Charlie Dresen's recent post, "What Do Realtors and Bookstore People Have in Common?" inspired me to write this. I'm not a real estate agent, but I've been a client of many agents while buying and selling 8 homes in 4 cities.
I believe real estate agents today are in much the same position travel agents were about 15 years ago.
Back then, if you wanted to book anything but a very routine trip, a travel agent was your "go to source" for:
- information about the destination
- insider tips on what to see and do there
- advice on where to stay, which hotels had the best location, etc.
- advice on how best to get there
- better pricing (sometimes)
That all changed once travelers could start accessing most of this information online themselves! It also changed when mega sites could be used to find/book the best rates and air/hotel/car packages.
Some people continue to use their travel agents because they have built a relationship with them over time and trust their advice.
Most of these travelers also probably don't care about saving a few bucks, they'd rather save time and have the best travel experience by having a trusted source plan and book their trip according to their known preferences.
New/younger travelers, who have never used a travel agent before, naturally turn to the online travel sites to book their trips and I doubt many of them even consider what special insights an experienced travel agent might provide (unless they're going to an especially exotic or off-the-beaten path location).
While I've said that I think the real estate industry is where the travel industry was 15 years ago, it doesn't mean you have that long to adapt. Technological advances are made at exponential rates, yet I see very few experienced agents keeping up with where your industry is headed.
First-time home buyers make up the bulk of the market and they don't have the same bias towards relying on a real estate agent for information. They are more comfortable with technology than most of you are, especially judging from the posts I see here in Active Rain and the marketing I see out there in the "real" world.
In defence of the real estate agent's current position, Charlie Dresen says, "You can trust an agent to work for you and rely on them to give you all the information you need to make the right decision." Since he wrote his post for fellow real estate agents, I would argue that he's preaching to the choir.
While it might be true when you're dealing with the right agent, real estate agents need to realize that many potential customers don't trust real estate agents to have their best interests at heart. In the past they've viewed them as a "necessary evil" if they wanted to buy/sell a home, but that is rapidly becoming no longer the case.
There are lots of bad apples tainting the barrel and you need to rise above that to maintain your importance in a world where much of what you do has been replaced by technology.
If I were a real estate agent today, I'd make sure my offline and online marketing, blogging, videos and community involvement demonstrated and supported the "trusted source" position.
Because of stumbling on Charlie's blog post I went to his homepage on Active Rain and watched his YouTube video. Let me say that if I were moving to Steamboat Springs CO, he'd be the first (and likely only) agent I'd contact! In under 4 minutes he convinced me that he is the "go to source" for:
- information about Steamboat Springs
- insider tips on what to do there and what a life there would be like
- advice on the best locations, what types of homes to look for, what to expect at different price ranges, etc.
- advice on schools and activities
- what the "smart buys" would be
- how to present my home when it was time to sell in Steamboat Springs
- using the latest technology to help me both when it's time to buy and time to sell
Now I never heard of Charlie or Steamboat Springs until 30 minutes ago. Imagine if I had already been looking to move there or was already a resident wanting to sell my home! Such is the power of effective marketing, embracing technology and not being afraid to invest in your own business to get the right message out there.
Debra Gould, The Staging Diva®
President, Six Elements Inc.
An entrepreneur and marketer for 25 years, Debra Gould has been featured in countless books, magazines and newspapers for her marketing, staging and business expertise. Prior to becoming a professional home stager in 2002, Debra bought, staged and sold 7 of her own homes. In 2005 she developed the Staging Diva Training Program to teach others how to earn a living doing something they love. There are over 4,000 Staging Diva students across the United States, Canada, and 20 other countries. Debra's latest venture, Sell What You Know teaches entrepreneurs, real estate agents and coaches how to leverage what they already know into a passive income stream.