The Sunday rerun this week is a post I wrote last year about what I see as the death of the real estate business. The article appeared here first and went on to star on numerous other national real estate websites- to the delight of some, and the consternation of others…
Real estate agents. What do we really do anyway? HGTV tells consumers that we’re tour guides with gimmicky smiles and loud clothing. Bravo depicts us as a bunch of uptight drones with million dollar incomes. Our own advertising usually undermines our supposed desire to be taken seriously. We’ve made our cars into billboards and our business cards into photo albums, and in doing so, we’re rapidly ushering in our own fate. For a primer on that fate, just consult the travel agent profession circa 1997. If video killed the radio star , then the internet surely killed the travel agent. Realtors were supposed to be next.
The internet was supposed to join buyers and sellers and eliminate the need for a costly middle man in a gold suit jacket. That’s what the internet was supposed to do. We’re into our second decade of widespread internet use, and we’re still here. We survived the first attack in this war, but whether we survive the next battle is entirely up to us. This battle in fact, is from within. By keeping our mouths shut, we’re marginalizing our affect and ruining our profession.
More precisely, our industry standards and office policies are killing us off like so many flies at my son’s poolside July birthday party. We’re a profession working in fear. We’re worried about espousing the only thing that may make us viable moving forward. We’re tight lipped on this neighborhood and that development. Even our venture into Web 2.0 has essentially turned into a new forum for us to spew our same old nonsensical soft ball sales pitches. Our fear of estranging customers and angering other agents has just about ruled us obsolete as anything but an SUV driving tour guide. We attend a dozen hours of continuing education every other year to learn mostly what not to say. We’ve lost our way, and we’re now afraid to give the consumer the one thing they want. The only thing that we have that they can’t get on some web based property search. The only thing that proves our worth. Our opinions. Correction- our educated, statistic reinforced, insightful opinions. Not our opinions on culture and politics mind you, but our opinions on value. Our opinions on market trends. Our opinions on this house and that condo. Our opinions are our brand, and it’s all we have left to sell. It’s the only way we bring value to the real estate transaction, and that value can be immeasurable. Agents with unqualified opinions, or the inability to articulate those opinions, would do well to find another job if they haven’t already.
AM radio was once a thriving medium for news and entertainment. FM stole the music away from that side of the dial, and around the clock cable news stations robbed the medium of its news delivery prowess. What saved AM radio? Opinions. Strong, sensible, controversial opinions. The format is now dominated by conservative talk show hosts and sports radio discussions. Proof you say? Consider the Chicago market. The primary AM radio stations are 560, 670, 720, 780, 820, 890, and 1000. With the exception of the news oriented 780 WBBM, the remaining top stations are sports stations or political talk stations. The most popular AM talk show hosts are the most opinionated. Do any of these people strike you as reserved or muted? Rush Limbaugh, Mike North, Mancow Muller, Dennis Miller, Roe Conn? See what I mean? Their word is their brand, and they’ve gotten rich by knowing it.
The very thing that has made talk radio successful is what we as Realtors fail to commit to. If a transaction between a buyer and a seller doesn’t need a Realtor, we might as well close down our operations and apply for jobs at Starbucks. I know I for one would make a great barista. Legalzoom.com and other related websites should have put tens of thousands of attorneys out of work, but they didn’t. Why? We might be able to draft a will online, but we still need someone to tell us what to fill in the blanks. Consumers can find homes themselves online, but they can’t find out the history of the neighborhood, apply perspective to the comps, identify trending, or understand the intrinsic value of one street versus another. That’s where Realtors are supposed to come in. To fill in the gaps in the public record and to educate. Yet what do we do? We ride up in our Hummer with our face and phone numbers emblazoned on the doors, and proclaim everything a value, and every time the right time to buy. We’re embarrassing ourselves. We’re either too dumb or too afraid to give the consumer what they deserve.
We do it to each other too. We’re tight lipped about our opinions of value for fear of insulting another agent. We’ll look at a failed development and call it a buying opportunity. We live in fear of causing controversy with our opinions. We’ve watered down our brand and our word to the point where the public can only see us for what we’ve done to ourselves and it’s a shame.
Thankfully, there are Realtors all over America, Realtors like me, who are taking a stand against this spineless image and doing what we can to reposition our profession as a viable and necessary cog in the real estate transaction. We can only do this by articulately voicing our opinions. If a home is overpriced, let’s call it overpriced. If a poorly planned development has horrid architecture and is failing to attract buyers, then let’s tell our customers and clients that. For too long we’ve been calling every property a value, and every season the time to buy and I’m sick of it. We shouldn’t be tour guides and fill in the blank pencil pushers, yet the vast majority of agents are just that. Instead, we should be intelligent, educated, savvy agents who lend critical thinking and opinionated perspective to every real estate decision our customers make. Let’s stop crying wolf and voice our opinions to prove that we are indeed a valuable asset to every real estate transaction we’re lucky enough to facilitate.