I found it an intriguing concept. On my daughter’s first day interning at a big-name concert and restaurant venue, "Redemption Analysis" was listed as one of her duties.
Immediately, I had visions of my youngest daughter walking elderly ladies across busy intersections, working at the food bank, and bringing home stray kittens so that the clouds might part and angels might belt out a few hip-hop numbers.
Apparently, I had the wrong kind of redemption in mind.
"Coupons," she harrumphed, in that familiar "My mother’s an idiot" style long ago perfected by my teenage spawns.
"Ah! You mean ROI — return on investment," I countered smugly to no one. Alas, Elvis had already left the room.
She knows more than I do, of course. The same girl that boasted she would be working the upcoming "Doogie Brothers" concert ("whoever they are," she added, which explains the mispronunciation) doesn’t think I bring much to the equation.
And it is not just because I have two strikes against me in the credibility department, being both her mother and old enough to have had a crush on a 20-something Michael McDonald. (By the way, for you young ‘uns, he was one of the so-called "Doogies.")
Rather, it’s because she has a vast social network of contemporary colleagues and acquaintances whose opinions and knowledge base are more valued and trusted. I’m the last stop on the intellectual property bus.
It’s kind of like my day job.
There’s an elephant in the room. You are meeting with a seller or buyer, but you aren’t the only cooks in the kitchen. If you listen carefully, you will hear the whispers of a throng of well-intended advisers comprising the vast social network of your audience.
"My friend at work said that agents will give me some of their commission if I let them help me buy a house," he said to me, matter-of-factly. "Will you? And how much?"
Another buyer client who we have been working with for months is holding out for that fire-sale opportunity, having tossed aside a dozen or more suitable, fairly priced properties. This is because some dude in his bowling league (we are told every seven seconds lest we forget) snagged a stunning five-bedroom home with a view of the earth’s curvature for $12.
Consequently, our client’s homebuying goals have become mostly about pride, bragging rights and one-upping the Joneses.
My latest listing was inked after several interviews spanning the 18-month decision-making process, but only after I competed with several local agents and met their parents.
The closer, it turned out, was the seller’s mother, who, living in a different time zone but armed with a search box, had to first perform the necessary forensics to ensure that I was a nice agent from a good background.
I am finding this to be one of the biggest challenges in our business today. We are constantly being shadowed by all of the people in the friends and family plan, our every move dissected and questioned by our clients’ studied, self-taught inner circle. There are a lot of checks, but often with little balance.
There are a lot of positives in this new tag-team real estate model, of course. It forces us to be smarter, more learned, and on top of our game. Our clients and their pit crew come armed with information — lots of it. The problem is that the information often lacks authenticity or context.
"Draperies are considered fixtures that convey with the property," I told her. And after a little game of "Are not," "Are too," "Let’s reread the contract," she produced the smoking gun: a blog written by another agent in a different state, using different contracts.
The draperies remained in the residence, but my client never did fully buy into the whole concept that I might have had some experience with the personal property vs. fixtures dilemma in the state in which we both happen to reside.
I feel like that guy in the Verizon advertisements trying to navigate my client to a point of clarity while being tailed by the thundering herd in lockstep, all dialed into our party line. All those voices: "Can you hear me now?"
"When my mom sold her house in San Antonio (I believe it was during November of the 16th century, the reign of the Tuscans), she rejected her first 47 offers and held out for a higher price. And it was all in liras!"
His cousin, her ex-boyfriend’s college roommate, and the dude at Best Buy — they all play supporting roles in our transactions. (The latter, and this is a true story, said he worked in real estate for awhile last year until his car broke down, which explains where he picked up all those great marketing tips he had for me.)
We are put on constructive notice early on that we are operating under their scrutinizing lenses lest we try to pull a fast one or just generally threaten to botch things.
It didn’t used to be this challenging, in the simpler days of limited reach and resources. We interviewed to get the work, and our redemption was a successful closing. Everything in between involved simply doing the job for which we were entrusted — putting our experience and training to work.
Now, each transaction is three to six months or more spent on the debate team, often engaged in a circular argument we can’t possibly win. And somewhere along the way, trust has become a four-letter word.
What’s an agent to do? Like it or not, we have to not only accept the new world order but embrace it. Our clients are micromanagers, and they will continue to look to their more trusted inner circle for advice, counsel and, ultimately, validation.
The nuggets gleaned from their social interactions will trump our most compelling listing presentation every time; our performance is increasingly being graded on a scale of "like" and "+1." That is why the social reach of our brands has never been more important.
Our real estate transactions are now more collaborative. It is no longer enough to demonstrate our value to our clients and prospective clients; we must also build our reputation among their spheres. And to effectively do so requires leaving a searchable and meaningful digital footprint so that people might be stumping for us when it counts most.
I am beginning to see all of those social channels available to us, both online and off, as coupons. They promote our authority and our value. But they are different than my daughter’s coupons.
The goal is not necessarily to have people redeeming them directly for services, in traditional call-to-action fashion; that is mostly a myth. One Tweet or blog post is not going to result in a new client.
Rather, these coupons are social currency intended to passively build our brand and our standing among a much larger community. The real redemption comes not when I am appointed to the job, but when I am confirmed.