Archive for September, 2008

Listings. Listings. Listings. Still.

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Wit & Wisdom

From the Department of Homeland Stupidity comes the newly formed Department of Bailouts.  Is there now a sufficient level of converting the United States into a socialist economy for the New Regime President (aka, Treasury Secretary Paulson) to feel that his work is done?

But the above isn’t my special area of expertise.  Showing fellow agents how to have a truly successful business is what I am known for.  And I find it funny (odd?) when I read something that directly contradicts what I know to be true on that particular subject.  It certainly isn’t the first time I’ve seen, "getting listings is no longer the best way to go" – just the first time I’ve seen it from someone I respect as much as I respect Brian Brady.  He wrote:

Thirty years ago, the mantra “listers last” was all important advice to a new real estate agent.  Today, inventory has been democratized through the IDX search on a website.   Open houses then, are a good time to work on your SEO.  A REALTOR who controls the SERPS rather than the inventory should profit best from this buyer-centric market.

Okay, fine.  But can anyone name even four or five TOP AGENTS who have buyer based businesses?  I personally know a couple of them.  But I don’t know of any top agent who has had a buyer based (as opposed to a listings based) business who did it for 3 – 4 consecutive years.  Can an agent attract buyers via the internet?  Absolutely.  Can it be done at a level so great that the lead agent (rainmaker) hires many many many buyer agents to handle the load?  Again, the answer is a confirmed yes.  However, the web traffic – at that level – isn’t normally achieved through SEO but pay per click.  All of the huge buyer based operations I know of in the U.S. use PPC to attract the traffic.  Not saying SEO doesn’t enter into it but the bulk of it is PPC.

How many of them have done it or will be able to maintain their performance level for even three years?  I can’t say, as it (at least to my knowledge) hasn’t ever been done for that long.  Which is my main point.  Almost all top agents have a listings based business.  I am not saying this because I have a listings based business, I am saying it because that is what I found when I went looking at the profiles and the patterns of top agents.  What I observed is what caused me to decide to take the path I took – become a lister.  I have never seen any confirmed data (vs opinions)that contradicts that.

There is nothing I am writing here that suggests that selling homes to buyers (as we need at least one for every listing!) is bad or should not be done.  Oddly, by accident, I am one of the leading buyer side agents (based on number of sales) in the Phoenix market.  I discovered that odd fact a little over a year ago.  I had been working for years to find out what the "top buyer agents" were doing so I could start doing it too.  Once I realized that I wasn’t way behind everyone else but ahead of most everyone I stopped trying to "discover" what I must already know.  Our buyer sides came about as a result of marketing our listings.  Period.  Just doing the things that should be done to properly market a listing produced buyer deals.  Lots of them.

An interesting post I came across about a month ago was over at the always-worth-reading, Notorious R.O.B.  There was a discussion regarding possible violation of a listing agent’s fiduciary duty to have their listings on Zillow, Trulia, etc.  Seems several different lawyers were of the opinion that it could possibly violate a listing agent’s duty to his seller.  I disagree.  Completely.  From my comments to that post on Rob Hahn’s site:

There will always be plaintiffs and lawyers litigating for various reasons. I can not say any lawsuit over which websites a listing was posted on should not occur. I can say that any lawsuit brought for those reasons is without merit. It would have be based on the (erroneous) premise that inquiries from those various sites actually directly helped or caused a home to sell.

The top national site for traffic is I currently pay about $4,000 a year to “enhance” my listings. There was a time that every 20 leads from equaled a closed escrow on *a* home. Seldom the one they inquired about. Now, the *only* reason I am on is to be able to say to our sellers that “we feature your home on”. That is the ONLY reason. In the past four years, I have never sold a listing because it was on, Trulia, Zillow or any of the other sites. I have sold homes to buyers because we received an email lead because we have a lot of listings on those sites. Big difference.

If you are wanting buyer leads those sites may or may not be good. If you want to “impress” your sellers, they can be very good. If you want to actually sell that house I don’t see that they make *any* difference.

All of my listings are on all of the important sites.  We do receive some inquiries from nearly all of them and some of those inquiries can become actual leads where we make a sale.  I’m not convinced that today’s "internet lead" is much different than the "ad call" of twenty-five years ago.  The best data I had at the time was it took about 400 calls (on the average) regarding a particular home to physically sell that home to that buyer.  If you only have a few listings and sometimes sell one it can seem like it does not take that many.  Get a few thousand and keep track of them and you see a different picture.  If this were not true I suspect that most of us would be out of a job – as most sellers could just run an ad (or today, get "internet leads") and sell their own home.

My main points in this post are:

1. Listings were, are and will continue to be the very best method of having a stable real estate practice.

2. There are huge amounts of fantastic nonsense available from lots of different places regarding what is necessary to sell homes.

3.  People who can’t see clearly will continue to disagree with point # 1 and therefore continue to attempt to sell the nonsense mentioned in point # 2 as essential.


Are You An Opinion Leader?

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008


photo credit:

Management is telling people what to do.  Leadership is teaching them how to think.  Opinion leaders tell people what to think.

Despite various surveys indicating how low the general public ranks real estate agents, some agents are highly respected by their clients and peers.  How does that happen? 

To understand how that is accomplished, first let’s look at the concept of influencing the opinions of others.  Various studies have shown that media communication intended to change someone’s buying or voting behavior seldom works directly.  The communication may be directly received by the person it is intended for but is mediated through their social relationships.  There are individuals (depending on the subject) that others consider experts and who are looked to for advice on that particular subject.  There are some people who act as Opinion Leaders – they see themselves and are seen by others as having an influence on others.

In politics and fashion, for example, there are TV shows hosted by people who have very large audiences who watch the show in order to find out what to think.  Yet, Opinion Leadership is not a trait some people have and others don’t.  Every person who has an elevated interest (and thereby knowledge) in an area, can serve as an opinion leader on that subject to those around them.  It is a natural part of everyday personal relationships.

Research suggests that, in the US, opinion leaders constitute roughly one in ten Americans, and that as a group they tend to serve as a leading indicator of popular trends, from public issues to new product adoption to social attitudes.  Many consumers today place more weight on the word-of-mouth insights of their more influential neighbors than on what they hear on TV or read in the newspaper.

Opinion leaders are people whose opinion on a subject/product is influential on the social group they belong to, although they may or may not have an acknowledged authority over them.  Opinion leaders are not necessarily traditional leaders in society, such as politicians and clergy (although they can be). Rather, they are perceived experts in particular domains – which is exactly the position occupied by a successful residential Realtor.  When it comes to correct pricing and effective marketing of homes there isn’t any substitute for a competent Realtor.  Notice I didn’t say real estate company, as it is the individual agent who is looked to (or not) as the expert.  A company may enjoy a wonderful reputation and there are many instances of an individual and his or her company seeming so inseparable that you can’t think of one without the other – but it would always be the individual that is the opinion leader.  One could join the largest, most successful real estate company in the world and this would not automatically cause them to be perceived as an expert.  Conversely, an individual broker could have a one person shop and be regarded as THE go to person in that area if you had a question concerning real estate.  Opinion Leader Realtors are trusted by their clients because the client can see that the agent has their best interests at heart. 

There are many real estate instructors who teach “scripts” on how to handle commission objections.  The seller doesn’t want to pay “X” commission and they are advocating using a “technique”.  Think of someone you trust and go to for services – like a dentist or physician.  Isn’t that trust based largely on the belief that they don’t recommend a service you “need” based only on their desire for money?  (as opposed to they use "really good scripts"  to handle you).

There is a Scale of Motivation, it goes highest to lowest:

Personal Conviction
Personal Gain

For example, when one is communicating to their clients about a needed price reduction from the viewpoint of personal conviction or duty, rather than “I want the money” – that “Care Factor” on the part of the agent is visible to all but the worst off in the society.  Please don’t think I am advocating earning less or not reaching all of your financial goals, I’m not.  I believe that great agents operate and handle their clients from the level of Personal Conviction or Duty.  They tell their potential sellers the whole truth every time and don’t hold something back because they might not get a commission.  This isn’t so they can be in compliance with the Code of Ethics, but is just the way they think and operate.

In the next year or so a great many agents will be leaving the real estate industry – but they were really on their way out before this latest crash arrived.  And they were primarily motivated by money or personal gain.  Not the highest level of motivation.  Ever.