The real estate business has definitely evolved over the last few decades, with the growth of technology being the main contributor. But when it comes down to it, working with a real estate agent is not just about finding a savvy salesperson, but rather it is about finding someone who truly has your best interests at heart and is willing to work hard to find the right property or sell your home, at the right price, with the best terms. It is not so much a sales relationship as it is a trusted adviser relationship. An agent plays many roles throughout the buying and selling process – researcher, chauffeur, adviser, negotiator, paperwork coordinator, and therapist – to name a few.
As they always will, many people try to come up with ways to find and convert “leads” to clients, from advertising to cold calling to handing out cards to people all day long and asking for referrals from past clients, friends and family members. In the last year I have seen some interesting attempts to woo potential buyers and sellers, and although I am impressed with those who are trying hard, I must say I have been surprised at some of these methods:
1.Â Recorded Calls: I received my first recorded sales call from a real estate agent last year. I was surprised because the agent, who had a lot of enthusiasm, sounded like he was trying to sell me a used car. He went on and on about how he could help me buy or sell a home, and about his strengths as an agent. Now, I must say that selling real estate is not difficult – anyone can do it. BUT not everyone can do a great job at taking care of the PEOPLE, the clients. I have always said that this business is not about houses, it is about people.
2.Â Print Marketing: Marketing via mail and email has always and will continue to be a very strong way for the real estate agent to get business – s/he creates a lovely flyer or brochure and lists skills and past sales and testimonials to make her/him look amazing. S/he even uses words like “Number 1 agent” and “Top agent,” “sold more homes than anyone else.” The trick is that many agents can say these things by putting a spin on the information, and these statements can be true.
Many of these advertisements actually constitute ethical violations in my opinion (and I have been trying to get the rules changed to prevent this, but that is another story). For example, if you are a broker who oversees say 30 buying agents, and among those agents your brokerage or team sold 100 homes last year, how is it ethical for you yourself to claim you sold over 100 homes last year – you did not do that personally, your agents contributed many of those sales. But to the average homeowner who receives your marketing piece, you look like you have done more business than anyone else. Glossy marketing pieces with claims to being “the top producer” do sway the average Jane and Joe many times. Like the political arena, I think that if agents are going to make claims like this they need to explain the truth behind the claims.
3. TV Commercials and movie theater advertising: These types of marketing can also be valuable, but again the time is limited and the agent has only a few moments to convince you of how incredible they are at their job. There is no fine print – but if it gets you to remember their name and call them then the piece has achieved the goal set by the agent. Again, anyone can make a great marketing piece that makes them look like the best agent ever – and of course that is what all salespeople try to do.
4. Broker Calls to Agents About Homes “Coming Soon” to the Market: This newest method is interesting, and is aimed at local area agents. A broker has an agent make calls to other agents’ voicemails, reading from a script about a home that is not yet listed on the open MLS but soon will be – they tell the agents (it seems agents are chosen based on who sells the most in a given area – not all agents receive these calls) that they are giving them a chance to show the property to their buyers before it hits the MLS. Now, if you happen to be an agent working with a buyer and get a call describing the perfect home, this could be a win-win for your client. But if you are an agent and do not get that call, or if you are a buyer looking online and waiting for the perfect home to pop up, you are truly at a disadvantage in such a situation. So this can be a good or poor method of advertising, depending on how you look at it.
5. “Coming Soon” Listings Posted on Third Party Sites: There are some third party sites (such as Zillow and Trulia) that allow agents to post “coming soon” listings. Not all agents can do this – they must pay to become an elite member of these sites, and then they have the “privilege” of posting such properties. It’s great for the agents – they likely get at least some calls from potential buyers – but for those buyers who are not looking on those sites they get the short end of the stick if the home sells before hitting the MLS. Similarly, agents can send out e-flyers or emails about listings that are coming to the market soon, and if this is done fairly (sent to ALL agents in a county), then that is a great advertising tool. It is not fair to the potential buyer who is not working with an agent and who waits for properties to list on the MLS, but of course this is just one of the many benefits of working with an agent (we tend to hear about up and coming listings from many industry sources – agents, appraisers, lenders, sellers, etc.).
From my perspective I believe that all agents should be able to advertise and “sell” their services and skills. But I think there are 2 rules that need to always be adhered to by real estate agents and brokers: 1. Keep it classy. 2. Be honest and ethical. If the local real estate associations who govern agents and make rules set out to make the rules stricter, I think it would be beyond valuable to potential buyers and sellers.
If you are looking for a real estate agent, remember to get the full picture – what can s/he do for you that is different from other agents? Make sure you will not be just a number – some agents have teams of people working for them and they represent many clients – if you like this than great, if not you may want to look for an experienced agent who treats you like you are the only client. Everyone has different needs, so make sure you get all your questions answered and find the person who is best able to help you; shiny materials and boasts about being a “top producer” should play into your decision minimally (although you do want someone who can sell your home with strong marketing and advertising abilities), but you need to feel comfortable with the person and what s/he can offer you.