For many years — nearly a century, in fact — real estate agents based their unique value proposition on being gatekeepers to listing data. Without an agent, sellers could not get their homes in front of a wide audience, and buyers could not efficiently access property information (or the properties themselves, for that matter).
With the advent of public MLS sites, ZTR (Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com) and for sale by owner (FSBO) portals, however, the gate was pushed wide open. And now, thanks to disruptive technology — virtual reality, transaction apps, on-demand showings and the like — you could argue that the gate is completely off its hinges.
“If you think you’re in the business of revealing carefully concealed data to people, you are sorely mistaken.” – Seth Godin, in his keynote address at #ICNY
So where does that leave you as an agent? To be blunt, out in the cold — that is, unless you redefine your unique value proposition.
A truly successful agent’s unique value proposition has nothing to do with access to data and everything to do with wisdom, emotional intelligence and confidence.
At #ICNY, Jed Carlson of AdWerx appropriately likened agents to sherpas. Despite the advent of GoreTex, oxygen tanks and numerous other technologies that ease the struggle of climbing Everest, sherpas are still in high demand.
Why? Because they have a clear and well-articulated value beyond merely carrying gear or pointing out the right trail.
Successful agents, similarly, do more than give guided tours of houses, look up comps and enter property data on the MLS. They use their in-depth — and often intuitive — knowledge of the local market and the real estate process to help buyers and sellers make wise decisions and feel confident about those decisions.
Dolly Lenz, one of the nation’s most productive real estate professionals, spoke about this “fiduciary responsibility” role at ICNY.
Instead of limiting herself to acting as a buyer or seller’s factotum, she gives well-considered opinions on whether certain transactions or choices might be in her clients’ best interests.
These views come from her unique experience closing thousands of transactions, dealing with particular kinds of properties — and they are something no piece of software or point of data can replicate.
Think like Lenz: what unique wisdom or abilities do you have as a result of your real estate experience? Or as Godin put it, what’s your point of view? What would buyers and sellers miss about you if you weren’t there? It’s certainly not your ability to look up property information.
Successful agents also provide invaluable service: the warmth of a caring human being to support the buyer or seller through an emotionally and financially fraught transaction.
The last time my husband and I moved, this kind of stellar service was our agent’s unique value proposition. Except two five-day reprieves, my husband was traveling from the time we prepped our home for sale until the day after we moved.
I had to manage everything while caring for our chronically ill 3-year-old. Our agent stepped into the breach, helping to paint our living room and load our storage container, sitting by me through a grueling four-hour closing and helping to move our furniture on a humid, 98-degree day.
These are the kinds of qualities no tech can replicate. But to be better than artificial intelligence, you’ve got to know what your irreplaceable qualities are and how to articulate them to buyers and sellers. Otherwise, you’re going to be on the wrong side of the gate.