To become the local expert, you have to earn it by building your market knowledge and reputation. Here are Jay Thompson’s top tips for getting there faster and staying ahead of market shifts — and your clients.

Kick off the fall with Marketing and Branding Month at Inman. We’re going deep on agent branding and best practices for spending with Zillow, realtor.com and more. Top marketing executives drop by to share their newest tactics, too. It’s all you need to take your branding and marketing game to the next level.

Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent over 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.

Long gone are the days when agents held and controlled the data. Listings are ubiquitous — anyone with an internet connection or cell signal can pull up listings. Websites with local real estate market data abound. 

Today’s consumers are informed, have access to much of the same data you do and understand more about real estate than they ever have in the past. 

However, that doesn’t mean that they can interpret the data or know how to use it to their advantage. That’s where you, the local real estate expert, come into play.

Many buyers and sellers fancy themselves to be “real estate experts.” Your job isn’t to squash their dreams but to help them along the long and winding road to buying or selling a home. 

You need to know your market, inside and out. You need to do more than spout statistics. You need to educate your clients on what those statistics mean, which ones are important and which don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. 

How does one go about learning their market? Whether you are brand new to the business or you’ve been around since time immemorial, every day you should be looking deep into your local market and improving your knowledge. Here are a few tips to help you stay ahead of a rapidly changing market — and your clients.

1. Preview listings

As a freshly licensed newbie, one thing my broker suggested was that I preview 10 listings a day. There’s no better way to learn about the homes for sale in your market than to walk into them and look around. 

Touch them, smell them, get a feeling of the layout. Look for strengths and weaknesses. If you genuinely want to know the inventory, you need to see it, ideally in person, not just online.

Yes, this can prove difficult in the wild seller’s market many areas are experiencing. COVID can make this task much harder. But that’s today, and at some point, the market will shift. Be prepared. 

If homes are flying off the shelves too swiftly to view in person, then “view” them online. Look at the floorplans, and watch videos and virtual tours. Online previewing isn’t as helpful as in person, but it beats doing nothing. 

2. Walk and drive the neighborhoods

Always remember, you don’t just sell houses; you sell neighborhoods. The best way to learn about an area is to experience it as if you live there. 

Drive around. Walk. Eat at local restaurants, shop in the stores, drink at coffee shops, play in the parks, interview the local school principal and a few teachers. 

The more you can communicate to potential buyers what is in the neighborhood, the more value you provide those buyers.

3. Run MLS inventory reports

Your MLS likely provides ways to run market reports. Use them. The MLS is the single best source of data for your local real estate market. 

I’ve talked to agents with dozens of years of experience and heard them say, “I only use the MLS to search for listings. I don’t even know how to run reports.” That is mind-boggling. It’s a very powerful tool, and you’re paying for it. 

If you don’t know how to run market reports, learn. See if your MLS holds classes; if they don’t, ask someone for help (or make a request of your MLS). Ask a fellow agent or your broker. Spend a day clicking every button in your MLS platform, and learn what they do. Nothing beats real-time data from the MLS, so use it to your and your clients’ advantage. 

While you are at it, take a class on how to use a spreadsheet. You can import the data you get from the MLS into a spreadsheet where you should be able to make graphs and trend charts, which you can share with clients or on social media and your blog/website.  

4. Set yourself up on several MLS searches

What’s super embarrassing? When a client calls you and says, “Hey, that listing that popped up in our MLS search looks really interesting,” and you have no clue what listing they are talking about at all.

You need to set yourself up to receive every MLS search your clients are getting. And, of course, you need to look at those searches vigilantly. Also, consider setting yourself up on several generic searches, and peruse those daily. Doing this every day helps keep you informed of all new listings in your market, rather than just those of interest to current clients. 

Make these searches easily digestible by limiting them to things like condos, golf course homes, bracket price ranges, etc. 

5. Zillow research

Regardless of your personal feelings about Zillow, the odds are overwhelming that your client is very aware of all things search-related on Zillow. Like MLS searches, you need to see what your clients are seeing, so you need to look at Zillow too. Download the app.

Zillow also has a little-known and very underutilized resource in its Zillow Research site. The data collection effort at Zillow is enormous, and it freely publishes raw data, and it has very bright, very well-compensated experts who analyze and present this data. 

Take a look at the “visuals” tab on the research site. There is a wealth of info and graphics there — info and graphics you can freely share. 

It’s free content, so take advantage of it. You can learn a ton about the national, state and local markets. 

6. Altos Research 

Full disclosure, I’m a personal friend of the founder of Altos Research. That has absolutely zero to do with why I suggest you look into it.

Altos has a ridiculous amount of very local real estate market data, and it packages it up in beautiful ways that make it easy to visualize and understand. Here is an example of their market report for where I live. You can run a report for your ZIP code here, for free. 

This level of detailed data on your local market is invaluable. 

7. Your MLS and local association

Unless you have to live in a very small market, your MLS and local Association provide all sorts of training that can help you grow your local market knowledge and understanding. Much of the time, this training is free. (Yes, you pay for it in the form of dues, but there is usually no additional charge.) 

“Broker caravans” are typically offered, which provide you an opportunity to preview new listings in the fine company of your fellow professionals. Sometimes they even feed you. Not only will you check off the “must preview homes” box on your to-do list, but you’ll also get to interact with your peers.

8. Your peers

One of the things I love most about the real estate industry is how willing (most) agents are to share knowledge and help other agents — be they shiny new or seasoned veterans. 

Want to learn more about your local market? Why not pick the brain of the guy or gal who’s been there selling homes for a long time. Don’t be afraid to seek out help from your peers. 

9. Your broker

Your broker makes money when you make money. As such, they have a vested interest in your success. Hopefully, you’ve signed on with an accessible, helpful broker. If not, consider a change. 

Some agents seem quite reluctant to seek out the help and advice of their broker. Maybe it’s fear or embarrassment at admitting something you don’t know. 

Whatever the reason, you need to get over it. You pay your broker in part for helping you succeed. Use their knowledge of the local markets to improve yours. You’ll both benefit.

In the National Association of Realtors 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Seller, over 90 percent of respondents said “knowledge of real estate market” was a “very important” quality for their agent to possess. 

Knowledge is power. In these days of data being available to everyone with nothing more than the click of a button, it’s imperative that you thoroughly understand your real estate market. 

Agents no longer control information, and unless the internet goes away, you’re not getting that control back. This is an opportunity: Be the local expert. Help your clients interpret all the information available to them. They want and need you to understand your market, so give them what they need.   

Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree living in the Texas Coastal Bend, as well as the one spinning the wheels at Now Pondering. Follow him on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. “Retired but not dead,” Jay speaks around the world on many things real estate.

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