Regular contributor Jay Thompson talks through a few marketing tactics agents are using that are built on lies and why it’s wrong to build your business on a false foundation.

Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent the past six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday.

As I strolled through real estate groups on Facebook last week, there were three conversations that stood out to me.

No, they weren’t about CompassUpstream, or KW snipping at eXp — these discussions were about what agents in the trenches are doing to generate business, which are usually the types of things I enjoy reading and learning about.


Here are the conversations, condensed and paraphrased in the name of brevity:

  • A cold call from an agent begins with the caller asking for someone other than who answered. When told they have reached a wrong number, they launch into the script with, “Oh maybe we have the wrong name and number, we have buyers looking for homes like yours in (insert nearby town name).”
  • Someone inquires about one of these companies that sell “Top 10” agent awards. In a nutshell, you send them a few hundred dollars, they send you a press release, a trophy and a logo that proclaim you as a “Best agent ever!” You can then market your “award” and prove how amazing you are to unsuspecting people that might believe you received legitimate recognition.
  • Readers are encouraged to use typos in text messages and email subject lines, ostensibly because this makes you look “more human” and people will relate to you as such, open and read your email or text, and in theory, become your next client.

What do all of these have in common?

They rely on deception to hook and engage the recipient.

And some are OK with this?

When I come across discussions like these, the voices in my head are screaming, “No. No! Do not fall for this nonsense. Stop it!

Why in the world would anyone want to start off building a relationship using deceit and downright lies?

If you happen to be a Realtor, you might want to dust off your copy of the Code of Ethics and turn to Article 12, which states in part:

“Realtors shall be honest and truthful in their real estate communications and shall present a true picture in their advertising, marketing and other representations.”

So if your own moral compass doesn’t point to the fact that pretending you dialed a wrong number or buying a misleading award isn’t honest and truthful, your professional Code of Ethics sure seems to be telling you not to do this.

Note that I don’t think making intentional typos is necessarily dishonest or a COE violation. I just think it’s stupid. If you want to “appear more human,” start with simply being one, and try treating others how you want to be treated.

Stop, think, engage

Deceptive practices aren’t needed to get people’s attention. No one likes to be deceived, and if you’re going down that path in your initial conversation, what’s to stop you from sliding deeper and deeper into the abyss?

Look, there is nothing wrong with cold calling. Personally, I’m not a fan of it simply because I really don’t like receiving cold calls and I can’t dish out what I can’t take. But that’s just me. Done right, there is no question that cold calling can generate business.

That doesn’t mean you need to start off with some nonsense about having a wrong number. Try starting off with honesty. After all, it’s the best policy.

Nor is there anything wrong with using awards you receive in your marketing materials. Just make sure that it’s a real award, not something you whipped out a credit card for.

Finally, everything is wrong with typos. To include them intentionally is just silly. They don’t make you seem more human, they just make you seem like you don’t pay attention to detail — a trait no one wants in their agent.

Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree in Seattle, as well as the mastermind behind Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty.

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