New Standards for the Modern Real Estate Professional
The National Assn. of REALTORS (NAR) is turning 100 years old this year. Think where we have come in 100 years. Think how fast our business has changed since the mid 1990s with the introduction of the internet into the business sector. With this anniversary in our midst it is time to think about new standards of performance for our business. Why? Today’s consumer is unlike any consumer we have ever known. This is because of the rapid acceleration of the internet and the rate at which people like to communicate. They expect and deserve new levels of professionalism from us . These new standards start with our communication with the consumer.
Active communication - stop talking and start communicating
Active Communication means communicating to the consumer the way they want us to. If the consumer prefers email, don’t call them. If they can’t get to their email but want you to text message them, do that. Not only can these forms of communication save us from voicemail phone tag but they allow us to get the information to the consumer when we are thinking of it and when the consumer wants it.
It has never been easier to keep in touch. E-mail enabled cell phones allow us to receive our e-mail throughout the day, and make it easier to text message via the keyboard. Remember, everyone has a cell phone. Everyone can receive text messages. Maybe some of the calls you are making right now could be replaced with non intrusive text messaging to get the message out.
NAR says only 28% of REALTORS® use an e-mail enabled phone which is below normal adoption levels. This is a tool the whole industry needs to embrace. We used to think that being connected 24/7 would end our lives as we know them. The exciting thing is that we can train ourselves to take one minute email breaks every hour and check to see if there is something we need to respond to. If not we can wait until we are sitting in front of our computer. If you need to respond a simple email signature stating your are responding from your Blackberry or TREO lets the consumer know you are on top of things. Imagine not having to do mass amounts of catch up at the end of day. Imagine the consumer getting a “just in time message” when they need it.
The consumer is happy and so are we.
What features are vital on these phones? It really doesn’t matter what brand you buy, but here is a short check list of features to make sure you include:
- Cellular voice calling
- E-mail functions
- Real time calendar and tasks lists
- Text messaging and web browsing
Research In Motion (RIM) claims its BlackBerry, wireless email device saves users almost one hour per day of otherwise wasted time, and cuts the time spent on a mobile phone by 15%.
What does that mean to us? If you save one hour a day because you can read and respond to eails on the road, what is that worth to you? What are you worth an hour - $75, $100, $500? Whatever the dollar amount, it helps pay for the device within the first few days and the rest of the year you can make money with it. E=mailing and text messaging means that you are using less phone minutes so you can cut down your cell phone bill as well. In the end the cost for this device is FREE!
New Standards in our Industry need to be applied to our marketing, so take a moment and find out what the consumer wants . . . and then give it to them.
What Do Consumers Want?
Every year NAR publishes its Profile of Today’s Homebuyer and Seller and one section focuses on the “Most Valuable Features of Web Sites” – items consumers demand when they are on your web site. Here is the breakdown:
- Photos: 83%
- Property Details: 81%
- Virtual Tours: 60%
- Maps: 43%
- Area info: 37%
- Agent info: 31%
NAR says that 96% of consumers start with a property search. If you don’t have a search button predominantly displayed, allowing the consumer to drive the experience they will search somewhere else. A consumer will stay on your web site for just a few seconds if they can’t find what they are looking for.
When they find listings, do you have the featured items above? If not the consumer will eliminate properties from their home search. If they do a search and half of the listings only have one photo, those listings are eliminated immediately.
Do you have more than 10 photos per listing? Even shoe web sites like Zappos has ten photos of shoes. Shouldn’t your listing client at least enjoy the same amount of photos that a pair of shoes does?
Staging is key with today’s photos. Martha Webb author of “Dress your House for Success” says “With all the emphasis on staging, it’s important to remember that preparing a home for market is a process that starts with the basics of cleaning and uncluttering. Clean, clutter-and-odor-free account for 35% of a buyer’s first impression. This can be accomplished in a few hours and at almost no cost. Next, a coat of paint will create a clean, fresh feeling for minimal cost. These simple steps show buyers your house has been well cared for, and that translates into value!”
Just by uncluttering a listing will make your photos more appealing. You listings will have more staying power on the internet. Take time to revisit your listings and the photos. If your photos need help, consider hiring a professional. If you can, investigate a staging course like Certified Home Marketing Specialist and learn the dialog to help the consumer partner with you to make their home look the best it can in photos.
Twenty-four percent of homes sold last year were found directly on the Internet. That means after filtering through home after home the Internet consumer found the actual house they wanted to buy. They called or emailed you and you showed it to them, and SOLD it to them. The first showing for many buyers is happening on line.
New standards of performance are simple. Give the consumer what they want, photos, lots of them. Make sure they can reach you by email, phone or text messaging – in the time and way they require.
Technology can help streamline your communication process and your marketing efforts. Welcome to the new millennium.
(Amy Chorew of Matthew Ferrara and Company teaches REALTORS how to use technology. She is a Certified e-PRO Trainer and teaches CE, GRI and skill-development courses for REALTOR Associations and brokerages across America and Canada.)