The only constant is change, it’s a saying that has been around a long time and it’s never been truer than today in the residential real estate business. With over 75% of home buyers starting their home search on the Internet in 2005, up dramatically from 25% in 2003, consumers are changing faster than some real estate agents. Don’t allow yourself be one of those left behind from all the change. Keep in mind that the “new age” real estate consumers believe it’s about them, not you.
Don’t think your catch-up program will be posting some pages or a site to the web and you’ll be up to speed. Real estate consumers have fundamentally changed. They have almost as much information on available properties and sold comparable’s that you do. They’re no longer looking for an order taker or a salesperson, they want and demand a real estate resource for the purchase or sale of their home.
To become a resource for real estate consumers you have to think outside the traditional real estate agent marketing mind set. Ask yourself where consumers are looking for information. Yes, the Internet, but beyond the typical places like agent and brokerage web sites. Blogs, craigslist.org, e-mail market updates, e-zines, podcasts, and online forums create communities where consumers look for cutting edge information, news, references, and trends.
Don’t make a direct pitch for the new-age real estate consumer. You have to give them detailed information, followed-up in a timely manner and without pressure. Present yourself in a professional manner and respect their anonymity. Buyers and sellers today want to check you out before they make an agency commitment. Be patient with their craving for information and analysis. With home prices at historical highs the majority of buyers and sellers today perform high levels of due diligence.
Successful agents today understand the importance of adding value to the consumers experience. We’ve all heard why is your commission so much if I’m doing some of the legwork that you used to do? The answer is that we now add a more meaningful value to a transaction by providing in-depth, day-to-day local market analysis, resale counseling, and negotiation strategies. I’m glad the old days of being the taxi cab for home buyers and the concierge for sellers are gone. Buyers and sellers need us more for the unique experience and insight that we provide from being in a specific market, which like any market ebbs and flows, and has aberrations such as the listing with three fall-through contracts, the multiple-offer at one time buyers, and the developer who wants to price the market past it’s boundaries. This is the bread and butter of the new real estate agent job description.
It’s easy to work out a marketing plan for the new consumer. Remember that you have to reach them with several web resources, still have a print presence with listing advertising, and send out value-added newsletters that are not boiler plate and create a long shelf life, because they’re filled with must-keep information, like sold comparable’s from the last six months.
Don’t rely on your company for all your marketing needs. You are a sole-proprietor of a business within your broker’s business. Learn how to court journalists for free publicity from events that you hold to build awareness of your real estate business. Sponsor a non-profit charity in your community, a neighborhood revitalization program, or a real estate seminar for single mothers. Local media want to know how you’re giving back to the community. Plus with the new relationships you have, more future buyers and sellers know your name and how you conduct yourself. Networking is not over used; it is the foundation for relationship based selling.
Rethink your use of promotional items with your name, head shot (hopefully not a glamour one), or body shot on them. Savvy homebuyers and sellers appreciate closing and holiday gifts that say you add value to their lives. Several years ago I stopped sending calendars after I learned that most of my clients had palm pilots. I purchased Starbucks gift cards and send them out, every year I get at least a twenty-percent thank-you-for-the gift-card response rate versus none from the calendars. Likewise with closing gifts, I switched to basic home repair and maintenance books or a one-year home warranty, something every homeowner can use. To build relationships, I interact with my clients between transactions. Hosting a get-to-know-the neighbors open house after they’ve settled in, inviting clients children to a day-at-the-movie, or arranging networking client dinner parties where the guest list reflects similar professional or personal commonalities. People love when it’s about them, make your clients the stars of any get together.
Playing catch-up with today’s real estate consumer is easy. Place aside the old industry ways and embrace the new. Consumers have told us Do-Not-Call, emailing instead of walking in, and looking for property in the comfort of their own home or office via virtual tours before starting their home sale or search is how they prefer to do real estate business today. Consider what they’re thinking about, concerns and perceptions are, and what the big consumer product companies are doing marketing wise to reach them, and you should be right on target with the “new-age” real estate buyer or seller. Think like a real estate consumer in 2006, be a resource to them, and you’ll reap the rewards.
© Copyright 2006 Mark Nash