So why is this word important? What makes it seemingly relevant to today's real estate experience? It is so critical because we have practiced the opposite for so long. We have offered consumers something we called "full service" for as long as any of us can remember. But, by the way, we rarely told them what this "full service" included! Thus, we practiced unintentional deception. No, we didn't lie. No, we never set out to deceive anyone. It is just that we assumed that everyone knew what full service entailed.
A problem was that most consumers never knew going into a transaction what would happen between posting in the MLS and getting the closing check or the keys to their new home. We practiced unintentional deception. Consumers generally think that we do far less than we really do for our fees. "If you don't tell me what I am paying for, I am not very thrilled about giving up my money." Yet we have unknowingly asked consumers to do exactly that.
What constitutes full service varies greatly from one professional to the next. One might include staging, another might not. One might include mail campaigns and Internet promotion, another might not. Some may include all closing services, others may charge extra. Whatever you include or exclude, one thing is clear: consumers probably don't know what to expect. Yes, sometimes we offer them a written marketing plan. Sometimes we give them a written "what to expect" brochure. Usually, though, they neither understand this nor have a clear fix on what they are paying for.
Add to this confusion the reality that we, as competing professionals, often give services away in the hope of winning the "deal" from others. These "freebies" are sometimes services that are outside the normal: staging, landscaping, interior repair and refurbish are all things I have seen given as free services, even thought they were never part of the "standard" set of services in our area. This tends to tell the consumer two things:
1. These are valueless services
2. These are what we normally pay for.
They are valueless simply because we are willing to do them for free. I believe that free services are always seen as having a value equal to what the consumer pays for them.
They become viewed as services that are assumed to be integral to our offering, simply because we make such a big deal about them. "They must be standard." We know, by the way, that these services are not part of the usual, and are not critical parts of what we do. They were "invented" often to inflate our individual offering to put us just a little ahead of the pack. We place so much importance on them in our competitive plan that consumers sometimes think of these as our service offering - missing the real important issues like marketing, negotiation, contracts, disclosures, inspections, closings, and so much more. So, listening to us puff about these "put me first" ancillary services and not hearing much about our critical services, it is small wonder why consumers might sometimes think we are overpaid.
So, back to transparency. It is high time to educate ourselves and our clients as to what it is we do for a living. And, by the way, how we do this education will speak volumes about how professional we are. Do it right and you are viewed as a true professional, skilled in all aspects of residential real state business. Do it some other way and you can be seen to be like just another discount shop - giving away services but never really performing to the consumer's expectation. They don't understand what you do and you don't understand what they expect.
What do we mean by transparency? It is simply the method of doing business that gives the consumer a clear understanding of all the things you will do for them and the costs associated with those services. It is allowing the consumer to understand these services in such a manner as to empower them to make correct choices about the services that they will want or need. It is then structuring the business agreement in such a way as to spell out in clear terms the expectations of both the professional and the consumer, transparently.
Then, you must perform to expectations.