Let's start with a confession. The last time, a Broker required my participation in a Home Tour Caravan (you know, the Tuesday Morning meeting that used to be standard operations back in the day) was almost two decades ago. My generation of 'newly minted REALTORS' were swept up in the winds of change that overtook the industry as the 90's drew to a close.
In a few short years, home office would become popular (REALTORS didn't even have to get dressed to go to work), Agent Teams (with Super Star REALTORS surrounded by worker bees), personal websites (followed by a social media explosion which included Active Rain) and casual Friday wear everyday became norms that few could really have envisioned happening so quickly.
Into the mix stepped mega real estate sites like Zillow and Trulia, redefining the end user experience when it came to real estate search and data exchange. And with all of that whirlwind of activity, suddenly the weekly Home Inventory Tour (during which Brokers required their agents to view newly listed homes) seemed quaint and to some, absolutely unnecessary. After all, with the Internet, everything that needed to be known about a home could be seen with the click of a mouse.
In fact, in our local West Michigan real estate market there are a significant number of REALTORS who have never toured any home listing apart from their own or one which a Buyer selected for preview. The obvious question is: Does this matter? And if so...Why?
The 'Why" became readily apparent to me during the Women's Council of REALTORS Western Michigan Home Caravan Tour that a dozen fellow REALTORS participated in yesterday. As we toured homes and shared notes and advise, there were several things that stood out.
1. You can't really see everything in a picture!
Nor can you feel, hear, smell or understand neighborhood context fully when viewing a home from behind a screen. In an era where many REALTORS have become Photo Shop experts rather than Neighborhood Experts, it's easy to hide how a house sits on a lot by shooting from a clever angle with a camera. Furthermore, the condition of the property is impossible to fully capture from a descriptive or series of pictures.
2. Iron Sharpens Iron...
An old proverb states that "Iron Sharpens Iron". In an age where it is not uncommon for REALTORS involved in a real estate transaction to never meet, not even for a closing, the sharpening process is not happening to the extent it once did. We know have a generation of agents who have never presented an offer to a Homeowner for their Buyer Client in person. Heck, there are transactions being conducted today in which agents never meet their clients, not to talk about the other agent.
So, does this matter? I think it does. One of the important aspects contained in the REALTOR CODE OF ETHICS is the concept of cooperation. So much so, that some of the words contained in the Preamble to the Code of Ethics are actually quite startling with regards to what is required of our profession. I quote:
"Such interests impose obligations beyond those of ordinary commerce. They impose grave social responsibility and a patriotic duty to which REALTORS should dedicate themselves, and for which they should be diligent in preparing themselves. REALTORS, therefore, are zealous to maintain and improve the standards of their calling and share with their fellow REALTORS a common responsibility for its integrity and honor."
And furthermore, a little later in the body of the Preamble:
"Realizing that cooperation with other real estate professionals promotes the best interest of those who utilize their services, REALTORS urge exclusive representation of clients, do not attempt to gain any unfair advantage over their competitors; and they refrain from making unsolicited comments about other practitioners."
3. The 'Human Thing'...
Real Estate is a human experience. At the end of the day, as much as technology has influenced the tools we use and how we communicate, it's people who buy and sell homes. It's people who live in homes and the communities which surround these homes. When the REALTOR community cooperates together, and people emerge from behind their computer screens, its amazing what we can learn when collaboration rather than mere competition is the order of the day.
During the Home Tour, REALTORS gave each other tips and insights. Mind you, touring is not easy work, but it is beneficial work. A human tour which provides verbal and written feedback of a home is of great value to the home owner. As a REALTOR, this type of professional exchange provides insight and perspective which are not available from our own personal 'islands'.
And last but not least, this is a service that computers, cameras and technology platforms cannot provide in totality. Not now...not ever in my opinion.
So...Should some of the 'old ways' become new again? Are we missing out on an important tangible value proposition and raising up a generation of REALTORS who have been compromised; never even knowing what they could have been doing to build a sustainable professional career and become real live experts?