This spring, Inman is obsessing over helping you to tune-up your listings business, with actionable insights, the best advice from top agents and hundreds of helpful stories. This is part three of a five-part editorial series on improving your listings game (and general success in real estate) this season. Stay tuned for more to be published throughout this week, and view the rest of our “Spring Cleaning” stories here.
But market conditions are only part of the equation. Heightened competition over a limited number of homes for sale presents an opportunity to revisit your value proposition, brush off the dust and evaluate whether your services are deserving of a client’s business today — and how they can be improved.
And while technology isn’t going to replace real estate agents collectively anytime soon, automation and artificial intelligence are poised to create winners and losers in the industry, according to an expert panel hosted by the California Association of Realtors, and agents will have to determine which side of that evolution they’ll be on.
Generally speaking, the listing agent offering needs a major upgrade, especially if you’re one of those real estate professionals who still has a seller handout that lists a bunch of icons — Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com — to show to prospects how you will distribute their listing information across the internet, according to Joe Rand of Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty, speaking at Inman Connect San Francisco last year. Digital marketing is no longer innovative. It’s table stakes.
“Any schmuck with a brokerage can basically get onto all these sites,” Rand said in a panel at the conference. “It’s not a differentiator. We can’t talk about distribution as a marketing strategy.”
Buffalo-based broker David Weitzel believes bringing new advances in proptech in-house can be a great way to separate yourself from the competition. Tools like drones, high-resolution photos and virtual tours can then be provided to all clients, regardless of price point, said Weitzel.
White glove service: Be the expert
For Gary Gold of Hilton and Hyland in Los Angeles, the most critical service to a client is being an expert.
“You can’t just acquire these things off the shelf and then provide them and think that’s of any value whatsoever,” Gold said in an interview with Inman. “You need to be an expert on what you’re advising people on.”
For instance, Gold works with property stagers on how best to present a home. He covers every little nook and cranny: from how the driveway should look, to how the home is landscaped to overstuffed closets. He explained that stagers do a great job, but he’s an expert in the nuances of specific neighborhoods in Los Angeles, his hometown, as well as what buyers in the area are looking for.
“Any broker can say ‘you gotta stage your house,’” Gold explained. “I work hand-in-hand with the stagers. They don’t necessarily know who you are targeting and all the nuances of that.”
Gold also provides clients with general tax and legal advice but emphasizes it’s important to never give final guidance on these matters.
“I know a lot about tax implications as it relates to a residential property and the legal ramifications of contracts in terms of residential property,” he said.
Just be there: How to go above and beyond
Texas agent Crystal Elder works with a lot of new construction buyers, which means there’s still much work to be done after the contract is signed.
“I attend their design preview meetings, the design selection meetings and every single sheetrock/framing/walk-through inspection during construction,” Elder told Inman. “The builders are always surprised by this and tell me that most agents don’t attend anything past contract execution date. My clients appreciate the service, and I’m able to help them with design choices and upgrades that will improve the resale value.”
Kristine Cuddy, a North Carolina agent, has developed a series of videos to help walk buyers through the process once the contract has been signed. Especially with new construction, it can be a long and often lonely process for buyers, so Cuddy’s videos keep them informed at every turn, while also setting proper expectations. She first created the videos for new construction but now applies that same technique to resale buyers and new listings.
“I’m just repeating the same things over and over again, and they get to see my face,” Cuddy said. “They love it.”
Ask for feedback
Kathleen Kuhn, president of HouseMaster Home Inspections, said it’s important to create and send a follow-up survey. She also believes in scheduling in-person follow-ups with select clients, which can reveal a lot more than a survey as well as give you a chance to ask for referrals.
“Choose a handful of customers, and invite them for coffee or lunch to do a review in person,” she said in an article for Inman. “You will likely pick up on body language and verbal cues you might not in a written survey.”
Always make it right
It seems obvious, but it’s important to remember customer service is in the eye of the customer, Teresa Boardman, a Minneapolis-based broker wrote in a piece for Inman in February. She believes it’s better to keep relationships healthy and always look for ways to improve communication.
“Let’s put the service back into ‘customer service’ by listening and actually having empathy for our clients and their problems,” Boardman wrote.
“My company is small, and I suppose that makes things easier,” she added. “I think people who have a complaint should be listened to and understood. In the past, I have refunded money because a client felt wronged. I always want to make it right if I can.”