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Can you recall what real estate was like before the widespread adoption of data and analytics?
Tim Van Camp can. He’s a Real Estate Associate at Sotheby’s International Realty – Santa Fe – Main Downtown Brokerage, and. He started his career in 1989 when the internet was in its infancy, and the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) systems was a simple database that couldn’t collate other sources of information.
Even back then, it was obvious to him that his brokerage and clients would benefit from a database that was easy to filter — for example, by location, price, or size. So in the early 1990s, he partnered with a tech-savvy friend to build one. “Having my database and being able to discuss it with clients was a jumpstart to a successful real estate career,” he says.
A lot has changed since then. Data is everywhere, but that doesn’t mean it’s captured and leveraged effectively. Despite granularity delivering the greatest results for clients — and value for agents — many still resort to sweeping generalizations when discussing real estate.
Make sense of the market’s nuances
It’s not enough to state that real estate has gotten more or less expensive. Tom Newell, Director of Agent & Business Development at Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty, pointed out that there are huge variations in market trends based on everything from prince range and address to city and region.
“For example, at the start of this year, the change in monthly average price was up 4.1% for properties over 3 million, up a massive 9% for properties between 2 and 3 million, but down 1.3% once you got into the 500k to 600k bracket,” he says, referencing his market of Phoenix, Arizona, where he primarily serves the suburb of Paradise Valley.
Clients appreciate agents who don’t default to generalizations. “Most of my buyers and sellers are type A people,” noted Van Camp. “They make their own decisions, and they just want the best information available. I’ve always tried to provide that.”
For that purpose, here are three ways agents can grow their resources of data and insights.
1. Subscribe to trusted local analysts
Researchers are likely compiling and comparing data in your market, so choose a reputable firm and sign up for their reports. The statistics Newell referenced came from The Cromford Report, released for his local market. “It has tons of data and trends, as well as weekly and monthly commentary on all aspects of the real estate market down to city, zip code, price range, and property type,” he explains.
2. Be innovative with MLS databases
“Over the last 15 years or so, MLS database systems have evolved, and anyone who is a member can, with a little effort, create whatever type of analysis they want,” observes Van Camp.
At Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty, Newell and the agents use FlexMLS to deliver rapid statistics relating to monthly data and trends, including everything from total closed sales and average days on the market to the median selling price and price per square foot. This provides invaluable context to inform future listings and purchases.
3. Leverage intelligent third-party tools
Plenty of plug-and-play software solutions are also available for agents and brokerages. “One tool we use effectively here to help determine value is the AVM from Collateral Analytics. It’s a bank-grade system for calculated automated valuation models,” says Newell. “It really lets you compare apples to apples with property criteria.”
Position and promote your expertise
Van Camp brings up another powerful use case for data and analytics: as agents market properties, it’s imperative to track the performance of the various media and channels. “Data-driven reports provide useful information about activity across websites, news outlets and magazines, advertisements, social media campaigns, and other marketing initiatives,” he says.
But along with marketing properties, agents need to ensure they’re marketing themselves as data and analytics specialists. “We believe in positioning yourself as a trusted advisor who clients view as their primary source,” says Newell.
“Be consistent in getting the message out to your prospects and sphere of influence that you are the market authority. Schedule real estate reviews with your sphere and past clients; you can utilize social media to show your fluency in the market — clients may even provide a testimonial on how you kept them up to speed on trends and data.”
Never stop expanding your knowledge
By becoming resource-rich through data and analytics, agents benefit themselves and their clients in the short and long term. “My advantage now is being able to discuss data within the framework of my history and experience and the cycles I’ve seen in our market over the years,” says Van Camp.
Bearing that in mind, Newell encourages agents to be always open to learning new tools and applications to enhance the business. “They’re available with most of your broker platforms,” he says. “Also, share ideas and tools with other top luxury agents — it’s never a bad thing to pass on knowledge to help a peer and grow your referral network. Go on luxury home tours to learn the market, areas, properties, styles, and amenities of surrounding areas. Plan your work, and work your plan.”
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