Editor’s note: Michele Chiu’s account of her experience attending the Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco is republished with permission from The Boutique Real Estate Group’s Orange County Real Estate Blog.
It’s been two years since I started my journey in the real estate industry. Real Estate Connect San Francisco is the first big real estate conference I have been to, the other being a workshop in Las Vegas with Mike Ferry. The conference was a full 2 1/2 days of speakers, workshops and networking. It was like a wonderful mashup of those who are at the top of the real estate industry, trading info on the newest apps, innovative concepts, tips and crazy ideas.
Real Estate Connect San Francisco 2014 photo montage courtesy of Michele Chiu, The Boutique Real Estate Group.
- What is more important to a buyer: relationship or convenience? When Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman took the stage on Day 1, my love/hate relationship with Redfin deepened with a new reality check. Kelman’s team found that when browsing properties online, buyers value the convenience more than the relationship of an agent — every time. The invention of the 4G mobile device allows us the instant gratification of getting what we want at the touch of a screen/button/app. Today’s savvy homebuyer will prefer the agent who can show them the property at that very instant instead of the one who they may have been communicating with on and off.
- Be efficient or be extinct! Don’t reinvent the wheel — simplify your workflow and improve your system. By noon each day of the conference, there would be at least five to 10 new apps downloaded on my iPad. In fact, there was a room FULL of little booths set up with the newest apps and goodies available for the world of real estate. A few that definitely stood out to me were Refresh, Twilio, Tempo, HouseCall, Updater, Lenda and Lumentus.
- Information asymmetry only helps the sellers with the lemons. In the used car market, people used to have no way in telling if they were going to end up with a bad car since the only person who knew was the person selling it. This resulted in lowballer buyers who factored in repair costs when haggling, while sellers with the good cars end up never selling because it wouldn’t be worth it. So the only cars that ended up selling were the bad ones at average used car prices. When purchasing anything of value, people love information. With the largest purchase decision of their life, people want to know everything and anything that may alter their decision about purchasing the home. The Internet is a beautiful thing, but misinformation can be a huge problem. Sometimes things are simply just not true, and at that moment, you need to be the professional who can clarify between fact and myth. Therefore, give your clients all the information they need, give them the resources, and be a trusted filter. A consumer who is educated in the market can become the fastest transaction. No one wants a lemon.
- Uber-fying the real estate transaction. The term “Uberfy” started trending at ICSF from the very start and is basically used to describe anything that is able to help bridge the gap between consumer and services. How can we leverage that in real estate? Have an awesome online presence! Be on ZTR (Zillow/Trulia/realtor.com), have a social network and answer your phone. Embrace the advances in our industry through technology and make it work for your business. A great agent encompasses a combination of professionalism, local expertise and a great online presence. There is no point having a great product that no one knows about.
- Work your angle. There are three types of brokerages out there: corporate firms (Re/Max, Century 21, etc.), boutique firms (The Boutique Real Estate Group) and discount firms. Know your advantages and disadvantages when working at each type of firm and make sure it is aligned with how you want to operate your business. As Charles Moore put it, “Safeway can be our neighbor, but my wife shops at Whole Foods.”
- Rich people like free stuff. OK, so who doesn’t? There are many new things I’ve learned at ICSF and quite a few I already practice (which makes me feel great about myself). Then, there are the things that other top agents do that make my practices look like child’s play. Alex Wang, for example, practices vacation stalking where he finds out where his clients go on vacation and literally calls the hotel to make sure they receive an awesome care package upon their arrival. In a big transaction, the little things matter.
- Take it from the top! Many of us take referrals for granted. So your best friend’s sister needs to buy a home. Instead of assuming the sale, you have to win them over again and again. Start from the top and give them the top service their friend or family promised them!
- Bake, don’t eat! Guy Kawasaki shares with us on “Enchantment”: Eaters see that there’s only one cake — the more they eat, the less everyone else gets. A baker says they can make another pie, and everyone can have dessert. The best way to get what you want is to make sure the other person gets what they want first! Bakers are also innovative; they can bake cakes, cookies or brownies and make everyone feel like they have been taken care of. So if you don’t mind my version: Bake, serve, then eat!
- Build an ecosystem. Oftentimes as real estate professionals, we see ourselves becoming unlicensed counselors, therapists, movers, gardeners, maids, and the list goes on. Have a great list of professionals to offer your clients and focus on your own job: helping your clients buy/sell their home.
- Put yourself in their shoes. If you were about to move to a brand-new country, state or community, what would be the first thing you do? In the Global Luxury Connect session, Gary Gold talked about making a YouTube video helping buyers understand the process of buying a home. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in all of the details of a transaction that we forget to remind our clients of the big picture. Being able to really understand a client’s challenges and actually help them solve it will change everything. Helpful is the new viral!
If there were a No. 11, it would be to NETWORK! My only regret after the conference was that I didn’t network enough. I got a little too excited that I was going to be visiting NorCal and I jam packed my after-conference schedule with other dinners and social events. I highly recommend ICSF to any agent who hasn’t yet experienced it. Many thanks to Raj Qsar for always encouraging and challenging us with the industry’s best opportunities and innovations.
Find the full schedule of ICSF 2014 here.
Michele Chiu grew up in Silicon Valley and obtained her B.A. in international studies and business management at the University of California, Irvine. She is currently pursuing her MBA at UC Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business, focusing on commercial and residential real estate investments.