consumer to know.”
The National Association of Realtors offered financial backing to Quigler in 2018 through REach, the growth technology accelerator operated by its strategic investment subsidiary Second Century Ventures. In turn, Quigler leased the trade group’s code of ethics for use in the app.
Michonski has made two versions of Quigler available: a free version with only the National Association of Realtors’ Code of Ethics, which has been distributed to real estate boards across the country; and a full version with the code plus federal and state law, which is being sold in Connecticut, New York and Florida, with more states scheduled in the coming months.
“The goal is to raise the bar for the agents,” said Michonski. “We’re not giving them a test. We’re here to help them. New agents can take years to learn all of this. Now, they have this on their cellphone.”