Do consumers think Real Estate is a Relationship business? - one consumer's perspective...

Services for Real Estate Pros with ha media group

Fireworks broke out these last few weeks with Chris Smith (Inman News Evangelist) publishing his Real Estate is no longer a relationship business piece.  As expected, not only did it start a conversation, but resulted in a few rebuttal posts, (which are linked to at the end of this blog), and a few comments that were downright nasty.  I was paying attention to the conversation as it developed, from the sidelines, mostly, and here are my takeaways, as a consumer of any good or service, not just real estate.

What Chris was saying, in essence, was that he, as a consumer, doesn’t care to follow his real estate pro on FB or Twitter, or to be taken out to lunch or be invited to your wedding.  He wants you, the professional, to handle his transaction brilliantly.  I am over-simplifying here, of course, so I suggest you read the postand the comments, and the rebuttal posts as well – all worthy of a read.

What struck me as odd in some of the comments on the many threads where this conversation progressed was the offense some took to the very idea that someone might look at their business as a ‘transaction’, and not a relationship.  Which leads me to these thoughts.

I think too many practitioners are still motivated by fear of being forgotten by those they serve and are willing to jump through all kinds of hoops so that they can keep their name “top of mind” of their past clients, so that, of course, they get referrals.  I don’t so much have an issue with the desire to remain top of mind, or even the cheesy signatures of “I appreciate your referrals” as much as I resent the idea that the folks who market that way are confusing staying in touch for the sake of future business with “relationships”.

honest realtor's manifesto
honest realtor's manifesto

Without going into the rather dull definitions battle, to me, receiving a series of postcards from my service provider is not having a relationship with them any more than getting a coupon book from Target is.  Strangely, as a consumer, I’d pay more attention to the coupon book from Target (if there is something I need to purchase in the nearest future) than I would to those SOI/touch marketing campaigns.  I don’t care how pretty and non-salesy you color it, I still view those things as a marketing tool, not a relationship building tool.  Frankly, I don’t think there is such a thing as a relationship building tool, and that includes the social media.  Relationships, while should not be confused with friendships, still involve obligations and liabilities on both sides.  And people, by and large, are rather protective of whom they’d like to obligate themselves to.

I think that as a consumer, I’d want the same thing from my real estate agent as Chris – save me the headaches of dealing with paperwork, listen to my needs, make the process as painless (for me) as possible and be there when I need you.  In short – handle my transaction seamlessly, brilliantly.  I don’t flip houses, so statistically, you probably won’t sell me another home, but if you handle my transaction brilliantly and I don’t hear from you again unless I have a problem with the home – I will recommend you to my friends and family.  I will even dig for your name if I’d forgotten it, even if I have to resurrect my HUD statement to do that.  What I know for a fact is that I will never refer business to someone just because they keep sending me cards or gifts or because they are my FB friends or twitter followers.  I will NEVER risk my reputation with people I actually do have a relationship with because of convenience.

All that said, it doesn’t mean that I can’t or won’t become a friend or develop a deep(er) relationship with any of my service providers, be they attorneys, accountants or real estate practitioners.  But these will (and do) happen as any other friendships.  We click on a human level.  We connect and enjoy each other’s company long past any transaction.  None of it is dependent on the practitioner staying in touch.

There is supposedly room in each of us for 150 or so meaningful connections over the course of our lives.  I don’t know if that number is accurate or even meaningful.  Suffice it to say that if our capacity for connecting with other human beings is finite, we are probably all somewhat protective of this finite space and whom we choose to share it with.  Let’s be honest and stop confusing customer follow up via any means with building or maintaining meaningful connections or relationships.  Your customers aren’t going to confuse the two, and there is nothing that turns off a consumer more nowadays than a fake friendship attempt.

Wouldn’t it be easier to provide remarkable service to all our clients and have enough trust in the fact that if you do a remarkable job, they will remember you, and will recommend you to their friends and family based on that, instead of 33 irrelevant likes/postcards/sets of cookies?

For any of my friends reading this, please DON”T recommend me to anyone based on our friendship.  Recommend my company based on the work we do if you genuinely believe we’re the best people to handle the needs of those you care about.  Anything less would be an insult to how we do business.

And finally, by way of a disclaimer, my business is currently almost entirely by referrals and recommendations.

Here are all the posts on the theme, in order, all worth reading.

Chris’s original post:

It Is No Longer A Relationship Business – Here’s Why


From Rob Hahn

If Real Estate Is Not In The Relationship Business, What Business Is It In?

From Bill Lublin

Being Without Relationships is Being Without Business

Your thoughts?

Originally published on my blog at hamedia group.


Re-Blogged 1 time:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Jon Zolsky, Daytona Beach, FL 09/16/2011 05:19 PM
Real Estate Sales and Marketing
Marketing 101
Art of Professional Salesmanship
Club Chaos
relationship marketing
soi marketing
touch marketing
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Tim Lorenz
TIM LORENZ - Elite Home Sales Team - Mission Viejo, CA
949 874-2247

I have always keept it professional.  I have a lot of friends.  Every now and then a client and I will click and become friends.  That is not my goal.  My goal is to do my job better than others do theirs.

Sep 16, 2011 06:21 PM #11
Anna Tolstoy
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Natick, MA

Inna, I agree with you. As a consumer I expect from a professional that I hire to provide a service for me with brilliant professionalism. To me this is the ability to take care of things I don't have time, desire, skill or license to accomplish myself. I think it's important to approach every transaction as business first. If any relationships and friendships develop later on - that is great, but I see it as an added bonus. It's always welcomed, but it's not something one should necessarily expect. Yet it's not something out of ordinary. There was a research study that evaluated where we as grown ups can meet other people, and the most obvious and easy place to do so is at work. No wonder friendships develop. 

In the end, to each his/her own. I strongly believe in personality types (or preferences), one should work from ones strengths, which will differ from agent to agent (and from one real estate guru to another). Find someone as close to your personality as possible, and learn from him / her, as much as you can...


Sep 16, 2011 06:36 PM #12
Kathy Schowe
California Lifestyle Realty - La Quinta, CA
La Quinta, California 760-333-8886

I have clients who have become friends-- and then others who I don't really want to see again.  I cannot fake a friendship-- even on facebook.  Kathy

Sep 16, 2011 07:08 PM #13
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

Very well said, Inna.  and, I agree that 33 touches is fact, it smacks of desperation.  Keeping in touch is good, but only in moderation.

Sep 16, 2011 10:45 PM #14
Dick & Sandy Beals
Wilmington Real Estate 4U Wilmington, NC - Wilmington, NC

Hi Inna,

Fifteen years ago I may have disagreed with you, as we were into the Joe Stumpf "By Referral Only" mindset.  For me the Internet has changed my MO, if we become friends....great, if not we become business associates.  I never have understood Facebook as a business tool.  Like all businesses and the entepenuers who run them, you have to use what works best for you at the time.  Seems like I change my business plan every year, right now it does not include touching them 33 times a year.

Dick Beals

Sep 17, 2011 12:38 AM #15
Gabe Sanders
Real Estate of Florida specializing in Martin County Residential Homes, Condos and Land Sales - Stuart, FL
Stuart Florida Real Estate

I wish it would be more analytical and results based.  But in most cases, my observation is that it's still very much a relationship based business.

Sep 17, 2011 01:51 AM #16
Don MacLean
Simolari & MacLean REMAX EXECUTIVE REALTY - Franklin, MA
Realtor - Homes For Sale - Franklin MA

Inna, When it happens it happens and when people push it, it shows.

Be real and be yourself and the rest will fall into place.

Enjoy the day

Sep 17, 2011 02:04 AM #17
Kim Brown
Keller Williams Realty - Keene, NH
Keene, NH - New England at its Best!

I don't have to be friends with you to do a good job for you. Nor do we have to be friends for you to decide to hire me.

"Touch" campaigns are designed to generate future business.  They are, essentially, advertising.  No shame in that, but let's call it what it is.

I resent the idea that the folks who market that way are confusing staying in touch for the sake of future business with “relationships”.


If we are friends before we do business, I trust we will remain so.  If we become friends during a business transaction, that's a wonderful bonus.

Hire me because you trust me to do the job well. Refer me to your friends because you trust me to do the job well.

Become my friend because we like, respect and enjoy each other's intelligence, similarities, differences, skewed view of the world...whatever!  Business and friendship are not mutually exclusive, but they're not mutually inclusive, either.

If all it takes to have meaningful relationships with others is regularly scheduled postcard mailings, the postal service wouldn't be in such dire economic straits.

Sep 17, 2011 02:56 AM #18
Mitchell J Hall
The Corcoran Group - Manhattan, NY
Lic Associate RE Broker - Manhattan & Brooklyn

I tend to agree except there is a difference between a professional relationship and a personal relationship. I have business relationships and I have personal ones. My accountant is not my friend but we have a good professional relationship.

My marketing efforts are about soliciting business not "touchy feely" lets become friends. A common interest may break the ice but the bottom line is about delivering results.

In a recent consumer survey my brokerage conducted when asked: "Would you prefer to work with a real estate agent who is a friend" ?

61% said NO and 31% said Yes.

Frankly, I don't get the personal blogs about pets and pictures of dogs and cats and babies. To each their own, I know that works for some, just not my style.

IMO there is no substitute for experience.

Sep 17, 2011 04:25 AM #19
Debe Maxwell, CRS | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods

Hi Inna,

I have friendly relationships with many of my clients and serious business relationships with others.  Some buyers can't wait to have me over for dinner once they get settled, others don't return calls when I call to check in on them after the Closing--they'll text me and say, "Thanks for everything; we're doing great!" and that's about it.  They don't want anything more than a business relationship; they'll call me when they need me and I totally respect that.  

I believe alot of 'old schoolers' and even some of my fellow NINJA agents believe that the 33-touch program, becoming their friend and begging as many referrals from them is the way to go.  In MHO, it doesn't take 33 times each year to remind them that I'm still in the business--an email newsletter or a call or even a holiday card to me shows more respect than the desperation that screams from our constant contact with them to the tune of 33 times per year!  

And, hey, I'm in the South and still don't think that every single client of mine wants to be my friend--or be contacted several times each month either!

On another topic, I also don't hound my clients to send me testimonials--that seems to be epidemic.  If they are so moved to go online and write one, then I'm extremely grateful; if not, then I respect that as well!  

Sep 17, 2011 02:55 PM #20
Denise Hamlin, Broker/Owner
Cardinal Realty ~ 319-400-0268 - Iowa City, IA
Helping Happy Clients Make Smart Choices

Thought provoking post Inna. You're definitely onto something. I especially like your assessment that a relationship is not dependent on a practitioner staying in touch. That seems about right to me. As a consumer I remember people who impressed me when I used their services. I don't need cards to remind me to go back. Why should I have so little faith in my own memorability?

Sep 17, 2011 05:51 PM #21
J. Philip Faranda
J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY - Briarcliff Manor, NY

I read Chris's post and I think his point is that going out for a cup of latte isn't going to get a better price for a house. Clients want us to do our job first and foremost. 

Sep 18, 2011 04:55 AM #22
Inna Hardison
ha media group - Orlando, FL
Wordpress for Real Estate & Design, Print HaMedia Group

Out of order here, peeps, my apologies. Catching up the best I can.

Denise @22 - bingo. I don't know why anyone should have so little faith in their ability to do a memorable job, especially as it involved something as large and important as buying real estate property.  We remember people who were exceptionally nice to us years ago serving us a glass of beer, but we forget who helped us buy or sell our home?  I don't think we forget remarkable experiences, or even great ones, but it's certainly harder to master the art of a remarkable transaction than to simply add someone to a drip campaign.:-)

Mitchell @20- that is a very interesting statistic, and not at all surprising to me.  I think we are protective of our friendships, as well we should be, and when there is any possibility that we may infringe on a personal relationship, we are bound to avoid it.  I'd go so far as to say that a portion of the 31 percent that said yes would hand their real estate business out of guilt, or to not hurt their feelings, i.e. also an attempt at preserving the friendship first, and not necessarily because they think their friend can do a better job.

Thanks for the comment.

Sep 18, 2011 07:18 AM #23
Inna Hardison
ha media group - Orlando, FL
Wordpress for Real Estate & Design, Print HaMedia Group

J. Phill @23 - yep, that's kind of what I got out of it.  :-)

My dear Tanya - not much to add to your excellent comment.  xoxo

Debe @ 21 - I am with you on the testimonial push.  Unsolicited, they are great, but begging for those to me is very much like begging for referrals. As for relationships, we are bound to like some of the people we deal with on a daily basis and not others, so long as it happens like any other relationship, i've no problem with that.  It's the expectation of a relationship that bugs me.  Thx for the comment!

Kim @ 19 - I couldn't have said it better myself.  Miss seeing your face around, lady:-)

Sep 18, 2011 07:44 AM #24
Cindy Jones
Integrity Real Estate Group - Woodbridge, VA
Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News

I couldn't agree more.  I never understood the send your clients a packet of seeds, a receipe or something else every month just to stay in touch.  Were you best buds with your clients before you sold them a house?  Do you send your true friends something every month?  At what point do you become a stalker?  I have some clients who have become friends and who we now socialize together but others are professional relationships that I touch base with a few times a year to see how it's going.

Sep 18, 2011 07:45 AM #25
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

Inna, was it EVER a relationship business? Maybe in small towns with the good old boys, people are referred business because of who they know, but my clients chose me because of the job I do, not because they wanted to be a friend.

Most of them want to go about their life like it was before we met; we are not joined at the hip just because we had a business deal. Imagine if you connected with every vendor you used, became their new BFF. You would be overrun with 'friends.'

Now don't get me wrong, I am friendly and some people do become friends, but we have our own lives to lead; we don't become each other's new BFF.


Sep 18, 2011 10:41 AM #26
Brad Jenkins
Charles Rutenberg Realty - Tampa, FL

What do I think, hmmmmm,

Well my first thought is that from my research I could find and I may be wrong, but neither you nor Mr. Smith has ever been in the business of selling real estate?  There seems to me to be a proliferation of such folks superficially involved as a stealthily means of self promotion.

My next thought is that Smith's post was designed to gain exposure and lacked facts and/or research, as much of the so called expert real estate information that is disseminated as factual these days does.  Did he do a scientific survey to draw conclusions as to what real estate agents view a relationship to be versus consumers and how many times agents do contact previous clients?  I did not see that.

My last thought is that not many understand the definition of a relationship. Here is one that I feel applies: A particular type of connection existing between people related to or having dealings with each other

Obviously in this business real estate is the connection.  What sets good agents apart from mediocre ones is how they handle the second part of the definition, ". . . dealings with each other, (clients)."

Those dealings should be individualized based on the parameters and needs of a particular client.  It is up to me to find out what those are.  I do that by establishing relationships.

I had the privilege of working with a couple in their 80s.  We grew very close and even though they will never buy another home from me and have relocated to another state 1500 miles away, I still email and call them once a month.  Not to remind them I am an agent, but because I care deeply for them and their well being.  The feeling is reciprocal in nature.

In stark contrast, I also have another client that is from a different background culturally then myself, we will call them the Jones.  They are private people who do not socialize outside of their culture and family.  My approach to them is polar opposite to my elderly clients.  I will call them once a month for the first three months because when I first met them, part of what they liked about me was that I promised them I would be with them all the way, before, during and after the sale.  I will check in with them to make sure all is well with the new home I helped them buy.  After the three months, I will then check with them once every six months.

By staying in touch with previous clients I have helped them or their relative (s) find a job, a plumber, a roofer, a mechanic, solved an issue at their child's school (I taught for 16yrs.) and many other problem solving resolutions.

In conclusion, do I think real estate is about relationships?  For the way I approach it, ABSOLUTELY 100%!

Sep 18, 2011 01:31 PM #27
Inna Hardison
ha media group - Orlando, FL
Wordpress for Real Estate & Design, Print HaMedia Group

Doug @2 - bingo.

Andrea @3 - The number was something i grabbed off of a tweet.  I am not told it's part of a KW system, but in all honesty, it doesn't matter. It doesn't have to be 33 times, it could be 12 or 6, and still be wrong, as far as the larger picture is concerned.  It's the intent that matters, at least to me.:-)

Chris @4 - I wasn't really referencing AR in my post, and I suppose there is somethign to be said for inner-industry referrals grazing by virtue of becoming friends.  The friendship lines here get blurred a lot as well.  On the larger sentiment in your comment - agreed.  Do you job well, or better than well, and none of the other stuff will be nearly as important for generating business.

Ruthmarie @5 - well, I tend to disagree with "gurus" an awful lot, it seems.  Nothing wrong with staying in touch, again, so long as we call it that, and not something it's not.  :-)

Dale @8 - thanks for the comment and yep, i think quite a few agents are delluding themselves when it comes to those all important 'relationships'.

Charles@ 9 - Good to see you, and thank you:-)

HJS @10 - I've no issue with anything that develops naturally, it's the pretense that gets me.

Marge@11 - supposedly, every one has a limit on friends.  Not sure which Inman Report you are referring to here.

Sep 19, 2011 05:38 AM #28
Inna Hardison
ha media group - Orlando, FL
Wordpress for Real Estate & Design, Print HaMedia Group

Tim @12 - and that goal is a worthy one:-)

Anna @13 - thank you for the well thought-out comment.  Much appreciated.

Kathy @14 - I don't think anyone can truly fake a frienship.  Although so many do try.

Debbie @15 - as mentioned earlier, that number is meaningless, just the intent that matters.

Sep 19, 2011 06:02 AM #29
Miriam Bernstein, CRS
New Orleans Property Lady, LLC - New Orleans, LA
New Orleans and Surrounding Suburbs Real Estate

Great post, I read Chris's post and totally agree with it.  We are hired to do a job, do it well and move on.  A house sale is a transaction.  I have over the years made friends with a few buyers that I had a long term relationship with while finding the right property for them and if they think of me to refer that's great.  I have never done the postcard, email solicitiations.  Don't have "refer to me" in my emai signature.  Do a good job and you will be referred. Your dad had the best view - we have the wrong perspective and expectations.

Sep 19, 2011 01:26 PM #30
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