Realtors. A changing role… but to what?

Realtors: Why they matterRealtors. I love teasing my fellow practitioners of this fabled art – lets face it, there is lots to laugh about! For the most part we are a really stereotypical bunch, with big hair, gaudy Cadillac’s and giant day-planners – and as such, ought to be heckled a bit. We deserve it.

I got into real estate in 2002, just as things were heating up and getting crazy. I was young, full of energy, and thought I was the most-needed commodity out there. I’ve remained in this business for 11 years, so I’ve run the gamut of ups and downs, and seen some incredible technological changes in how our services are delivered and perceived, and think its worth scribbling down the ramblings…

Many of the most common questions I get from prospective buyers could be summed up by a single theme: “What are you going to do for me that I cannot do myself?” I’ve heard other, older brokers and salespeople become somewhat offended by the question – as if our role is fixed in the world order, and should be self-evident to everyone – but the reality is, that the question is entirely valid. In fact it’s a darn good question!

The fact of the matter is, that our role has changed tremendously, and if we continue to operate and market as we once did, we will put ourselves out of business – and fast! In the 1980’s, 1990’s and to some extent even the early 2000’s our primary role was that of home-finder. We had the tools and know-how to locate potential properties for our customers, and provide them with access that they otherwise would not have. To be sure, we still have that ability, but now, so do the buyers.

Lets be honest – we can talk shop around the water cooler and try to tell ourselves that we have special tools, and MLS, and property records and other information that the buyer doesn’t have access to, but by and large that’s not the case anymore! Like it or not, it’s a brave new world, and nearly all buyers have a great array of information and analysis tools at their fingertips!

The role of a Realtor (BTW, this is pronounced Real-tor…NOT Real-a-Tor!! Pet peeve.) has transitioned from finding homes for buyers, to advising buyers. I for one think this is great! There was never anything more frustrating for me than to try and tell a buyer what they wanted, and fit them into my “options” for them. It just never seemed right. I love the new world! For the most part, my buyers show up with houses that they found and would like to see – what they want from me is access, advice and expertise.

My advice to my fellow practitioners: Embrace the new reality, and STOP grumbling about it! Embrace Zillow! Use Trulia! Don’t try to keep your customers from the big brokerage company websites and all of their AWESOME web capabilities. Instead, harness all the work and expense that they have done and use it to YOUR benefit!

At a group showing recently, I saw another salesperson really taking a strip off of her buyers. Lets forget for the moment the fact that she was doing this publicly (always classy), and consider what she was barking at them about. She was absolutely incensed that they had printed the listing sheet from a competitors website. I knew both the agent and the competitor, who happened to be a large corporate brokerage, with an very good and capable website, and found myself thinking, “What would I have done?”

First, if a buyer wants to use someone else’s website, they will. None of our whining will change that. The fact is people go where it is easiest and most helpful. Let them. Our value is in our experience, advice and relationship. So they visit the big name website, do their research, and print their sheets – at the end of the day, if they still call their Realtor to setup the showing, what a coup! Close the sale, and laugh all the way to the bank!

Secondly, I decided that this reinforces the reality that this is more about relationships and niche experience than ever! Know your stuff, and know it well, and you will be providing a value-service that FAR exceeds anything that the Internet offers and anything we ever did as “house finders.”

The take-away is simple: The consumers have spoken – and they want to do the finding themselves. Lets focus on giving them what they want. Focus on customer service, honest analysis, advice and expertise that average folks simply don’t have – regardless of how well read they are, of how many forums they digest from the interwebs!

Embrace the role of expert advisor instead of that of home-finder. Your job will be more natural, and in fact, easier. The customer experience will be more natural and enjoyable. More deals will close. More customers will be happy. More referrals will be made. The cycle goes on.