Real estate agents can safely ignore people with things to sell who position themselves as experts

Broker Notebook

Sometimes the companies that build technology for real estate agents and the “experts” who make a living giving us advice don’t seem to understand what our clients actually expect of us.

It’s true that a person or company doesn’t have to have any experience actually selling real estate, or knowledge of any of the steps involved, in order to sell products or give advice to real estate practitioners.

Armchair expert image via Shutterstock.
Armchair expert image via Shutterstock.

No one has to have experience actually running a brokerage to understand how it could be done better, or how to serve buyers and sellers better than they imagine consumers are served today.

Yet there are people out there giving advice who may not even realize that they do not understand what a real estate agent or brokerage does, or know the laws, rules or guidelines that we operate under. There are some who would be really surprised at how complicated the job of a real estate agent can be.

Agent advice is not confined to “best practices” for using technology. Experts overstep their areas of expertise, and give advice in areas where they have no experience — like how to market a loft, or how to hold an open house. Vendors are not adding value by trying to teach us things outside of their area of expertise.

Take open houses. Home sellers truly believe that open houses are held so that we can sell their house. As agents, we see it more as an opportunity to prospect — but that isn’t how we spin it when we talk to sellers.

Experts will give advice on how to hold an open house without ever considering what the seller is looking for — or the safety of the agent holding the open house, for that matter.

I would rather be accused of having no imagination than to be accused of a fair housing violation."

Last year I read an article about advertising homes for sale that suggested the way real estate agents advertise is unimaginative and kind of boring. The expert proceeded to write his own advertising copy where the property was pitched as a great place for unmarried men.

Real estate agents reading this understand that this is a fair housing violation. I don’t make the laws, and it doesn’t matter what I think of them.

Go ahead, call my marketing unimaginative. I would rather be accused of having no imagination than to be accused of a fair housing violation.

The experts who until recently were trying to get real estate agents all excited about the latest technologies are now advising us not to focus on the newest shiny object. We should be working on relationships, they say. Some experts will even chastise us for being so easily sold on the next big thing.

There are so many articles on how real estate agents should use social media. The bar for becoming a social media expert remains very low, and the Internet is littered with articles from one school of experts about how the other school of experts have it all wrong.

What we now call “social” if we are with the program is still fairly new. It’s easy to start experimenting with social, but how to use it effectively in business remains a mystery to many.

Experts who told us that all we needed is a Facebook page are now backpedaling a bit, and suggesting that we need to do more. Some have now decided that Facebook is the wrong place to advertise.

The same folks who were encouraging agents to put QR codes on everything from billboards to business cards are now poking fun at anyone who uses them at all.

We can read tips every day on topics like, “The 5 things you need to know to list a house,” or “The 3 things that buyers really want.” How do the writers know what the three things that buyers really want are? Do they know what three things my buyers want?

So far this year, I have received at least a dozen offers on my listings and to date, none of the agents have numbered the pages or put in a final acceptance date. Page numbers and final acceptance dates on legal contracts are kind of important.

Last week I looked at the profile of one of the best real estate agents in my market, on a third-party listing search portal. His biography was nonsensical. It probably does more to repel potential clients than to attract them.

Why don’t the people who write all the advice for agents help agents write biographies and agent profiles?

Real estate brokers and real estate companies need to start taking back some responsibility for helping agents. Because we need help, and there isn’t much help available. There is a void, and people with products to sell are filling it.

Maybe real estate companies cannot have experts on everything. But they could at least help agents who want to learn filter the junk.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


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