It was only a matter of time. The Zillow-Trulia merger was inevitable. These companies operate very similar business models, and go after the same clients. Combine the two, and you have one very dominant consumer real estate search portal. Zillow’s recent surge in market capitalization to $5.3 billion enabled the deal to make sense.
Interestingly enough, “Zulia” combined for only $341.2 million in 2013 revenues compared with the annual $12 billion real estate marketing spend. This is tiny percentage of the overall market, which leads me to believe that they are not the end-all solution for agents. The other $11.5 billion is spent to make the industry go round.
“Zulia” has done a great job of capturing the attention of the American consumer, and has successfully secured access to listing data across the country one way or the other. Essentially, they have democratized the housing search for consumers to the point of no return. Consumers now demand elegant search features optimized for every platform imaginable. Anything short of an addictive user experience is guaranteed to fail.
What does this mean for agents?
Agents are now forced to market themselves beyond the gatekeepers to the MLS and become local data and homeownership experts. Anything short of this becomes extremely difficult to communicate your value proposition to new clients, specifically millennials. As the consumer becomes more tech-savvy, agents must provide insight that cannot be easily found on “Zulia” or Google.
The point I want to stress is that success in real estate is grounded in relationships, and from my experience growing up in the business, relationships continue to remain the one constant no matter what technology, the economy or any other external factor is doing. Here are three tips to win business with the modern real estate consumer:
1. Prove your local expertise
Why are you a local expert and why should I trust you? Simply practice what you preach. Show off the fact that you grew up in the area, launched a successful startup, or anything that differentiates from the fact that you are real estate agent. We have over a million agents and you need to show consumers “why you.” For example, I met with an agent in San Clemente, California, the other week, and he provides the local surf report to his clients. Talk about a great way to keep in touch with clients in a town where half the population surfs.
2. Make sure your clients remember your name
A recent statistic I heard at Real Estate Connect San Francisco is that only 17 percent of homebuyers rehire their agent. Strikingly, the reason for the low percentage is simply due to the fact that the homeowner does not remember their agent’s name. In an age where you can basically automate your whole life, there are no more excuses for agent’s to not follow up. This is a cost-effective and simple approach to guarantee future success.
3. Become a homeownership expert
With “Zulia” dominating the search and a plethora of companies trying to automate housing transactions, agents need to expand their skill set into homeownership. Help clients figure out ways to save money, build equity, and take advantage of the tax code. For example, letting clients know when it is a good time to refinance is a great way to help them save money and add value after handing them the keys.
The real estate industry is evolving and becoming more transparent. This is great for consumers and agents, as it will accelerate innovation for the entire industry.
Will Caldwell, a San Diego resident, is the CEO and co-founder at Dizzle, a mobile real estate tech company that helps Realtors generate more word-of-mouth leads.