I don’t spend a ton of time reading social media posts — as an agent who is always working on building my team, I’m busy. But when a particular notification flashed across my screen earlier this week, I had to pause.
What I could tell from the feed was that Gary Keller said something Monday at the KW Family Reunion that struck a nerve with some in our industry.
I know it did with me.
Now, I want to be clear that I have deep respect for all Keller has accomplished. His book “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent” has had a real influence on my approach to real estate.
According to tweets from members of the audience, Keller said — and I’m paraphrasing — quit dumbing up the industry by buying leads from Zillow. Lazy agents — just get out of the real estate industry. Online spending ROI is 32 percent this past year.
I’m not sure where he got the ROI figure, but it’s entirely different from my experience. And I want to address the suggestion that using Zillow makes me a lazy or dumb agent.
I thought about it — could it be true?
A family business
I grew up on Long Island in a real estate family. My mom and dad have 60 combined years of experience. As I grew up watching them, there was no Internet.
Smartphones didn’t exist. My parents worked hard and did a lot of paid marketing beyond their sphere. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t and some — well, there was just no way to track.
My dad had the back cover of “The Real Estate Book” for 15 years. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, there were these small printed booklets that you would find in yellow plastic houses on a stand outside the local grocery store.
Every month, my father had to collaborate with a representative from “The Real Estate Book” and a graphic designer for days to get the layout right for the upcoming edition. He hated doing it — it was long, painstaking work to get right.
It took him away from his primary tasks of lead generation and working with existing clients. I remember it made him a little crabby.
Imagine the irony when, sometime in the aftermath of the housing bubble collapse, I had to fight to convince him to give up his coveted spot on the back cover of “The Real Estate Book.”
But I did it because there was no longer a justifiable ROI, and I wanted that ad spend for something new: Zillow.
It’s been about five years now, and my dad likes to take credit for our adoption of Zillow, but I know how it really went down.
And advertising on portals hasn’t changed the fundamentals of our business even as its importance for our team has grown.
The next generation
As my dad began the process of stepping back, my sister and I took the reins, so now we’re the ones working hard every day, just as my dad and my mom taught us.
We’ve held on to the parts of the business that continue to be relevant, but we have also adapted to the changing times. Sure, my website gets leads that we convert, and we continue to prospect and network, but I also get to leverage a brand that homebuyers and sellers know.
It takes a lot of hard work to accept and convert leads. How can agents who work smarter, not harder, be dumbing up the industry? My team and I put a lot of thought and effort into developing systems that meet the needs of those leads.
I see it as Zillow allowing us to shift our model to meet the expectations of the consumer. How is this lazy?
I respect Keller and the family of agents that he has built, but I had to stop and think about his comments because they were opposed to my experience and my ability to look out for my own family.
Where my father had to deal with print, snail mail, fax machines and word processors (I could go on), I have far more time to spend out there helping people sell their existing home or find the next place to call home.
There’s history and tradition in this business, and you don’t have to leave that behind to embrace new tools and new practices. This isn’t lazy or dumb.
And since I started using Zillow, my ROI isn’t 32 percent — it’s through the roof.
Jon-David Lenard is a Realtor with The Lenard Team at Douglas Elliman.