Real Estate Agents — Endangered Species?
Sorry that it’s taken an extra day, but I really wanted to digest the Sunday Kansas City Times article, Endangered Species by Freakonomics authors Stephen Dubner & Steven Levitt. The article amplifies several themes that we’ve covered in depth in this blog. To some extent, my post, Realtors — A Manifesto For The Future, serves as a pre-emptive response to Levitt & Dubner.
What interests me about the Times’ article is not the overly-simplified arguments about why real estate agents are next on the list of Those Who Have Been Disintermediated By The Information Age, but rather the overt hostility contained within the article. Consider the opening sentences:
“It is hard to think of an occupation that garners less goodwill these days than the real-estate agent. More often than not, agents are portrayed as hustlers or sharks, unimaginative opportunists…”
Harsh words. And the sentiment driving this hostility has nothing to do with the lure of real estate websites. It has to do with something that most every agent talks about and too few really know how to deliver — outstanding….better make that outrageous…service. It’s important…especially for real estate agents… to understand that we’re under fire about our commission rate because our clients don’t perceive value in the work that we do on their behalf. And if all we’re doing is some basic advertising and holding an open house or two, those clients probably have a point.
But it’s also important to understand that hardly anyone ever complains about the room rates at The Four Seasons. And Mercedes dealers are rarely portrayed as, “hustlers or sharks.” The reason? Service. Quantifiable, easy-to-understand and appreciate, knock-your-socks-off service. And until our industry learns this simple truth, all of those expensive-to-make SMILING REALTOR TV commercials that the NAR seems to have fallen in love with won’t do a damn bit of good. The public is just too smart.
When Ford & General Motors offered 0% financing on top of cash rebates last year, you didn’t see BMW and Mercedes try to pass legislation against them. Instead they continued to offer a better (not cheaper) product with a superior level of customer service. And now, which of these car manufacturers are facing grave financial pressures? Has anyone from the National Association of Realtors been paying attention to these very important market dynamics? It appears not, because any time that they can, the NAR seems to be completely caught up in trying to legislate discount brokers out of existence…or at least make it tougher for them to compete in an open marketplace. And the public has an uncanny ability to smell desperation and defensiveness from a mile away. And this type of activity smells bad.
Agents as an endangered species? As I’ve said before, if you’re doing the bare minimum on behalf of your clients, then there will always be someone ready to do the same job for less money. You deserve your spot on the endangered list. You’ve earned it. But if you’re actively finding creative and meaningful ways to add real value on behalf of your clients…and no, that’s not an easy thing to figure out…then you can look forward to a future landscape with far fewer agents and far more appreciative home buyers & sellers. Which do you choose?