Dehumanization of The Real Estate Agent
It has been too long now for most people to remember how real estate agents and their brokers functioned in the past.
My last post, "'DIRECT HUMAN INTERACTION'...The Importance Of HUMAN Connection In Real Estate" was featured here on AR. This post covered the reasons that I believe to be behind the falling off of sales across the country and the malaise that we see within brokerages as they try to regain the place that belonged to them for so long. It points to the reaction/perception that has developed over the last 6-7 years, that it is Zillow and its counterparts who are running the show now in real estate. I wrote that post to counter the idea that we, as agents are less important than ever before--On the contrary, a disenfranchised public is LOOKING for the human connection that they vaguely remember, BZ (Before Zillow)
I was also invited to share that post on another website for real estate agents: ZURPLE, AGENT INSIGHTS. It should appear in about a week, so check back at the above website to see that placement.
This post should make points through ideas and a few examples of how we can begin to formulate our return to the rightful place for brokerage. I hope the points I make are well recieved and then we can all begin to rethink how we are engaging our clients and customers.
BZ--BEFORE OUR NEMISIS, ZILLOW
BZ (Before Zillow) We, as licensed agents, were the point of connection for the public. They found us in our property ads, our public open houses and through our signs on houses. They found us in church and at dinner parties, restaurants and the movies.
But more often then not they found us in our offices, at our desks working hard on all of our deals and potential clients.
These points of contact were the way we did our daily work and we did it very well! The public had no problem coming in to the office to speak to an agent!!
For most agents in today's real estate business, to understand the importance of interaction with the public and how it "drives the bus" is an impossible task!
It's not that the agents have forgotten---they have never known what it feels like! These are the nameless ones who rely on the Internet to generate their leads, to approve of them through the almost anonymous rating systems on big real estate sites and who actually pay for their own face to show up on any listing, no matter who has brought the listing to market!
TO DEHUMANIZE IS TO MAKE LESS HUMAN--AS IN A ROW OF FACES ON THE WEB, WITHOUT A FRAME OF REFERENCE, NEXT TO A PROPERTY THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ANY ONE OF THE FACES!
"Call this agent" is the command from behind the curtain--and the public follows suit. They make those calls and they get nothing but a possible confrontation as to "Who are you??? I called the listing agent to see this house!" They feel entirely miss-lead.
The public is fed up! They no longer want to even consider working with an agent to buy or sell their homes. It may take a few years before the bad experiences that the public is sure to have with the dubious likes of Z, T and others as they effort to DIY (Do It Yourself) in real estate.
ITS TIME TO RETURN TO A PROVEN, MORE DIRECT INTERACTION IN REAL ESTATE
No longer can we rely on our reputations to get referrals and calls from friends and friends of friends! We have had our reputations decimated and down-right trashed by the likes of Big Sites, i.e. Z, T and others. We have literally been dehumanized by the phony line up of stars near each face---an insinuation that said agent is a top producer when in fact they may be a brand new agent, or at the very most, have 1-2 deals that closed!!
AS AGENTS, WE HAVE NOT FULLY INFORMED THE PUBLIC OF JUST WHAT IT IS THAT WE DO!
We as agents/brokers have not been forthcoming enough with the public on just what it is that we do. The complexity of the deal is something most people have never been involved with--the perception of a "seamless deal" comes almost completely from the talent of the agent--and his or her ability to foresee issues and prevent them from becoming deal breakers.
It is very hard to tell people how hard we work so we need to demonstrate it in our day to day interactions with them. This is not a simple thing to do but I feel that we are on the leading edge of something new here and we need to take this opportunity to create videos, do seminars and do other public focused and interactive things that show us in the light that we need to be seen in.
It may be that we start doing seminars to the public--There is huge public interest in real estate--why not use that to our advantage?
Spend time in your offices again! Do more open houses! Appear in public as you help the needy!..but more than anything else: STOP PAYING THE MONSTER!!!
We can inform the public collectively, offering to those who are interested ways to understand what they can do to make the best real estate decisions--this time from the "horses mouth". I am open to hearing all the other ideas that are out there--something has to stick!
I just attended a "Give-Back" seminar that was held here in Southampton Village at the Southampton Arts Center on Jobs Lane and it was for our company with a handful of Douglas Elliman agents who appeared on a panel and who are in line with the same thinking--Give-back, or interact with the community:
- These were agents who volunteer and are on the board of a day-school for the neediest of children in our area (no one seems to understand that there are very needy families here in the Hamptons).
- An agent who has been a board member and President at one time for the "Fresh Air Fund", a 120 year old "summer home" for disabled children in New York City who get a free vacation here in the Hamptons very year.
- An agent who is a volunteer coach in a local high school in Bridgehampton.
- An agent who is a Colonial in the Air Force and he does volunteer helicopter rescues at sea and for accident victims here, who are taken to Stony Brook Hospital many miles away.
- An agent who has been a volunteer in many of the local charitable groups here.
It was fascinating to watch as the whole idea of Direct Human Interaction was displayed right there in front of me--making a terrific point! What a great "from the Heart" experience!!
This is an opportunity for those of us who do remember the business when we still had a semblance of respect and personal dignity. We are a large group and it is impossible to destroy ALL of us; yet there is a full throated effort a-foot to undermine brokerages.
In the public perception, we have lost out completely to the most unlikely competitors--the world of technology!!
It is true that NAR did not support us in the very beginning when we had a chance to put the tech experts in their proper place! It is true that NAR did nothing as they watched the Zs and Ts come into our business with no real estate or local knowledge--and yet they turned away as these sites usurped the very reason for brokerage--to protect the public from nefarious, questionable treatment!
But, try we must!! I look forward to hearing comments from those members here on AR who have suggestions and ideas that can begin to bring the public interest back to us all! Please comment below??!