Today the industry is screaming about a lot of things, but most of them are centered on losing control of the consumer. And, of course, the entrance of others that seem to understand the needs of the consumer better than the industry.

  • A lot of the hubbub in the industry is about losing control of the consumer and the disrupters who do customer experience better.
  • But perhaps the key to regaining control of the customer lies in getting rid of some traditional practices such as for sale and open house signs.
  • It's only natural that consumers would come to agents more if there were no signs to guide them elsewhere.

Today the industry is screaming about a lot of things, but most of them are centered on losing control of the consumer. And, of course, the entrance of others that seem to understand the needs of the consumer better than the industry.

So let’s think about this for a minute.

What could the industry do now to regain its control of the consumer real estate experience? Please don’t be surprised if it involves changing a few outdated ideas and practices.

Let’s begin with signs. What if all of the for sale and open house signs signs stuck in lawns, windows and on street corners went away?

Consumer experience

The most obvious change would be that the seller and everyone else would no longer be exposed to the severe eye pollution caused by signs decorating lawns across the country.

As a result, they might even think we as an industry had done something good by cleaning up that environment for a change. And instantly, homeowners would be able to sell their property without the need to advertise to the entire neighborhood.

The same neighbors who crowd the open house are the ones who call the number on the sign endlessly to see what the sellers want for their house.

Open houses would have the same fate. Good riddance. Everyone knows by this time that the primary purpose of an open house is to attract buyers, not to sell the listed property. So we need to get over this unproductive, uncontrolled waste of time and energy.

Where would consumers who are serious about buying go if the signs disappeared? You got it. They would go to the real estate offices because they are the stores that stock properties for sale.

Or they might even contact a real estate agent to access the for sale inventory, which was the original intent of the MLS.

The real estate store

Where do you go to catch a flight? The airport. Where do you go to purchase a car? The car dealership. And where do you go to buy a home? You go online and drive the neighborhood looking for signs. The last place you go is to a real estate office to talk to agents.

Without signs, potential buyers will show up in real estate offices where they need to be qualified properly and validated before they jump into an agent’s car and set out to tour properties.

After that, agents could help them shop for a home and narrow down their search. Instead of saying, “meet me at the listing,” you’d say, “meet me at my office,” and then we’ll explore your needs and qualifications as a potential buyer.

Expensive real estate offices would come alive with activity, and agents would be motivated to show up for work again.

And for all of you who doubt the power of a physical real estate store: Think Apple Stores, Microsoft Surface Stores and now even Google Stores. They are progressive companies with brick-and-mortar locations jammed full of eager consumers, and they have complete control of the consumer experience by design.

Listing exposure and portals

At least the portals have it right. The listing brokers only syndicate their listings to the portals. But there are issues with the advertising strategies now related to giving leads on listings to others who are not the listing broker or agent.

Here’s what you should do. Listing brokers and their agents need to collaborate and together buy out the listing detail pages on Zillow and realtor.com.

As a listing agent, you need to invest in the marketing of the property online. Capture more buyers and serve them with the best-educated buyer’s agents from the same company that listed the property.

Sellers would love to know that the company’s agents are managing the leads and that they might know something about the property.

Think of this investment as a means to create “online floor time” for your company. And the good news is that each and every one of your listings will be exposed to more than 60 million potential buyers shopping online for real estate each month.

That’s so much more effective than the hundreds of people driving by a sign and then dodging all of your efforts to identify them over a phone call.

Finally, we will have redesigned and dramatically improved the elusive consumer real estate experience that we lost control of years ago.

The moral of the story

Our industry needs to understand that its biggest threat comes from what the consumer wants and needs but we resist providing. That’s the real issue.

And the good news is that most of the changes we resist are capable of creating a much brighter outlook if we embrace them.

So how crazy is it, really, to consider taking down those signs? You decide.

Kenneth Jenny is an expert in the residential real estate brokerage industry and real estate marketing.

Email Kenneth Jenny.

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