Over the last few weeks, I’ve had several buyers walk in my office doors suffering from Real Estate Agent PTSD: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They’ve worked with other agents who were, shall we say, a poor fit for them — let’s just leave it at that. And most of them were apparently very introspective about why exactly the relationship didn’t work, leading them to apologize in advance for some personality flaw of their own that they believed might have been the deal-killer to their previous Realtor relationship:
- "I’m sorry — I think I must be too picky."
- "I have to tell you up front, I really don’t like to be stood up. It’s just a pet peeve. Sorry!"
- "I’m very nervous about making such a big decision. I think my nerves must have run her off."
Now, don’t get me wrong. Most of these former agents were not "bad" agents, per se (except for the serial "stander upper" — that’s just not cool.) I’m sure they see themselves as hard-working, tech-savvy folk. They stay up on the technologies necessary to be a buyer’s broker in this day and age, including automatic listing updates via e-mail; they have Facebook pages; and a few even are reliable texters, Tweeters or have their own blogs.
To give these other agents even more of the benefit of the doubt, I attract a group of clients who want or need extra care. You know how some agents have monikers like, "The Real Estate Artist" or — I actually saw this on a guy’s business card — "The Real Estate Assassin" (don’t even ask)? If I had one of those nicknames, it would be The Real Estate Therapist or, in terms the Real Estate Assassin might understand, "Real Estate Consigliere."
I have a master’s degree in psychology and have built my entire business around understanding the psychological impediments to sound real estate decision-making and advising and coaching clients through that obstacle course.
But as these clients were filing in last week, I kept thinking to myself — and actually said aloud — hey, "I don’t sell shoes." No offense to shoe salespeople, but if I sold shoes, I would probably be irritated by super-picky and hesitant buyers.
However, what I sell is probably the largest purchase these people will ever make — their home. And if they can get past their fear and anxiety and overwhelm enough to give me the honor of advising them on this largest purchase, I can hold their hands, have my shoulder cried on, talk them off some ledges, and otherwise be a little more patient with them than I would be otherwise.
In fact, I would hazard a guess that if I walked into Nordstrom or Macy’s right now and announced my intention to plop down a few hundred grand on shoes, my esteemed colleagues in the footwear world would probably tolerate my questions and anxieties pretty patiently, too! Buyers should expect nothing less from their brokers and agents.
So, with all the technologies that cutting-edge agents bring to the table, and the corresponding potential increase in the efficiencies of house hunting (for buyers) and pricing and marketing (for sellers), I don’t believe that what the average real estate consumer wants is what we in the industry have come to call real estate 2.0.
They want more. Or, actually, less. If real estate 1.0 was the old-school consigliere model where your agent flipped open a big book of listings, handpicked a few and then drove you around to see them, and real estate 2.0 is the disconnected model where you send your agent some MLS numbers you pulled from Realtor.com, meet them at a few or go see them on your own at the open houses, what do consumers really want?
They want real estate 1.5. …CONTINUED
That’s right. Yes, buyers like to get listings and neighborhood information — OK, and sales data of recently sold comparable properties, and Walk Scores, and school scores, and Yelp reviews of agents and nearby dry cleaners. And sellers want the same things, plus they want to sample how their prospective listing agents have marketed their recent listings online, and they want to virtually check out the competition. And they want to do this all at work during their conference calls or at home in their pajamas while they are watching "Dancing with The Stars" (a show I don’t get, but I digress).
But what I think the 2.0 camp forgets is that real estate transactions — buying, selling and even mortgage decisions — are not strictly business transactions.
I submit that they are the purest opportunities most of us will ever have to design our whole lives. The home you buy or sell has everything to do with what you do in your spare time, what work you do, how much you work, who you work for, who you live with, their pastimes and hobbies, the modes of transportation you use, and what your everyday habitat looks and feels and functions like.
It has everything to do with your financial abundance, comfort and ease — or scarcity, tightness and unease. It’s not just about dollars and cents and buildings. It’s about designing and — for most buyers and sellers — transforming your entire life.
Buyers and sellers are aware of this — why else would they take on the drama and turmoil they see as inherent in a real estate transaction?
What this means, though, is that they are not just looking for the biggest, "bestest," fastest click in the West when it comes to their real estate representatives. Especially when it comes to buyers: they understand that what they are undertaking when they select an agent is not just a business relationship, like the one you would have with your mechanic or accountant. Rather, it’s an intimate interpersonal interaction, the relationship between broker/agent and buyer.
And in an ideal situation, that relationship is supercharged, made super-effective, and superpowered by technology. Not overpowered or eliminated by the technology.
As heavily e-mail, text and Tweet-reliant as my business is, it still happens all the time that my preexisting relationship with a listing agent (who knows I will close the deal) is what gives my client the leg up against multiple offers at the same price point as ours. Or I’ll review 100 search results personally and find a three-bedroom home that is listed as a two-bedroom that turns out to be exactly "the one" my client was looking for.
Or I’ll "hear" quiet panic in a buyer’s e-mail that causes me to stop multitasking and pick up the phone, only to realize that the panic was caused by a misunderstanding of some basic contract point or other confusion that would have taken me dozens of e-mails and perhaps days of distress (on the client’s part) for me to realize and correct virtually.
I don’t know that real estate 1.5 is the cure to Real Estate Agent PTSD. Half the consumers who experience that level of trauma just give up on buying or selling altogether, and the other half require truly intensive real estate care from their next broker or agent.
I’d rather we all began to think of real estate 1.5 as preventive medicine. And, as my grandma always says, an ounce — or 1.5 ounces, to be precise — of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Tara-Nicholle Nelson is author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." Ask her a real estate question online or visit her Web site, www.rethinkrealestate.com.
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