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When real estate agents truly care about their customers, they can’t be afraid of trying new things, Jackie Soto, broker at eHomes, told Brad Inman during an Inman Connect Now panel on Thursday.
“You’re really willing to do anything the customer needs, wants,” she asserted.
That’s why Soto has built up her business by partnering with companies like Opendoor, Zillow and HomeLight in order to bring in more leads as well as offer her customers every option available to them in the marketplace.
Now that these companies have entered the space of helping buyers purchase their next home in the form of power buyers — expanding beyond their original scope of helping sellers more seamlessly sell their home — it’s been a huge gift to buyers and their agents in the currently cutthroat sellers market, Soto said. Agents should not view these companies as a threat or anything to be afraid of, but rather, as a kind of fairy godmother for their clients.
“You have tech companies backed by people like Softbank, they have all the money in the world, they’re willing to put this money behind you, Brad, a homebuyer, to give you the avatar of a cash buyer,” Soto told Inman.
“Opendoor then becomes your fairy godmother and the glass slipper is the cash-backed offer,” she elaborated. “Cinderella is no longer just a buyer struggling to get her offer accepted. Cinderella becomes a princess, goes to the ball and gets her offer accepted.”
So who are the villains in this real-estate twist on Cinderella?
“The evil stepsisters and evil stepmother are the people that are going to get left behind just like they did in the movie,” Soto explained. “These people are [real estate agents] that are not partnering with technology.”
Soto added that agents who opt to work with these tech companies won’t be stooping down at all to beg for business, or something of the like. These companies are pretty selective in which agents they choose to partner with, Soto said. In order to start working with Opendoor, Soto had to submit an application, complete a recorded interview remotely and do an in-person interview with a company representative.
“The tech companies that are succeeding right now in this space are the companies that have chosen to really vet the Realtors that they partner with,” she said. “These aren’t the companies that are willing to sell a lead to any agent.”
Fees for consumers to take advantage of these tech companies’ programs typically hover around 3 percent, Soto said. On the agent’s part, Soto said agents who take advantage of referrals from these companies usually cough up about a 30 percent or so referral fee, which, she says, is worth it.
“If you were a Realtor in another state, I would charge you, let’s say 30, 25 percent to get that home sold — same thing with Opendoor, Zillow, HomeLight,” Soto said.
Pointing to another Realtor Inman and Soto had spoken with a few years ago who said he only operated on a referral-based business, Soto said that kind of approach typically works well for agents who are well-established in their careers. But newer agents who are still working on building their customer base should really take advantage of the solutions tech companies have to offer.
“The average price point of this Realtor [is] astronomically high and his [sphere of influence] from just purchasing at that price point … He’s already built a business,” Soto pointed out. “So that’s so different. This is for the Realtors who are building their business, this is a way to build your business.”
She added that agents working to build their sphere can do so with the help of tech — by using it to make that initial connection with users.
“Use tech to connect,” Soto said. “Use your mind, your personality, to be able to dig deeper into the relationship to establish the business that that Realtor has established.”
Some tech companies also provide additional services that consumers can opt to take advantage of. But Soto ultimately decided to create her own escrow company, Autumn Sky Escrow Services, and said, depending on the particular Realtor’s goals, they might opt to build their own escrow or other ancillary services company too.
“How big [is the Realtor] looking to get? What are their goals?” Soto asked. “For me, my goal is to provide the best possible experience I can. I really am a control freak and the only way I’m going to be able to control it is if I hire my own staff and we create our own orgs to be able to have the values to be able to provide the best service, so that’s what we did with escrow.”