The Big 3 — Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com — have utterly dominated consumer real estate search in recent years with no signs of slowing down. This quick rise to dominance has left the industry in flux deciding how to adopt the Big 3 as the new standard. Like it or not, they are here to stay, and with the recent launch of Zillow’s “Coming Soon” feature, they plan to be more pervasive then ever before.
However, I do believe the role of the real estate agent will grow to help consumers decipher the influx of housing information on the Internet. The role of a Realtor is simply changing from the gatekeeper of information to the local and data expert. (Remember, a big portion of the Big 3’s revenue comes from agents, meaning it is not likely in their best interest right now to change this.)
Starting with the notion that an entire generation is about to enter the housing marketing growing up with the Big 3. The younger generation knows only a real estate world where housing information is littered all over the Web. This is nothing new, but the Big 3 are making an unprecedented move to educate every consumer, spending well over $100 million in national advertising campaigns this year alone. The change has been done, and now real estate agents must adapt to stay relevant going forward.
The question I want to raise is: “How does an agent transition to the new reality?” Here are three tips to help transition:
1. Embrace the reality of the Big 3
I want to draw a comparison between the wealth management industry and the real estate industry to help understand why embracing the reality of the Big 3 is OK. In 2014, it has never been easier to trade securities as an individual retail investor. There is more financial data on the Internet today than ever before. Adding to this is the plethora of free technologies and services available to make trading without a financial adviser a thing of the past.
However, according to a 2014 U.S. News & World Report ranking of in-demand careers, financial advisers rank No. 4 on the list. Meaning that even though people could manage their portfolios for free, they still choose a financial adviser. Therefore, given this notion, I believe people will continue to hire real estate agents to guide them through the process of making the biggest purchase in their lives regardless of how pervasive the Big 3 come to be. Most important, I think it is vital for real estate agents to inform consumers that the Big 3 are simply a tool and not the master source of housing information.
2. Nurture your network
In an era where advertising is a daily part of our eyes, it is more difficult than ever to effectively communicate your value proposition through traditional advertising channels. Word-of-mouth marketing continues to be one of the primary sales channels for agents, and I am surprised to find through my interactions with agents how few do something or anything at all to keep their networked engaged. Continue to follow up with past clients and keep them engaged long after handing them the keys. This is a cost-effective and genuine approach to ensure future success.
3. Leverage data
It is no longer acceptable to not analyze your marketing data. There is an abundance of analytics tools to help you determine whether your marketing spend is effective. Quit throwing good money after bad, and try to figure out a combination of ways to effectively spend and measure your ad budget.
Even with the proliferation of the Big 3, the one thing that will remain constant is the personal relationship between client and agent. The human touch cannot be replaced by technology, and it is the leading factor that drives success in the real estate industry. Build trusting and offering an exceptional level of service are the leading traits of the best real estate agents.
Will Caldwell, a San Diego resident, is the CEO and co-founder at Dizzle, a mobile real estate tech company that helps Realtors generate more word-of-mouth leads.