Home Tour Caravaning ~ Are REALTORS Missing the Boat?

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate


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."

(Emphasis mine)

 

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?

 

Comments (46)

Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Amanda & Jared - Thanks for your comment and sharing your opinion. To clarify, the blog post is about Home Caravan Tours.  The value extends beyond a preview in the sense that there is an opportunity to hear and learn from one's peers.  Pre-viewing for out of town clients is a real value added service in my opinion, but that's a separate point.

Jul 11, 2014 02:33 AM
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Wow Marie, your comments are excellent.  So much so, that I think they're worth reiteration.  Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing the value of your experience.  Wishing you continued success!  

Marie wrote:

To me these open houses are a wonderful business tool in many ways.

1. Keeps in on top of the inventory, should a buyer contact me, how nice it is to say, yes, I know that house, I've already been in it.

2. When I go on a listing appointment, how nice is it to let the Sellers know how well I know my area, most comps I use, I have been in them - that is powerful!

3. It gives me a good opportunity to visit with fellow agents and build relationships.

All in all, I feel it's a great 2 hour investment in my business.

Jul 11, 2014 02:36 AM
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Than!  True!  Especially with regards to your comment about the coarsening of the level of civility which a lack of face to face interaction and engagement between REALTORS sometimes has a tendency to create.  Thanks for your comment.

Jul 11, 2014 02:38 AM
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

HI Ritchie!  Thanks for your comment.

Jul 11, 2014 02:39 AM
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Joe, your experiences seems to mirror mine.  You make a good point, poorly planned Broker meetings can be a waste of time.  It's not just about getting together, there has to be thought, effort and focus in whatever we do.  That includes caravaning as well.  But, having not done a caravan for many years, the benefits of this activity were quite obvious to me.

Jul 11, 2014 03:55 AM
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Paula, thanks for your comment. Our Women's Council of REALTORS Chapter decided that the fact that there is low inventory is a great opportunity to provide a member benefit of exposure and valuable information to our current members.

 

Jul 11, 2014 03:57 AM
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Margaret - I think your point is a good one.  Pricing is not an exact science.  Definitely is helpful to get additional input both as an experienced agent or a new agent.

Jul 11, 2014 03:58 AM
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Thanks for your comment Andy.  Video is good and definitely has a place in marketing properties.  Plus it's available 24/7 once posted online.  However, it does have its limitations which is the subject of this blog.

Jul 11, 2014 04:00 AM
Carol Zingone
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Network Realty - Jacksonville Beach, FL
Global Realtor in Jax Beach, FL - ABR, CRS, CIPS

You hit the nail on the head when you said: "real estate is a human business". We can't see, touch, smell, or get a REAL feel for a floorplan if we don't visit the house. 

Jul 11, 2014 06:14 AM
Sybil Campbell
Fernandina Beach, FL
Referral Agent Amelia Island Florida

We still have caravan and I always enjoy it and learn more about the local market.

Jul 11, 2014 12:06 PM
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Lola, those agents who have been in the business for less than ten or so years - at least in many markets, don't even have a context for this! 

I'm old fashioned.  If people are going to pay me boatloads of money to sell their home, I'm going to show up for appointments and Open Houses looking professional.  And when on the buyer's side, especially with upper bracket showings, I want to know exactly what I'm walking into.  And I always offer to let the buyer's agent present their offer to the sellers, although they often give me a blank look (over the phone).

When the clients see very young agents in blue jeans and flip flops, they may indeed question why they are paying them so much money - or for that matter, Chevy Chase matrons in casual Friday attire.  There was a really good agent I used to work with who always said, "You have to dress better than they do!"

Jul 11, 2014 02:52 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

No flip flops for me.

Jul 11, 2014 03:57 PM
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

And better dressing has a wide range for some people I suppose! lol

Jul 11, 2014 03:58 PM
Pamela Seley
West Coast Realty Division - Murrieta, CA
Residential Real Estate Agent serving SW RivCo CA

Home tour caravans are the best thing since sliced bread. If I get the opportunity, I go

Jul 11, 2014 04:06 PM
Patricia Kennedy
RLAH Real Estate - Washington, DC
Home in the Capital

Hey, Lola!  I inlcuded this post in today's Last Week's Favorites.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Jul 12, 2014 11:36 PM
Tavia Thomas
Keller Williams Great Smokies - Waynesville, NC

Our office is one of the few in our area which still does a weekly caravan. Our sellers like that we do this, because they feel that everyone in our office is familiar with their home. I've been very supportive of this practice over the years. However, I have opted out for the last few weeks. Thanks for reminding me of the reasons why I should get back on track with it!

Jul 13, 2014 02:20 AM
Linda Metallo DiBenardo
RE/MAX Impact, Lockport, Illinois - Lockport, IL

Brilliant Lola! Touring homes is a missed opportunity. So what if you will never sell the homes on tour, they are golden opportunities to view homes, meet & greet fellow agents, talk shop and discreetly promote your own listings.

Jul 13, 2014 12:54 PM
Lola Audu
Lola Audu~Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI Real Estate - Grand Rapids, MI
Audu Real Estate~Grand Rapids, MI ~Welcome Home!

Patricia,  Thanks for the inclusion in "This Week's Favorites' on Active Rain.

Jul 14, 2014 11:31 PM
Ginny Gorman
RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate - North Kingstown, RI
Homes for Sale in Southern RI and beyond

Lola, you wrote a fantastic post & I use to scoff at the brokers caravans but I have found a couple of homes from them for clients that never came across well in the pictures.  Also, I have wowed my agents with some of my homes even though the professional photography was wonderful...sometimes you have to be there.

Jul 15, 2014 05:08 AM
Dana Hollish Hill
Hollish Hill Group, JPAR Stellar Living - Bethesda, MD
REALTOR * Broker * Coach

I miss the days when I was allowed to present my buyers' offers to the listing agent and seller directly. It's a skill that the new agents are not developing. It allowed the sellers to ask questions of the agent who knows the buyers. Now we're asked to "Just email it in."

Nov 25, 2014 02:18 AM