Home Brokers & Agents What Business Are Realtors Really In?

What Business Are Realtors Really In?

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An exchange with Mike Farmer in the comments section of this post over on Homegain triggered some thinking on my part.  The Reader’s Digest version of what went on before:

  • Louis thought there was too much hype about marketing, and not enough attention on the craft of being a realtor.
  • I responded that one reason was that there isn’t much of a craft to being a real estate broker, and that the ones I respect were more of a consultant than a realtor.
  • Mike thought it presumptuous of someone who has never brokered real estate to reduce the job of a realtor down into only brokering deals, adding:

The advent of the information age doesn’t make agents and brokers less useful, but more useful in a more sophisticated market where information needs to be filtered through specialized knowledge to create a competitive edge for consumers. Not only as consultants do we earn our money, but through all the actions taken to create profitable and hassle-free transactions. However, I wouldn’t mind sitting in a cozy office and giving advice all day.

  • Whereupon, I responded that filtering information through specialized knowledge is the essence of consulting, and clarified that pure brokerage — matching buyers to properties — is not valuable in the Internet era.

But that raises a related set of questions.

  1. If “brokerage” (herein defined as “matching buyers to properties”) is the business that realtors are in, then what are their future prospects, if any?
  2. On the other hand, if “brokerage” (herein defined as “matching buyers to properties”) is no longer the business that realtors are in, then what is?

As to the first question, in my mind there is no doubt that the purely transactional brokerage is going the way of Republicans in academia: rare, despised and getting hounded out of existence.  The one thing that the computer is insanely good at doing is matching things up by a whole matrix of qualitative and quantitative metrics.  Really, when you think about it, a realtor even in the pre-Internet era derived much of her value from being the human operator of a computer network — the MLS. (Well, at least starting in the Computer Era — I know some folks still remember the Book.)

The analogy I drew was to the travel industry.  There is little doubt that the traditional travel agency business of booking tickets for consumers was decimated by the Internet.  This little study (PDF) by the Small Business Administration was written back in 2001, but remains illustrative, since that industry was getting hammered right from the start of the Internet era.  (A funny stat: the SBA study in 2001 estimated that only 30% of travel will be booked online through 2005; according to this article, quoting Forrester Research, 68% of travel was booked online in 2005.)

I think Mike agrees with that big picture statement: if you are in real estate, but all you’re doing is putting listings into websites, and putting up yard signs… your future looks dim indeed.

But I don’t believe the future looks dim for real estate, and for realtors.  If anything, I think the future looks bright.  It requires a fundamental shift in thinking about what service a realtor actually provides, but that shift has been ongoing for at least a few years.

Go pick any random agent website and read about their self-description.  It usually says something like, “I’m an expert on the market.  I can help you understand what to do, what not to do, avoid mistakes, and maximize your sale price.  Or, if you’re a buyer, I can help you get the best deal possible with the minimum of hassle.”  (That the last two statements are in conflict is another matter for another day.)

So let’s agree that pure transactional brokerage is probably not the business that most realtors are in today, shall we?  (There is an exception for ultra high end real estate, by the way, as there is in any brokerage type of industry — see, for example, private placements.)

Because that still leaves the more interesting question.  If brokerage is not the actual business, then what is?

Is it Sales & Marketing?

A good argument can be made that it is — but what do you do about buyer representation then?

Is it Project Management?

Many agents I’ve personally spoken to over the years thought this was one of their biggest jobs — making sure the transaction goes through smoothly.  That requires coordinating a whole bunch of people, most of whom don’t work for the realtor, like attorneys, appraisers, inspectors, mortgage brokers, etc. etc. to get the transaction done.  That sounds an awful lot like project management.

Is it Psychological Counseling?

A few agents talk about how their value is in making clients feel better about the process.  Assuaging their fears, having tough talks with them to bring them back down to earth, instilling sanity, etc.  Buying a home is a pretty stressful process — selling one, even more so.

Is it Financial Planner?

The purchase of a home is usually the largest investment any family makes — a strong argument could be made that the realtor’s actual business is financial planning.

Is it Consulting?

While the term “consulting” is often too-broad, in this case, I mean specifically that the realtor has specialized knowledge and training unavailable to otherwise intelligent and highly accomplished laymen.  For example, a heart surgeon is probably pretty darn smart and knows a lot of things.  But he doesn’t know squat about land use regulations, mortgage financing, and the effect of termites.  Nor does he know much about what’s going on with the market, what is and is not a fair price, and so forth.  The realtor does (or should).

Never having been a real estate broker myself, I really don’t know the answer.  I can prognosticate and opine, but that isn’t the same thing as an answer.  If you are a realtor, I would love to get your take on this, and perhaps I can formulate an answer at the end of the learning process.

-rsh

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Rob Hahn
Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

37 COMMENTS

  1. Would it be a complete cop-out to answer, “all of the above?” 🙂

    I know that one of the things that frustrates me about the practice of real estate is that it does, at various times, require one to be all of the things you have mentioned. Of course, this is also slightly dependent upon your market area. I imagine that there are those is larger market areas that would have a much easier time of effectively outsourcing things like marketing. I know that project/transaction management can be effectively outsourced.

    If forced to pick just one, I would argue that the business of Realtor is consulting, with a healthy dose of marketing/sales and psychological counseling thrown in. Personally, I think that Realtors can often make a grave mistake when trying to take on the role of financial planner. There are already a whole lot of very smart folks to fill that role in a much more comprehensive way that a Realtor is able to manage.

    Back to consulting– I would even take it one step further and argue that it is actually representation. THAT is what being a Realtor is all about. Our job is not only to merely consult, inform, or advise. At the end of the day, the activity for which we actually get paid is representation. Most Realtors don’t get paid until the end of a successful transaction. In order for this to take place, the buyer/seller, must be represented throughout the entire process. If our job was merely marketing, we would get paid once the home was put in the MLS or in advertisements. If our job was merely consulting, we would get paid for our expertise regardless of whether or not a home were bought or sold.

    One of the things that the proliferation of listings data on the internet will bring about (I hope) is the marginalization of the idea of “listing agent.” It used to be that if you had the listing, you could just sit back and wait for the buyers to come rolling in, because they had to buy the property through you. The MLS and rise of buyer’s agency changed that to some degree, as it meant that a buyer could come with their own agent, who could then recommend properties via MLS access. Now, however, the potential buyer has access to vast amounts of listing data without ever having to engage a human being at all. For better or worse.

    I think that it could be for better. Once the person has access to all of this information, the next thing that person needs is someone to interpret it– enter, the Realtor. A Realtor can provide the extra knowledge and expertise necessary for a buyer to make an informed decision. Once that decision is made, the Realtor can negotiate the offer, and use project management skills to ensure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed throughout the course of the transaction. This is full-service representation.

    From the Seller’s perspective, there are A TON of places that a listing could potentially be advertised and marketed, that is where a listing agent who has experience can help. Coming up with a real marketing plan for a listing, something comprehensive, something more than just advertising. Once again, when an offer is made, the Realtor is there to make sure that nothing is missed, that the Seller acts in a way that protects their interests and achieves their goals.

    As far as psychological counseling goes, it is a fairly large role that Realtors sometimes have to play. The sale of a home is an emotional experience. Realtors can provide a very valuable non-emotional perspective during a transaction that can often save everyone a lot of time, money, and effort. That is just one of the reasons that Realtors and referees are so connected :-).

    Very thoughtful post and analysis, I hope that it generates some lively discussion, as I would love to hear the opinions of other real estate professionals on this subject.

  2. Would it be a complete cop-out to answer, “all of the above?” 🙂

    I know that one of the things that frustrates me about the practice of real estate is that it does, at various times, require one to be all of the things you have mentioned. Of course, this is also slightly dependent upon your market area. I imagine that there are those is larger market areas that would have a much easier time of effectively outsourcing things like marketing. I know that project/transaction management can be effectively outsourced.

    If forced to pick just one, I would argue that the business of Realtor is consulting, with a healthy dose of marketing/sales and psychological counseling thrown in. Personally, I think that Realtors can often make a grave mistake when trying to take on the role of financial planner. There are already a whole lot of very smart folks to fill that role in a much more comprehensive way that a Realtor is able to manage.

    Back to consulting– I would even take it one step further and argue that it is actually representation. THAT is what being a Realtor is all about. Our job is not only to merely consult, inform, or advise. At the end of the day, the activity for which we actually get paid is representation. Most Realtors don’t get paid until the end of a successful transaction. In order for this to take place, the buyer/seller, must be represented throughout the entire process. If our job was merely marketing, we would get paid once the home was put in the MLS or in advertisements. If our job was merely consulting, we would get paid for our expertise regardless of whether or not a home were bought or sold.

    One of the things that the proliferation of listings data on the internet will bring about (I hope) is the marginalization of the idea of “listing agent.” It used to be that if you had the listing, you could just sit back and wait for the buyers to come rolling in, because they had to buy the property through you. The MLS and rise of buyer’s agency changed that to some degree, as it meant that a buyer could come with their own agent, who could then recommend properties via MLS access. Now, however, the potential buyer has access to vast amounts of listing data without ever having to engage a human being at all. For better or worse.

    I think that it could be for better. Once the person has access to all of this information, the next thing that person needs is someone to interpret it– enter, the Realtor. A Realtor can provide the extra knowledge and expertise necessary for a buyer to make an informed decision. Once that decision is made, the Realtor can negotiate the offer, and use project management skills to ensure that all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed throughout the course of the transaction. This is full-service representation.

    From the Seller’s perspective, there are A TON of places that a listing could potentially be advertised and marketed, that is where a listing agent who has experience can help. Coming up with a real marketing plan for a listing, something comprehensive, something more than just advertising. Once again, when an offer is made, the Realtor is there to make sure that nothing is missed, that the Seller acts in a way that protects their interests and achieves their goals.

    As far as psychological counseling goes, it is a fairly large role that Realtors sometimes have to play. The sale of a home is an emotional experience. Realtors can provide a very valuable non-emotional perspective during a transaction that can often save everyone a lot of time, money, and effort. That is just one of the reasons that Realtors and referees are so connected :-).

    Very thoughtful post and analysis, I hope that it generates some lively discussion, as I would love to hear the opinions of other real estate professionals on this subject.

  3. Would is be a complete cop-out to answer, “What Daniel said?” 😉

    Probably so, but what Daniel said pretty much sums it up for me too.

    I have never considered myself a “salesman”. I’ve always thought of this role as being much more “consultative” (is that even a word?).

    Financial planning is best left to financial planners. I know and understand (for the most part) mortgage products, but I am not a CPA, a financial planner, nor a mortgage broker. I have on the other hand, often advised (actually, not often but EVERY TIME) that people do not “over buy” more home than they can afford. Getting a loan where you plan to refinance in a few years, or buying a home hoping to reap an appreciation windfall are both bad ideas and a large factor in what got us into the current mess we are in.

    I am a consultant, a facilitator, a marketer, a project manager and yes, even a salesman. But I consider educating my clients to be my primary responsibility.

  4. Would is be a complete cop-out to answer, “What Daniel said?” 😉

    Probably so, but what Daniel said pretty much sums it up for me too.

    I have never considered myself a “salesman”. I’ve always thought of this role as being much more “consultative” (is that even a word?).

    Financial planning is best left to financial planners. I know and understand (for the most part) mortgage products, but I am not a CPA, a financial planner, nor a mortgage broker. I have on the other hand, often advised (actually, not often but EVERY TIME) that people do not “over buy” more home than they can afford. Getting a loan where you plan to refinance in a few years, or buying a home hoping to reap an appreciation windfall are both bad ideas and a large factor in what got us into the current mess we are in.

    I am a consultant, a facilitator, a marketer, a project manager and yes, even a salesman. But I consider educating my clients to be my primary responsibility.

  5. Unfortunately, most REALTORS don’t know what business they are in – or that they are in business at all. This is one of the most fundamental problems with the industry. Too many people become REALTORS because they think that it would be a fun thing to do or because they “just like looking at homes”. They don’t realize that they, in fact, are in business.

    Considering that to be in business, at its very core, means that you have to present a “product” to a marketplace in hopes that your product will sell and you will make money. If your product is unsuccessful or your marketplace can’t (or won’t) sustain your needs – you go out of business. Unfortunately, this is what happens to the vast majority of all startup businesses and it is now happening to many REALTORS.

    The true business of REALTORS is to generate plenty of leads, secure some of those leads as clients and to serve those clients to their absolute best ability so that they will remain clients for life and tell others about their experience. That is the business of a REALTOR.

    All of this means that the REALTOR’s “product” must be very good and their message to the marketplace must also be very good. Too many REALTORS have an inferior “product” and absolutely no message (marketing). There is a ton of business out there (yes, even today) but 80% of it is being taken by the 20% of REALTORS that are smart business-minded agents. They have a great product and a great message.

    The questions that you pose above and Daniel does a great job of discussing are all centered around the “product” that the REALTOR is providing to the marketplace. I will agree with everything that Daniel has said in his response – an agent is a consultant (I prefer “trusted advisor”) who must represent the client in the best way possible utilizing many project management and even some psychological counseling skills.

    Note that the consumer doesn’t really care about the REALTOR’s business – only in the product that they are purchasing. This is the same for any product that anyone purchases. That is why every agent must craft a message that speaks to the potential client in a way that highlights why the product is worthwhile.

    A REALTOR could have the most fantastic “product” out there but if no one knows about it, they will go out of business. A REALTOR could have the best marketing message out there and a terrible “product” and they will also eventually go out of business. To be in business a REALTOR must have a rock-solid product and an outstanding message.

  6. Unfortunately, most REALTORS don’t know what business they are in – or that they are in business at all. This is one of the most fundamental problems with the industry. Too many people become REALTORS because they think that it would be a fun thing to do or because they “just like looking at homes”. They don’t realize that they, in fact, are in business.

    Considering that to be in business, at its very core, means that you have to present a “product” to a marketplace in hopes that your product will sell and you will make money. If your product is unsuccessful or your marketplace can’t (or won’t) sustain your needs – you go out of business. Unfortunately, this is what happens to the vast majority of all startup businesses and it is now happening to many REALTORS.

    The true business of REALTORS is to generate plenty of leads, secure some of those leads as clients and to serve those clients to their absolute best ability so that they will remain clients for life and tell others about their experience. That is the business of a REALTOR.

    All of this means that the REALTOR’s “product” must be very good and their message to the marketplace must also be very good. Too many REALTORS have an inferior “product” and absolutely no message (marketing). There is a ton of business out there (yes, even today) but 80% of it is being taken by the 20% of REALTORS that are smart business-minded agents. They have a great product and a great message.

    The questions that you pose above and Daniel does a great job of discussing are all centered around the “product” that the REALTOR is providing to the marketplace. I will agree with everything that Daniel has said in his response – an agent is a consultant (I prefer “trusted advisor”) who must represent the client in the best way possible utilizing many project management and even some psychological counseling skills.

    Note that the consumer doesn’t really care about the REALTOR’s business – only in the product that they are purchasing. This is the same for any product that anyone purchases. That is why every agent must craft a message that speaks to the potential client in a way that highlights why the product is worthwhile.

    A REALTOR could have the most fantastic “product” out there but if no one knows about it, they will go out of business. A REALTOR could have the best marketing message out there and a terrible “product” and they will also eventually go out of business. To be in business a REALTOR must have a rock-solid product and an outstanding message.

  7. Don’t you love smiley faces :). There is not supposed to be a smiley in my comment after “trusted advisor” – that is supposed to be an “end parenthesis”. 😮

  8. Don’t you love smiley faces :). There is not supposed to be a smiley in my comment after “trusted advisor” – that is supposed to be an “end parenthesis”. 😮

  9. Thanks for the discussion. We see far less discussion on what I call the craft of being a realtor (be it as a consultant, project manager, financial planner, counselor or whatever)
    than marketing.
    I’d like to see more tips of the trade exchanged on the above points instead of the endless stream of Twitter praising, social networking exaltations, SEO mongering etc.
    Once the customer is in front of year, he really doesn’t care that you have 500+ linked in contacts or score high in the SERPS. He cares whether you can “consult” and “manage the project” to completion.

  10. Thanks for the discussion. We see far less discussion on what I call the craft of being a realtor (be it as a consultant, project manager, financial planner, counselor or whatever)
    than marketing.
    I’d like to see more tips of the trade exchanged on the above points instead of the endless stream of Twitter praising, social networking exaltations, SEO mongering etc.
    Once the customer is in front of year, he really doesn’t care that you have 500+ linked in contacts or score high in the SERPS. He cares whether you can “consult” and “manage the project” to completion.

  11. The true business of REALTORS is to generate plenty of leads, secure some of those leads as clients and to serve those clients to their absolute best ability so that they will remain clients for life and tell others about their experience. That is the business of a REALTOR.

  12. The true business of REALTORS is to generate plenty of leads, secure some of those leads as clients and to serve those clients to their absolute best ability so that they will remain clients for life and tell others about their experience. That is the business of a REALTOR.

  13. There’s some good stuff here — thanks Daniel for your knowledge bomb.

    It does strike me, however, that if what you wrote is true, then far far too many agents use their “real business” as a marketing hook to promote their “ancillary business”.

    Meaning, if expert consultation is the real business of agents, you guys are not selling that directly. You’re selling the paperwork/execution side of the transaction, but using the “expertise” as a reason for people to hire you for the paperwork. It’s a bit of an odd situation.

    Is it possible ever in the future for realtors to be more like lawyers? Top tier law firms will often work with a client, do complex research, do the legal strategy, etc. etc. and charge a rich premium for their expertise — then farm out the actual gruntwork to low-priced firms (or junior associates).

    I think it would be entertaining if the dominant broker in a market just charges clients for his advice, then sends the actual transaction work to some junior affiliate or partner. Why couldn’t this work in our industry? Regulations?

    -rsh

  14. There’s some good stuff here — thanks Daniel for your knowledge bomb.

    It does strike me, however, that if what you wrote is true, then far far too many agents use their “real business” as a marketing hook to promote their “ancillary business”.

    Meaning, if expert consultation is the real business of agents, you guys are not selling that directly. You’re selling the paperwork/execution side of the transaction, but using the “expertise” as a reason for people to hire you for the paperwork. It’s a bit of an odd situation.

    Is it possible ever in the future for realtors to be more like lawyers? Top tier law firms will often work with a client, do complex research, do the legal strategy, etc. etc. and charge a rich premium for their expertise — then farm out the actual gruntwork to low-priced firms (or junior associates).

    I think it would be entertaining if the dominant broker in a market just charges clients for his advice, then sends the actual transaction work to some junior affiliate or partner. Why couldn’t this work in our industry? Regulations?

    -rsh

  15. Rob,

    Great insight, as usual. As you know, I like lawyers. I wish that the real estate industry would take more cues from the legal industry.

    What you are proposing is not only possible, people are doing it. In fact, it is something that our brokerage is going to get into doing in the very near future (I hope). It simply requires the right personnel. The agent would be the one doing the heavy lifting (analysis, negotiation, consultation, etc.) once the contract is in process, the project management side would be done by a transaction coordinator. In many cases, there are virtual assistants out there who are very good at transaction management, and will perform all of the paperwork duties from beginning to end for a fee.

    I think that one of the things that agents fight (especially listing agents) is that the general public has little to no clue what an agent does. I will concede that this is largely the fault of agents. In many ways, agents act in a reactionary fashion. The consumer says, “I can sell my home myself, because even I can put it in a newspaper.” The agents respond with “I can put it in a newspaper better than you can. Just look at how many I already have.”

    The other very common response is one that borders on fear mongering. It is something that goes like this, “You might be able to get it advertised, but did you know that there are hundreds of ways your deal could fall apart. You need me because I can keep it all together.” The point that this attitude misses is that without the expertise, all the advertising in the world doesn’t matter, and you’ll never even have a transaction to fall apart.

    As usual, is seems to me that the void is where the value is.

    The other aspect of this is that, as I mentioned, the buying and selling of real estate is a very emotional decision. People tend to work with those whom they like and trust, almost regardless of their competence. I see it all the time. This means that the most competent agents are still going to have to do a better than average job of connecting with potential clients. There is a void there, too.

  16. Rob,

    Great insight, as usual. As you know, I like lawyers. I wish that the real estate industry would take more cues from the legal industry.

    What you are proposing is not only possible, people are doing it. In fact, it is something that our brokerage is going to get into doing in the very near future (I hope). It simply requires the right personnel. The agent would be the one doing the heavy lifting (analysis, negotiation, consultation, etc.) once the contract is in process, the project management side would be done by a transaction coordinator. In many cases, there are virtual assistants out there who are very good at transaction management, and will perform all of the paperwork duties from beginning to end for a fee.

    I think that one of the things that agents fight (especially listing agents) is that the general public has little to no clue what an agent does. I will concede that this is largely the fault of agents. In many ways, agents act in a reactionary fashion. The consumer says, “I can sell my home myself, because even I can put it in a newspaper.” The agents respond with “I can put it in a newspaper better than you can. Just look at how many I already have.”

    The other very common response is one that borders on fear mongering. It is something that goes like this, “You might be able to get it advertised, but did you know that there are hundreds of ways your deal could fall apart. You need me because I can keep it all together.” The point that this attitude misses is that without the expertise, all the advertising in the world doesn’t matter, and you’ll never even have a transaction to fall apart.

    As usual, is seems to me that the void is where the value is.

    The other aspect of this is that, as I mentioned, the buying and selling of real estate is a very emotional decision. People tend to work with those whom they like and trust, almost regardless of their competence. I see it all the time. This means that the most competent agents are still going to have to do a better than average job of connecting with potential clients. There is a void there, too.

  17. Dan –

    On the subject of “like and trust”, there’s a saying at Yale Law School:

    The A students become law professors.
    The B students become judges.
    The C students make all the money.

    In commerce, technical brilliance matters only on the margins. Character, more than anything else, appears to shape individual destiny.

    -rsh

  18. Dan –

    On the subject of “like and trust”, there’s a saying at Yale Law School:

    The A students become law professors.
    The B students become judges.
    The C students make all the money.

    In commerce, technical brilliance matters only on the margins. Character, more than anything else, appears to shape individual destiny.

    -rsh

  19. Emotion plays a signifacnt role and thats where realtors come in, not giving away your sellers needs!

  20. Man, this is a great dialog. Thanks to Christian Sterner for pointing me to your site. Then, Andy Kaufman did so in the same day! Sorry I didn’t meet you in SF.

    1st, I’d like to point out that I was a great C student and thus, plan to “make all the money”

    I think that deep local market knowledge is the very best key to future success for Realtors. The “true local market leader” will always have knowledge and insight that is highly sought-after.

    But here’s the trick: you have to maximize the number of potential customers that know about your “true market leadership” — that’s a marketing job.

    So, my suggested gameplan for success is this:

    #1. find a hyper-local niche
    #2. REALLY know more than anyone else about that niche
    #3. Do great marketing to let people know (online focus)
    #4. Serve customers very well once you find them

    The technical brilliance is helpful, but only if people know you have it

    Matt Fagioli

  21. Man, this is a great dialog. Thanks to Christian Sterner for pointing me to your site. Then, Andy Kaufman did so in the same day! Sorry I didn’t meet you in SF.

    1st, I’d like to point out that I was a great C student and thus, plan to “make all the money”

    I think that deep local market knowledge is the very best key to future success for Realtors. The “true local market leader” will always have knowledge and insight that is highly sought-after.

    But here’s the trick: you have to maximize the number of potential customers that know about your “true market leadership” — that’s a marketing job.

    So, my suggested gameplan for success is this:

    #1. find a hyper-local niche
    #2. REALLY know more than anyone else about that niche
    #3. Do great marketing to let people know (online focus)
    #4. Serve customers very well once you find them

    The technical brilliance is helpful, but only if people know you have it

    Matt Fagioli

  22. Rob: Would it be a cop out to say “What Daniel said” followed by “What Jay said” ?

    The job of the REALTOR as a buyer’s agent is to assit the buy in obtaining the best property for them at the lowest price with the best terms and conditions possible. (That does include mathcing houses to their needs)

    The job of the REALTOR as a seller’sagent is to assist the buy in selling their property for them at the highest price with the best terms and conditions possible. (That does include marketing their property and ecxposing it tothe largest market possible)

    They are not contradictory (unless you try to do both of them in the same instance as a dual agent – and then you need to disclose to your clients that you will not be able to be the most agressive advocate for them as a result of the obligations you have to the other party) – but are based upon the best advocacy possible.

    As far as the “I don’t like to think of myself as a salesperson” I guess that depends upon your definition of selling. To me it is “Helping someone to do something in their best interest that they might not have done if the salesperson had not been present” – it is not coercing or cajoling someone to do something they don’t want to do, and is by definition a consultative process.

    Great discussion – for a lawyer 😉

    (Really enjoyed talking to you at Connect in SF)

  23. Rob: Would it be a cop out to say “What Daniel said” followed by “What Jay said” ?

    The job of the REALTOR as a buyer’s agent is to assit the buy in obtaining the best property for them at the lowest price with the best terms and conditions possible. (That does include mathcing houses to their needs)

    The job of the REALTOR as a seller’sagent is to assist the buy in selling their property for them at the highest price with the best terms and conditions possible. (That does include marketing their property and ecxposing it tothe largest market possible)

    They are not contradictory (unless you try to do both of them in the same instance as a dual agent – and then you need to disclose to your clients that you will not be able to be the most agressive advocate for them as a result of the obligations you have to the other party) – but are based upon the best advocacy possible.

    As far as the “I don’t like to think of myself as a salesperson” I guess that depends upon your definition of selling. To me it is “Helping someone to do something in their best interest that they might not have done if the salesperson had not been present” – it is not coercing or cajoling someone to do something they don’t want to do, and is by definition a consultative process.

    Great discussion – for a lawyer 😉

    (Really enjoyed talking to you at Connect in SF)

  24. Thanks Matt & Bill – was great meeting both of you at RE Bar Camp.

    (Matt, I was the jerk in the back who was asking you about whether you are really a franchise model, and what you’d do if Realogy started doing agent/office blogs on their corporate sites.) 🙂

    BTW, Matt… three letters for you that I think would make all the difference in the world to what you’re up to:

    C. R. M.

    🙂

    -rsh

  25. Thanks Matt & Bill – was great meeting both of you at RE Bar Camp.

    (Matt, I was the jerk in the back who was asking you about whether you are really a franchise model, and what you’d do if Realogy started doing agent/office blogs on their corporate sites.) 🙂

    BTW, Matt… three letters for you that I think would make all the difference in the world to what you’re up to:

    C. R. M.

    🙂

    -rsh

  26. All I can add to the conversation from here is that I’m grateful to know Daniel, Jay and Bill as they’re helping to set the standard for what a Realtor should be.

    A quality Realtor is one who doesn’t sell anything. He represents his clients best interests and places said client’s interests as the paramount concern. Sometimes this is listening, counseling, guiding, interpreting, advising – on price, terms, etc – and sometimes this is negotiating – with the client as well as other Realtors.

    Part of being a great Realtor is knowing who the other “good” professionals are who the “bad” ones are. How does one quantify this knowledge?

    Using all of the above, we have to set expectations appropriately for all involved. Personally, I consult and I adapt to my clients’ needs.

    The profession has tried to protect “what we do” for so long (when often it was just putting a property in the MLS) that we have neglected to clarify exactly what we do – even when the list is extraordinarily long.

  27. All I can add to the conversation from here is that I’m grateful to know Daniel, Jay and Bill as they’re helping to set the standard for what a Realtor should be.

    A quality Realtor is one who doesn’t sell anything. He represents his clients best interests and places said client’s interests as the paramount concern. Sometimes this is listening, counseling, guiding, interpreting, advising – on price, terms, etc – and sometimes this is negotiating – with the client as well as other Realtors.

    Part of being a great Realtor is knowing who the other “good” professionals are who the “bad” ones are. How does one quantify this knowledge?

    Using all of the above, we have to set expectations appropriately for all involved. Personally, I consult and I adapt to my clients’ needs.

    The profession has tried to protect “what we do” for so long (when often it was just putting a property in the MLS) that we have neglected to clarify exactly what we do – even when the list is extraordinarily long.

  28. Oh, Rob.
    So you were that jerk! (just kidding)

    I actually appreciated all your questions and comments.
    and, yes, we ARE a franchise.
    Can’t remember exactly what I said about it there in SF.
    We have not filed our FDD in California so I was being pretty vague about stuff.

    And, yes, we’re adding a pretty kickin’ CRM to our backend also.

    Love to talk more to you about it.

    ps. it would be awesome if you added a comment tracker (or whatever you call it) to your blog so I can get notified when others comment on the same post, etc.

  29. Oh, Rob.
    So you were that jerk! (just kidding)

    I actually appreciated all your questions and comments.
    and, yes, we ARE a franchise.
    Can’t remember exactly what I said about it there in SF.
    We have not filed our FDD in California so I was being pretty vague about stuff.

    And, yes, we’re adding a pretty kickin’ CRM to our backend also.

    Love to talk more to you about it.

    ps. it would be awesome if you added a comment tracker (or whatever you call it) to your blog so I can get notified when others comment on the same post, etc.

  30. Wow. I hit the jackpot here.. assume a few comments will kindly be tolerated. First, it is too easy to get licensed. Second, I agree that hyper-local is GREAT. However, just knowing about an area because you have lived there a long time is not going to be enough anymore. There are many realtors who can say they are hyper-local, but the depth of their expertise outside those boundaries is going to be key to setting them apart as I just don’t picture the younger generation being able to relate to, or want to do business with, someone selling real estate because they’ve never done anything else and the kids are gone…. unless of course they are tech savvy, smart, and want to be a PROFESSIONAL realtor.

  31. Wow. I hit the jackpot here.. assume a few comments will kindly be tolerated. First, it is too easy to get licensed. Second, I agree that hyper-local is GREAT. However, just knowing about an area because you have lived there a long time is not going to be enough anymore. There are many realtors who can say they are hyper-local, but the depth of their expertise outside those boundaries is going to be key to setting them apart as I just don’t picture the younger generation being able to relate to, or want to do business with, someone selling real estate because they’ve never done anything else and the kids are gone…. unless of course they are tech savvy, smart, and want to be a PROFESSIONAL realtor.

  32. Terrific comment string on a well written post. When I speak to groups of agents (which I do from time to time) I always ask them what they do for a living. I rarely get the correct answer. Agents respond with many of the same thoughtful answers seen above. But representing clients, neighborhood knowledge, technical mastery and the like are how you get paid. What you do for a living is: marketing. We are in the marketing business. We market our business first and foremost (otherwise there is no business) and we market listings and we market buyers.

    I have an entire class based on the pyramid of teaching that agents go through and how upside down it is. The primary teaching that goes on in a brokerage regards contracts and escrow process. This is the least important aspect of what you do for a living. (It is very important to how you get paid and even more important to how you keep what you got paid – but it is at the bottom of the scale in measuring what agents do for a living.) Contracts are “fill-in-the-blank” boiler plate. For $300/transaction you can have someone do it for you. If there comes a time when a contract is unclear… an agent is not allowed to advise anyway! It goes backward from there: how to close a listing, how to show a home, how to run an open house until finally, just maybe, if there is anytime left, the broker might talk about marketing.

    This is beginning to feel like a whole post that needs to be written so I will leave off the rant. Suffice to say that if you look around at the listings in your neighborhood you will see the antithesis of good marketing. If you look around at the “marketing” pieces that our fellow agents use they are the antithesis of good marketing – especially in a 2.0 world.

    Learn marketing. Combine that marketing with true and passionate caring for your client – make it comfortable for them to put their trust in you. Almost every other aspect of what an agent does can be outsourced.

  33. Terrific comment string on a well written post. When I speak to groups of agents (which I do from time to time) I always ask them what they do for a living. I rarely get the correct answer. Agents respond with many of the same thoughtful answers seen above. But representing clients, neighborhood knowledge, technical mastery and the like are how you get paid. What you do for a living is: marketing. We are in the marketing business. We market our business first and foremost (otherwise there is no business) and we market listings and we market buyers.

    I have an entire class based on the pyramid of teaching that agents go through and how upside down it is. The primary teaching that goes on in a brokerage regards contracts and escrow process. This is the least important aspect of what you do for a living. (It is very important to how you get paid and even more important to how you keep what you got paid – but it is at the bottom of the scale in measuring what agents do for a living.) Contracts are “fill-in-the-blank” boiler plate. For $300/transaction you can have someone do it for you. If there comes a time when a contract is unclear… an agent is not allowed to advise anyway! It goes backward from there: how to close a listing, how to show a home, how to run an open house until finally, just maybe, if there is anytime left, the broker might talk about marketing.

    This is beginning to feel like a whole post that needs to be written so I will leave off the rant. Suffice to say that if you look around at the listings in your neighborhood you will see the antithesis of good marketing. If you look around at the “marketing” pieces that our fellow agents use they are the antithesis of good marketing – especially in a 2.0 world.

    Learn marketing. Combine that marketing with true and passionate caring for your client – make it comfortable for them to put their trust in you. Almost every other aspect of what an agent does can be outsourced.

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