Battling an unfavorable review by the state Sunset Commission, the Texas Real Estate Commission and Appraiser Board insists it was improving its customer service problems at the very time the assessment found it lacking.
The evaluation by the Sunset Commission implies that the Real Estate Commission began to reassess its customer service as a result of the review.
The real estate agency recently acknowledged in a newly released response that the changes and the review were happening simultaneously — but that doesn’t mean the agency wasn’t already working hard to solve its problems, the response said.
“[I]t is wrong to suggest any lack of effort or urgency on the part of the Agency as it pursued incremental steps to resolve customer service issues,” the response said.
An alleged pattern of poor response times by the Real Estate Commission’s call center was a major problem cited in the evaluation.
“Average call wait times exceeded 18 minutes, and at one point, 68 percent of callers were giving up and abandoning their calls,” the Sunset report noted. Hold times ranged from 45 minutes to an hour and email queries went unanswered, it said.
The Real Estate Commission said the report focused on wait times earlier this year, a period in which the issues were at their worst, rather than looking at the two prior years. It wrote that overall “delays were successfully reduced on prior occasions through specific process improvements and targeted resource enhancements.”
The Real Estate Commission also disagreed with the report’s contention that the agency was stockpiling money for a new headquarters building rather than spending it on improving service or new technology. The agency’s response said the money was being stashed to save on office costs in the long run, and was not done at the expense of adding personnel or improving technology.
Technology issues have resulted in regular outages of the Real Estate Commission’s website this year. Douglas Oldmixon, executive director of the Real Estate Commission, told Texas Monitor earlier this month that the outages were at times due to “capacity issues … . There has not been a consistent reason.”
In the public comments section of the Sunset Commission website, generally a gathering place for complaints, several who posted asked for more consideration for home inspectors and their licensing, while others say the licensing process for real estate agents is too onerous. The Sunset Commission will hear public testimony on the Real Estate Commission next month. It will consider the testimony and written response before deciding in December what to recommend to legislators.
Lawmakers will put those final recommendations into a Sunset bill that will be debated and amended during the upcoming legislative session.
According to Sunset Commission data, 94 percent of staff recommendations made in agency reviews considered during the last legislative session were adopted by the commission and passed along in a bill for lawmakers to consider. Eighty percent of those recommendations became law.
Steve Miller can be reached at [email protected].