In December, Dusty Baker wrote an article for Inman indicating that claims concerning the use of technology to capture business in real estate have been overblown. But I would argue that the use of technology is critical in building relationships — especially with millennials.
Baker’s conclusions were drawn from the 2015 Profile of Buyers and Sellers report released by the National Association of Realtors. The report states that only 13 percent of buyers use technology to find a real estate agent.
It is easy to draw the conclusions Baker has from the way the data is presented in this report, but it is reflective of the industry’s deep chasm between providers and their customers.
Technology should not be considered a separate form of business development, though it might be used in that way. Rather, technology is integrally connected to every aspect of communication and business in today’s world.
For example, the majority of buyers chose a real estate agent based on a referral. So how are customers referring each other?
I often referred my real estate agent after seeing him post something on Facebook. Seeing his posts reminded me of his presence, good work and our relationship. Consumers also refer each another through text or email introductions, social media or Yelp page shares.
Why does someone choose to refer his or her agent?
As homeowners, we reflect on our purchasing process and how we felt about the experience with our agent. Although some agents can get by without using convenient communication, those opportunities will become more limited.
Millennials expect convenience in a purchasing experience, which is made possible by technology. We expect to text our agents questions about the process, special requests or meeting times and receive referrals for other service providers such as electricians without interrupting our meetings (or let’s be honest, bathroom breaks) with a phone call.
When I listed my home for sale, I received countless calls from real estate agents trying to get my business, none of whom, in my opinion, provided convenient information or communication.
They sent me long, boring PDF guides and left long-winded voicemails with inherent sales pitches. I was always appreciative of their outreach, but I was disheartened by how far they fell from impressing me with anything of substance.
I ultimately interviewed six agents and none of them texted me information or followed up with a text — the simplest and most unobtrusive form of communication. I rarely even listened to their voicemails.
Buyers and sellers are likely to have several referrals for real estate agents
Most people will ask around unless they have a close friend or family member who is a local agent. They will post on social media asking for a recommendation and will search on Yelp and Google. The initial recommendation is only stage one of the referral process.
The second stage is what likely seals the deal for an interview. We look at the agent’s website and social media presence to see what kind of person and character is represented.
If the agent presents a brand that seems relational and doesn’t come across as sales-y, he or she is likely to move on to the next level of the decision process. If educational information is provided with valuable insights, he or she might rise to the top of our list immediately. With access to seemingly limitless information and options, millennials want to choose the very best.
My comments might sound like a typical entitled millennial, but I want to be clear that I truly want the best for this industry. I believe that the experience of becoming a homeowner is transformative and builds strong communities.
My agent was invaluable when I purchased my home, and he will forever be someone who stands out as a guide during one of the most significant experiences of my life.
I want that for my generation, and I don’t want real estate agents or other industry providers to miss out on this opportunity because of a misunderstanding in communication methods and purchasing behavior.
Drawing such conclusions as “old boring practices still work best” is not only incorrect but it’s likely to further exacerbate the widening gap between the industry and consumers and perpetuate a growing sentiment that real estate agents are unnecessary.
Today, the industry must examine its views on consumer purchasing behavior as well as its worldview if it wants to resonate with modern consumers.