Category Archives: Realtor.org – NAR

Posts by Sam DeBord on Realtor.org

You Don’t Need Experience To Gain Clients

This article was originally published on Realtor.org:

When I started out in the real estate business, my biggest fear was probably the same as many other agents’: “What if they ask me how many homes I’ve sold?”  There was an almost inescapable fear that every new client I met would find out that I hadn’t been selling for very long, and abandon me for a more experienced agent.

The interesting part, looking back, was that I’ve probably only ever been asked that question a half-dozen times by the hundreds of clients I’ve worked with. Those that did ask, always kept working with me, whether it was in my first year, or after five years. The fact that I didn’t lose clients over that single question isn’t nearly as satisfying today, though, knowing how much mental stress it put me through in my first year, as well as how it was detrimental to my ability to concentrate on my clients at the start of my career.

Being experienced in real estate is a big advantage. To downplay it would be disingenuous. However, a calm, practiced response to questions about experience can make the real estate transaction much more relaxed for the new agent and to the clients. More importantly, it allows the agent to focus on what the client really wants – a partner who is easy to work with, listens to their needs, and follows up professionally.

It’s very easy when you’re new in the business to try to craft the perfect answer to every client question. You may feel you need to know everything, and if you can’t answer a question about a certain home or property type, you’ll be exposed as inexperienced. In reality, most home buyers and sellers would prefer that you have an affable personal relationship with them, and let them know that you’ll “look into it a bit and get back to them.” While your knowledge is important to the client, your ability to make them feel comfortable is even more important. Nobody likes to spend their day with a fidgety, nervous wreck of an agent.

If you’ve really never sold a home before, it’s okay to tell your clients, “I’m working with my managing broker on your entire transaction. He/she is backing me up and will be reviewing everything in the contract to make sure we keep your home purchase/sale stress free.” To be honest, if you haven’t written many contracts yet, there’s really no excuse to not have that second set of eyes. Your clients will appreciate it, and your confidence in your working relationship will improve.

In the end, the number one reason my clients work with me and stay with me: We get along. When you can ignore your worries, genuinely smile and greet a client, have an entertaining conversation, and enjoy the in-between moments of your transaction relationship, you’re going to be much more successful in getting new business and creating return business.

Remember that the No. 1 reason people hire an agent is because a friend referred them. Home buyers and sellers want a relationship with someone they can count on, and someone they can get along with. Be honest with yourself and your clients about your experience, and you’ll not only gain more business – you’ll enjoy your career much more in the process.

NAR/Realtor.com® Agreement Part 1: Displaying Unlisted New Homes & New Home Communities

This article was originally published on Realtor.org:

The National Association of REALTORS® recently voted to approve updates to its operating agreement with realtor.com® and allow more flexibility for the Web site.  There has been a wide range of reactions from REALTORS®. This blog is part one of my five-part series in which I will discuss the propriety of the agreement.

Let’s start with some background:  NAR does not own the Web site.  It merely owns the domain name, realtor.com®, which it has licensed to Move, Inc. to operate.  Many discussions center on this issue still today. This agreement started in the mid-90s. Whether or not some members liked it, it is a 20-year old moot issue. NAR only owns about 2.5 percent of Move, Inc.  They are merely a marketing partner with whom REALTORS® have regulatory clout because of our ownership of the domain name.

The new agreement between NAR and realtor.com® approves four major changes:

  • Display unlisted new homes and new-home communities.
  • Display unlisted rentals.
  • Obtain listings from entities that are not REALTOR®-owned and controlled, as well as from brokers who are not REALTORS®.
  • Identify properties where a notice of default has been recorded, auctions of distressed properties, short sales, foreclosures, and bank-owned properties. (Listing brokers will have the option to opt out by calling the realtor.com® customer care center.)

Individual consumer FSBOs remain precluded from the site, and the changes will be implemented in a way that preserves realtor.com®’s accuracy advantage, according to Move executives.

NAR directors are members—not some faraway body of executives. The directors who I know are just brokers and agents trying to make the best decisions for our industry. Arguing about all of these issues at once ensures that confusion and disagreement will be the end result. Broken down one at a time, there are some very interesting issues for many different stakeholders that help to explain why the decisions were made. I will look at each issue one-by-one, starting with…

 

Displaying Unlisted New Homes and New Home Communities

This item flies under the radar of many, but has also drawn some of the sharpest criticism from those who really dug into the meaning of the agreement.  The display of new construction homes often means that “model homes” or “home styles” are being advertised, which draw consumers out to the construction site and, theoretically, directly to the builder.  New construction property ads are often thought of more as just advertising for a community, since the majority of buyers who inquire on that property will actually be sold a different model, different location, etc. when they actually arrive at the community. The attorneys get concerned about the way some people throw around the word listing. An ad on realtor.com® isn’t a listing. It’s a listing if it’s represented by a practitioner and placed in the MLS.

Some members have objected, with the reasoning that new home developers will try to keep REALTORS® out of the process by luring buyers directly to themselves and cutting out the buyer’s representative. This is certainly a valid concern. Most builders are happy to engage a buyer’s representative, but there are also some who strategically try to reduce the buyer’s agent’s ability to earn a commission. By advertising unlisted properties, it has been said that builders and developers take on a role similar to a FSBO.

In the end, the NAR Board of Directors felt that the overall exposure to the marketplace and broader appeal to consumers outweighed those concerns.  I imagine this was one of the toughest points for the REALTOR® members voting. Consumers want a site that shows them the entire market of available homes. The upside is the increased exposure to a larger inventory of homes for realtor.com® visitors.

Realtor.com® is a marketplace.  REALTORS® are a brand of professionals. To have the opportunity to spread knowledge about the REALTOR® brand, we need to create the broadest, most consumer-friendly marketplace possible. Within that marketplace, we can display the great things that REALTORS® do for consumers to a much wider audience.  In our fast-paced, limited-attention-span world, we need to grow our reach, not constrict it.

The REALTOR® brand is better served by allowing more consumers to be informed about their real estate professionals. The more we limit that exposure, the faster consumers flock to other Web sites, which is far more damaging to the brand.

The Case for a REALTOR® to Lead Realtor.com®

This article was originally published on Realtor.org:

Realtor.com®’s president, Errol Samuelson, has been hired away by Zillow. I’ve met Errol and he’s a nice guy, very smart, and very successful. Business is business. But, naive as it might be, there’s plenty of disappointment from the REALTOR® community. It comes from a belief that we have a common cause greater than just our businesses. Whether we’re aligned with NAR or realtor.com®, we believe in unified goals that are good for the country as a whole, and create significant loyalty to our brand.

Like I said, it sounds silly to an outsider. Why wouldn’t a top executive, who clearly received a more lucrative employment offer for a position he saw as a step up, take that proposal? In the world of publicly-traded real estate ventures, you could be selling soda ads one day, and interviewing the president the next. The landscape changes drastically every year, and when your skills are in business management and strategy, you’re always looking for the next challenge.

And still, there’s a bit of an empty feeling from the REALTOR® masses when an exit like this happens. It’s just another day at the office when your insurance company’s CEO changes companies, or your old business partner switches brokerages. But when someone leaves the REALTOR® fold to work for a direct competitor, it ignites much stronger emotions from the membership. A quick scan of discussions online makes it clear that this isn’t just some job change. Reactions range from frustration to outright anger. This is someone who did a good job and likely had no direct contact with most of the commenters, but many take his departure so personally as to feel betrayed.

As simple-minded as it sounds, I can’t help but feel a bit of the same disappointment. Real estate agents hop between companies like mercenaries until we find the right fit. We don’t feel remorse for changing our workplaces, because it’s simply a business decision. At the same time, those of us who are advocates for the REALTOR® brand would be incredulous if our associates left the membership. Your career is your business, but your commitment to supporting REALTOR® causes is ours.

It’s in that spirit that I’d strongly advise that the next head of realtor.com® to be someone with REALTOR® experience. This wouldn’t be a current salesperson, of course, but there are countless REALTOR® practitioners and executives whose past or current careers include law, business management, technology, and marketing. Whether the candidates have been the head of a technology-driven brokerage or a forward-thinking MLS organization, they need to have spent their time, and their money, supporting the organization whose online brand they’ll be charged with leading. A REALTOR® who has volunteered their hours, and invested their own funds into our causes, will be someone who understands the crazy notion we have of a common mission.

Clearly, it’s not up to me, nor is it up to REALTOR® membership in general. The folks making these decisions at Move, Inc., have shareholders to answer to, and probably many worthy candidates within their current ranks. Still, we’ve just begun opening up the relationship between NAR and realtor.com® in a more significant way this past year than we’ve seen in a decade. It’s been a bit rocky, but strengthening that cooperation will require increasing the trust level that the general REALTOR® population has in the partnership itself. Hiring “one of us” would certainly shrink the mistrust hurdle in a significant way.

Saying it out loud, though, it’s probably just wishful thinking. The portals are in a marketing arms race, open advertising space for agents is increasingly scarce, and the market cap valuations of these companies point to a cutthroat struggle in the next few years to weed out a competitor or two. Most companies would look for the next technology executive with the greatest capacity to generate advertising revenue, while keeping those pesky agents just satisfied enough that they don’t complain too often.

Hopefully, this company isn’t just “most companies.” There’s an army of 1 million REALTORS® looking to spend their money in the most efficient way, but they also have a strong preference for the home team. It’s not impossible to garner that loyalty, and provide a superior product at the same time. REALTORS® love their brand. They want to love realtor.com®. They just hope that going forward, there’s not just a joint vision but a shared loyalty. When “our people” become their people, the entire organization will find more success, and the loyalty will be a two way street.