Editor’s note: Inman News would like to welcome Marc Davison as a regular columnist to our daily news service. Davison’s perspectives on change in the real estate industry will appear on Inman News each week.

Editor’s note: Inman News would like to welcome Marc Davison as a regular columnist to our daily news service. Davison’s perspectives on change in the real estate industry will appear on Inman News each week. His first column, “Clean Up Woman,” opens with a few lines from a popular 1970s song.

A clean up woman, is a woman who
Gets all the love we girls leave behind
The reason I know so much about her
Is because she picked up a man of mine ……Betty Wright, Vision Records, 1978

There are many Betty Wrights singing the blues in real estate. Their phones are quiet, their lead generation is dead. Their escrow cupboards are bare. With little to do, they realize their customers are having a swinging time with the clean up women of real estate — the young, sexy progressive dot-coms and slick real estate brokerages that have traded the conventional curlers and floppy slippers for provocative Web sites and alluring services.  

Power Points and growth charts showing the fantastic ascension of Internet usage among consumers don’t lie. Consumers love online real estate and they’re using it now more than ever. Vintage brokerages have seen their traffic drop, their leads dry up and their rankings plummet. Odd, isn’t it? The Web is a closed platform. The same 40 million surfers that were on the Web last year are still on it today.

I took this man’s love and put it on a shelf,
And like a fool, I thought I had him all to myself

Betty learned the hard way: Relationships take work. It’s the little things you do when least expected. It’s the big things that go a long way to securing a great forever. Too many professionals in our business rely on their brands, their tenures and their referral bases. They believe the once-a-year phone call, the monthly newsletter about themselves or the Web site they built in 1999 will sustain a client for life. Then a client lists with a competitor. All that’s left is pain in their hearts and Betty’s song spinning in their heads.  

Each day, millions of eyeballs scan real estate online. Ratings indicate those eyes are wandering. Can you blame them? Who wants to look at the same ratty nightgown week after week, year after year? Variety is the spice of life. That’s “Victoria’s Secret.” Just ask the clean up woman.

When he needed love, I was out havin’ fun,
But I found out all I had done
Was made it easy, for the clean up woman.

Our industry loves to celebrate its accomplishments. During the most transitional moments in the last century, the real estate industry celebrated itself silly. From association conventions to brokerage conferences, professionals picked up more free pens, beaded necklaces and flashing lapel lights than progressive software solutions. Yet business boomed up until some time in early 2006. Then the bubble burst. And now many realize that maybe they should have worried less about getting their business card stamped for a drawing and put more stock in what technology offering was located inside the booth.     

Every conference, every survey talks about the consumer. Consumers research for two to six months before they contact a Realtor. I doubt these consumers are trying to find which dog agent to hire or which of the dozens of lead-generation forms on a site to fill out. The clean up woman is body sculpted. She wears cosmetics by M.A.C., and is outfitted by BCBG. She’s looking hotter and more tempting than the companies with walkers and blue hair. 

Funky Guitar Break.   

The clean up woman
Will wipe his blues away
She’ll give him penny lovin’
24 hours a day.

No strings attached baby. That’s her style. She’s cool. Confident. Always has a kind word, and a quick response to a query. She has a Blog. Video. Gobs of data. A neat place for the customer to have a good time. That’s all the consumer really wants from the relationship — a good time. No commitment. No strings. It’s what built the Internet.

When CNN went live with its “2006 Best Places to Live,” 25 million unique visitors hit the site on the first day it launched. People didn’t click there to view homes or fill out forms. They weren’t lured by personalities or promises to go the extra mile. CNN brought them there by virtue of raw, unadulterated, transparent, sexy, informational lingerie.

Conventional real estate won’t go away. It’ll be here forever, but its staid, puritanical practices will end up being the last asked to the dance, picking up the final pieces of the song.   

Chumpin’ Slick, Was my ruin
‘Cause I found out all I was doin’
Was makin’ it easy
For the clean up woman
To get my man’s love, oh, yeah.

Repeat and fade out.

Marc Davison is vice president of OnBoard, a real estate data provider based in New York. Davison previously served as vice president of VREO, a provider of electronic signature and Web site software for the real estate industry.

***

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