Someone recently asked me at a wedding I was attending, “how will you be doing real estate in ten years time?” The easy answer for me was to explain how the job has changed since I joined the industry and then times continue the line into the future.
So how did the job used to be?
I’ve been selling real estate with a focus on the North Wellington real estate market for approximately 15 years. That’s one hellava long time in real estate by modern standards.
When I first started the job,
*Agents held the information. There were no online property information services.
*Advertising was print media based and space was always at a premium. Adverts were largely limited to one small photo and about 26 words of script ( Try telling the story about your own house when you’re limited like that!). There were no property websites.
*People picked up the phone or walked in the door of the office when they wanted to find out about property in an area. Saturday morning was one of our busiest days with home buyers streaming in the door to talk to an agent. You sat them down in a little room and asked them questions to gauge motivation to buy(you made this call before you took them out in your car cos you learned very quickly to dodge timewasters) and you also compiled a list of their needs and wants and put in a little time updating them on the current market conditions.
* Agents were taxi drivers. Open homes were just starting to become popular but were a fringe activity that was only partially successful. As an agent, I would cultivate a relationship with Serious Buyers and book in time to drive them around on a circuit of properties that I believed fitted their profile.
* Homeowners hired agents based on signage, mail drops, referral of friends, or previous successful business dealings.
* Real Estate was an office based activity. Cellphones were a cool thing to have on your hip but texting didn’t exist and the phones were too expensive to use unless it was an emergency. You were given a desk to sit at in a little cubicle, often in an open plan office. You were given a landline and told to make cold calls, knock on doors, fill mailboxes with leaflets, chase your friends up for leads, and follow-up buyers you had on your books.
* It was a paper war. Pieces of paper everywhere – contracts, property details, flyers, advertising.
* The agents who were longest in the office got the first dibs on car parks, buyers (walk ins), and potential seller enquiries. Beginners were gophers – doing open homes in the worst houses on the companies books, dealing with the no hoper D grade buyers who were only out looking for a bit of company or wanting ideas for their own home kitchen renovation.
* The real estate industry was largely self governed which did allow for some abuse by roguish individuals. The reputation of real estate agents was at a low ebb. There was little government involvement.
* House deals fell over mainly because buyers couldn’t secure finance.
* Buyers hold as much information as agents. Online resources give buyers an overview of individual properties, markets, or locales.
* We are in the transition from print media to online. Many dinosaurs hold on to the old skool ways of doing real estate and gullible homeowners still believe them when they push them to pay the exorbitant costs of print media adverts in property mags or regional newspapers.
*People email or text first when enquiring about property. The phone still goes but not with the frequency that it used to. Almost no one walks in the door of our real estate agency to purchase or sell a home. Interestingly, potential renters still do a lot of legwork.
*Agents are open home hosts, marketeers, and hand holders rather than information providers. There is still a very valid role for agents in my view. Home selling is more than just banging a property up on trademe and waiting for buyers to hand over an offer. There is a lot of reassurance needed in today’s post leaky building environment. Buyers are on info overload and often this stops them from reaching their property ownership goals. Good agents help the buyers commit to a purchase emotionally and work with them over days or weeks to reach the point where they unconditionally purchase the property and pay a deposit. Though this is where the job of agent officially finishes, there is a certain amount of handholding and information relaying needed right up until after they’ve moved in.
* Agents are still largely sticking to the old ways of prospecting for new homes to sell but there are changes in the air. Tech savvy agents are coming into the market place and using social media, property apps, blogs and other online focused methods to stay in touch with old clients and gain new clients.
*Real Estate is no longer an office job. Smart phones were the final nail in the coffin for the corner real estate office. Interestingly, many agency owners still want an office to provide t he agency with profile, but the salespeople themselves are frequenting the office less and less. The cubicle style spaces that most real estate agencies provide is not helpful for promoting productivity in their staff. Owners are struggling to maintain contact with their salespeople as the car or home office becomes the main place for doing real estate marketing.
* Real estate has been forced to clean up its act and the government has got involved in the governance of the real estate industry and it’s players. Contracts, agency agreements, rules and regulations have become progressively complex. Agents have had to put systems in place to safeguard themselves in case of litigation. The agent is often a soft target in leaky building disputes and for vexatious claims by disgruntled buyers and sellers.
* Conditional house deals fall over mainly based on the builders report. Increasingly exhaustive builders reports have become the biggest hurdle to getting buyers to unconditionally commit to a property purchase. Within my own company, there are some inspection companies who crash more than 70% of the deals they are called to inspect. This is a scary trend and the real estate industry will have to come up with constructive ways of helping home owners achieve a successful sale.
* Mobile location-based property companies without offices and with fully integrated computer systems covering every aspect of a real estate salesperson’s business.
*Further increased regulation and government intervention
*Social media prospecting – Facebook advertising by agents, online advertising by agents on property websites, online referral websites (eg.linked in) for clients to be able to provide feedback on agents, huge use of email databases to get new business and for personal promotion.
* Increasing use of mobile apps for property marketing – instagram, Facebook, foursquare, google places, and many apps we haven’t seen yet to target specific buyer profiles rather than the currently blind blanket marketing approach.
* Vendor builder reports and compulsory providing of property information like title searches and LIM reports. More time spent by agents helping homeowners prepare for sale so that the marketing programme runs smoothly.
* Video for property advertising – not just a digital slideshow slapped together by the brother of the sales agent, professionally drafted and created web adverts for properties and for personal promotion. Use of models and props and storylines in online images and videos of properties to sell the benefits of the property not just list the features.
* Live video and webinars, online forums and chatrooms to talk directly in real-time with buyers, sellers, and to aid negotiations of property deals. The rise of the virtual agent – selling and negotiating property deals solely online with no direct contact on the buyer side.
I’d love to hear from you. How do you think the process real estate marketing will change in the next ten years? Is there still a place for a real estate go between? Thanks for reading. If you have any property related questions or a cool topic you’d like to hear my opinion on, don’t hesitate to drop me a note. Check out my North Wellington Property Blog. It’s full of juicy local goodness.
Dave Garratt – Guardian First National
October 26 2012 07:10 pm | General Real Estate