Effective Communication in Real Estate: Buyers

Most consumers don’t understand the real estate process, and why should they?  They aren’t real estate salespeople and they don’t help people buy or sell real estate on a daily basis, yet many real estate agents neglect to explain the basics of the process to their clients.

It’s like speaking another language and forgetting that there may be a need to translate the terminology and process for the client to understand.  Agency is one of those terms that isn’t clear to most consumers, and sometimes not even to agents.

When working with agents, whether new or experienced, they frequently seem to forget that the terms and terminology that they use on a daily basis are “Greek” to the consumer.   I often have to pull that agent back to the basics and work with them to establish a process to educate their clients before they ever begin showing them houses.  When we fail to do this we are much more likely to find out clients have “wandered off” in another direction.

People don’t like to admit that they don’t understand something, so rather than say “What do you mean?” they will just nod their heads and go along with the flow of the conversation or tour.  Then the following week when that enthusiastic buyer is not returning your calls, or communicating with you – you will be at a loss to explain it.  The reality is this, many real estate agents are talking over a consumers head using real estate “jargon” and “lingo” that only confuses the client or customer.

The KISS principle applies beautifully here, but it’s a hard one to remember, keep it simple stupid, an in this case the “stupid” is the real estate professional who is in the process of scaring away their client.

Here are some tips to help you keep your clients, and communicate effectively with them.

  1. Start with a Buyer Education meeting.   –  When you first make contact, whatever the method of that first contact is, be sure to explain that your process involves a first meeting at your office to explain the process and answer questions on the real estate transaction, the buying process and the market conditions and practices.Part of this process is to also make sure that they are pre-approved with a lender and have a realistic and comfortable price point set for their needs.  You are also using this time to set a series of expectations between yourself and your clients.
  2. Set Expectations and Share Explanations.  – Making sure that your clients understand that you are there to serve their needs, and that part of that is to understand their expectations of you in the process is important.  This also allows you the opportunity to dispel some of the myths and misconceptions about the process and the practice of real estate.Some expectations that  should be reviewed at your first meeting include how they would like you to communicate with them, any specific time restrictions on your practice, how they can reach you if it is an emergency, and discuss and explain your commitment to them, as well as their commitment to you.
  3. The Mutual Commitment of Buyer Agency. –  Explaining in the simplest terms what agency means is important, I find saying something like “What we discuss stays between us, I can’t discuss anything you tell me without your consent, and I am obligated to provide you with any information I learn about a property you are interested in.  I am your agent, I work at your direction, as long as those directions are legal.” is a simple and effective way to explain it.

    I also like to explain that when I am showing them properties in a certain area and price point, I am not also showing those properties to anyone else.I am making a commitment to them, in my time and business, and may be turning away other clients, because it would not be fair or ethical to create a competitive situation for them.  You also need them to make the same commitment to you, which is why you then present the Exclusive Buyers Agency (or related) agreement to your client.  They protect themselves, and you protect yourself, when all parties participate and understand the commitment of buyer agency.

    Nothing hurts more than a client “keeping their options open” after you have turned away multiple other consumers in the same market as they are in to keep their best interests at heart, only to have them wander off and buy with another agent.  It happens, and it truly sucks to be the one it happens to, especially after you commit time and efforts to helping people over many years, sometimes even helping them find resources for credit counseling, etc.

  4. Ask If They Are Working with an Agent. – I always do this, and I suggest everyone do this.  Whether I was on office phone duty, or at an open house, I always ask a consumer who seems to want to engage my services if they have an Agent.  Frequently they do not, but sometimes they do – sometimes they tell me they have not signed anything and their options are open.  I will typically ask who their agent is, offer a compliment about that individual, or if I only know the name say “Yes, I have heard of them but have not worked with them, I only hear wonderful things” (keep it positive always), and I will redirect that client back to their agent.  I will also call that agent as soon as possible to notify them that their client reached out to me, or was at an open house.  I direct the consumer back to their agent, letting them know that their agent can show them any property that I can because we all participate with one another, so they won’t miss out on anything.

    Occasionally a consumer will insist upon working with me, they don’t get along with their agent, or they like my experience better, or thing I will provide them with better service, whatever the reason, I make sure they don’t have an agreement with another broker before, and will frequently send a referral agreement to the agent they had been working with (after I get them to sign an Exclusive Buyer Agency agreement with me) after I have contacted them directly and explained the situation.   Do unto others as the saying goes. It’s shame more agents don’t operate on this same principle.  I can’t even fathom the amount of guilt I would feel if I did this to someone else. Ick.

  5. Provide Market Data.  – I use RPR for this, I will pull neighborhood market activity reports, and also general neighborhood reports from NARRPR.com for the clients. These reports include some amazing economic indicators, demographics and some very sexy data in the form of things like heat maps for a variety of indicators.  I will review a report with the client and explain what each section is about and what the indicators are.  RPR is my secret weapon in impressing, and educating my clients.

If you communicate openly, effectively and respect other REALTORS we will all see a better public opinion of our industry I believe.  As well as educating the consumer, we are also educating ourselves.

So stop talking “jargon” and “lingo” and start focusing on customer service and needs.  If we communicate better, everyone’s experience gets better.

Listing Syndication: The ‘Dirty’ Industry Secret In the SpotLight

Listing Syndication: The ‘Dirty’ Industry Secret In the SpotLight

Wow. I don’t believe I have seen drama at this level in the real estate industry since, well – a few days ago with the approval of the Zillow Group formation, or with the Samuelson Memo.  Then there is Move Corp and it’s Heavy-Weight match about to happen in the US Courts.  The drama only exists within the industry and because people WANT it to exist. Stop, everyone take a breathe – this doesn’t matter to your business if you are “doing it right” – this only matters to a very small segment of our industry, and in that case it is a painful lesson in diversification.

Listing Syndication Doesn't Matter to a Consumer a REALTOR DoesIf you took a poll of 1,000 consumers asking them what ListHub is, what this all means, they would have no idea and probably not notice a thing.  Why would they notice anything?  If a REALTOR is doing their job well, then a client would never know, a consumer won’t know either but a consumer might not find you if you spend a lot of your marketing monies nested over with only Zillow or Trulia.  This is a reason that marketing diversity is a very wise idea.

The True Effect on REALTORS
There really should be none.  In 2015 most agents have their own websites, many have a product that offer “Broker Reciprocity” feeds via their local Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  For example, I belong to TrendMLS in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, through my IDX provider I have completed paperwork, and received Broker approval to get a direct feed from the MLS for my website with my Market Listings.  I did have three such websites at one point, but today I only have one.

The Point: ListHub Dropping the Feed Won’t be Noticed by Consumer
Or it won’t be noticed by most consumers.  What I think the problem is that Trulia had a legitimate feed, and that might have been part of the value of Trulia to Zillow, or maybe not.  Don’t forget Market Leader with RealEstate.com, this is more about PR than anything else in my opinion.   I never understood WHY ListHub was providing data to a competitor, in 2013 in Orlando I asked that question directly of some folks at the Move VIP party, when I was told that the competitors were to be at a ListHub party and event – “They are our customers and pay us for the data, there isn’t really competition” the conversation went on to cover the benefit of the business relationship.

I will add that one of the people at the table for a portion of the conversation was Errol Samuelson, and I will say Errol never said a bad word about anyone ever when I spoke to him, he was always positive and believed that competition led to improvements in the industry and offerings.   Errol was very pro-Move and Realtor.com in my opinion and experience, so the news of his “defection” to Zillow was a total shock to me.

Anyone else notice the Starbucks location PR blitz via Spencer Rascoff?  It grew some nice media legs, and a few other things in the last week, in the run up to the approval of the merger you had the media blitz of the book, then a few other small and intriguing concepts like the Starbucks relation to property value, which in my opinion was a purely a PR move to get more traction – that’s what a business does to promote itself right?  This might be another move for traction, but so far the public opinion I have seen has NOT been terribly supportive, nor positive.  Don’t discount Rascoff, he is a brilliant individual and business person, his track record speaks for itself beginning with Expedia.

What REALTORS Should REALLY be Upset About
You spend your time building your real estate business, you work hard for your Seller clients and spend time and money preparing listings for market. You spend even more time managing the listings, posting them, sharing them, marketing them, and if they don’t sell – you don’t make any money.  Lots of other people do make money from your listings, but no one asks about that.

We pay to get an IDX feed from our own MLS’s, which we also pay to be members of, and then in turn that data is moved through various systems and channels to become syndicated and shared to multiple media websites focused on attracting consumers, selling advertising to real estate professionals and selling the listing leads back to us.  This isn’t the case with EVERY MLS or Association, but the practice is a common one.  I could rant on for pages, but the MLS/Big Data topic is another blog post coming soon.

The Data is the Power
The Data is where the power is, in all industries, the more reliable and accurate it is  the better the reputation of the provider.  That is really what this entire conversation is about.  The reliable data feed that ListHub provides is the basis for the value of a media site that serves consumers real estate listings, if the data isn’t accurate then the consumer will go elsewhere, without the consumers then the REALTORS won’t pay to advertise.  You go where the business is, or should.

Agents do not understand how this business really works, it’s not about your sales and the portion of the commission, it’s about the peripheral services – the title policies, escrow companies, mortgage lenders, and so on – included in this is listing syndication, training and coaching programs, partnerships with other organizations, each and every thing your Big Broker sells you have a percentage that is most likely going right into the Brokers pocket.

That’s where the money is made in the real estate business, strategic partnerships and alignments, not in determining which website the consumers will find the data on.    ListHub saying it doesn’t want to share is fine by me, they are aligned with Realtor.com and therefore REALTOR.org and NAR, so it’s about time someone stood up for us – since we won’t do it for ourselves.

There is one other factor, the question of the idea of a National MLS – is that coming?  I believe that it is, but real estate is an ancient business with many archaic business models, it’s difficult to break the mold and truly innovate, or is it?  Behind the scenes there is an amazing tool that is available to all of us, it’s our NAR member benefit known as REALTORS Property Resource aka RPR.  The power of RPR is rather remarkable, I believe it is a preview of what we COULD have available at a National level, but that isn’t what it is about – it is about serving the needs of the REALTOR Member with a lot of AMAZING data, more amazing than any public, and many premium, websites I have seen.  Why are some MLS’s resistant to join and share the data WE provide them with our PARENT organization?  That’s a pretty good question, maybe a more important one to ask than getting involved in the ListHub/Zillow Group conversation.

Why not just work with what we have – I think a public facing side of RPR partnered with Realtor.com – combining the marketing power, and the lobby of the RPAC – consumers would have the best and most reliable quality of data EVER. Right?  What do you think?

 

 

 

It’s All About The Tweet, Says Google

It’s All About The Tweet, Says Google

With the announcement of an agreement between Twitter and Google as written up on VentureBeat, there is some satisfaction at many levels, and a personal one as well, that those of us who have always been staunch supporters of the business use, and value, of Twitter can celebrate with the quiet confidence that “I told you so” isn’t needed to be said, but it obvious in the outcome – this landmark agreement between two technology giants.

Twitter Opens Fire Hose Feed to Google

The Official Twitter Bird Logo

The Value of Twitter for Real Estate
I have been a huge supporter of Twitter, and it’s power for search engine optimization in real time, since I began using the service in 2008. I spent a great deal of time educating the real estate industry on the benefits and value, the pure elegant power that is Twitter. Some would dismiss it, call it a waste of time, but those that “get it” have always seen the power.

Social networks move in and out of vogue with a near constant ebb and flow, but Twitter has remained mostly consistent in what it does, how it does it and the value proposition it has – wide open for use and interpretation. I have been asked many times, in interviews, at conferences, in meetings, while on stage talking about the power of Twitter, what my favorite social network is, it has always been – and still is Twitter.

It’s Always Been “Cool”
Although there have been times when people turned their noses down at my response, and moments when it was not “fashionable” to like Twitter, I have been steadfast in my belief, and my dedication to Twitter and the value it brings the world. The real time citizen reporter power has proven itself time and time again. The mainstream media accepts it, and recognizes the value of the live and real time conversation.

Twitter chats (using tools like Nurph) have become more and more popular ways to communicate ideas, and bring master mind resources together to brainstorm, share and evolve ideas and uses of the platform, of business use cases, and of customer service.  Look for a new Twitter for Real Estate Chat beginning on February 17, 2015 from EstateSocial.com and @mayaREguru.

The Great Twitter “Told You So”
Quietly Twitter has grown it’s business model, and the power of the data it aggregates. Now, in 2015 Google – the powerhouse of search engine optimized data – acknowledges that Twitter has what it has never been able to build – a truly successful, reliable (no more Fail Whale – mostly) and desirable social network. There is quiet satisfaction in this for Twitter, who does a lot of great things (check out their #Transparency initiatives, to see how pro-user they have always been).

I have always deemed Twitter to be the “One Ring” of social media, to connect them all, and I truly believe this proves that point even more. The true value of Twitter is that it is a totally indexable and open network, unlike Facebook which requires login and access to view, engage and post messages, Tweets are immediately available to be indexed by any spider client of whichever search mechanism.

With the agreement between Google and Twitter to open the “fire hose” feed directly to Google those Tweets will be immediately indexable, therefore the value – and therefore power – of your Tweet and Twitter account has grown exponentially.  Even InmanNews offered an interesting take on what it means to real estate.

To be clear, this is not the beginning of the indexing of Twitter – it is merely a more efficient and expeditious way for that indexing to happen.  To put it simply – the indexing of Twitter isn’t new, just the means by which it will be indexed – the speed, the efficiency, and the availability will all improve.

With that, I am going to start republishing – as well as rewriting – much of my content directed at the use of Twitter for the real estate industry, best practices, how to get the return on your time invested, and the “how to” of Twitter for Real Estate (and beyond). It’s the return of @mayaREguru and my pro-Twitter message, it’s all about positioning yourself for success in social media for real estate professionals – it’s not rocket science, it’s pretty basic and it’s really all about Twitter as the method to share the information.

As the thought leader, Twitter proponent and connector of all things Twitter – Clint Miller said it best, and a LONG time ago “Twitter is a Cocktail Party” – that’s the simplest way to understand the value and power, true social networking. Clint is posthumously proven to be a true innovator, which many of us already knew.  I know he is chuckling down on us all from somewhere in Heaven.

I have told clients, classes, publishers, publications and organizations for a long time how valuable Twitter is to their business growth and development. I think the agreement between Google and Twitter is the perfect way to validate the true quantitative value of Twitter for all those naysayers who always asked “Show me the proof” as they dismissed many of us – it has always been there, if you were willing to see it.

Welcome to 2015, the (deferred since 2007) officially endorsed by Google Year of “The Twitter” for Real Estate.

How are you already using Twitter, or have you abandoned your Twitter account? What are your biggest challenges in embracing and using Twitter? Tell me below in your comments, ask questions, if you need help I will try to offer my expertise.