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Why going “Back to Basics” is going backwards!

As I travel around the country I hear a lot of principals and real estate trainers saying, “it’s time to go back to the basics.” Have you ever stopped to think that you could be heading in the wrong direction? 

You see, if you want to prosper in this market, increase your market share, or even if you simply just want to survive the property downturn, going back to basics is only going to widen the gap between what you offer as an agent and what your customers expect from agents in the new world of online real estate.

The fundamentals of real estate and the rules of engagement have now changed dramatically due to the way people now have access to you, your listings, property sales data all of which has made them more informed which also means that their customer service expectations have now changed.

Which is why, if an agent wants to succeed in this climate, then instead of going backwards to the basics, their market positioning and strategies need to be focused more on becoming seen as an innovative agent and moving “Forward to the Fundamentals”.

Typical buyer behaviour has changed
Things have changed. Buyers don’t come walking into the office like they used to. The local real estate strip that used to be jam-packed with buyers peering into the windows with dog-eared property magazines/newspapers in hand has become a fond but distant memory.

For example, I caught up with a friend of mine the other day that is currently looking at buying a home up on the Central Coast of NSW and he told me the steps he took as a typical online buyer.

First he searched for properties on realestate.com.au. Then when he found something he liked he took a closer look at the property on Google Earth. If he was still interested, he then looked up RP Data to see what the other homes nearby had been selling for.

All done from the comfort of his home (approx. 2 hours drive away) and then after these 3 steps he contacts the agent.

Unfortunately, my friend said that in most cases when he spoke to the agents he knew more about the home, and the sale prices of neighbouring homes, than the agents knew. Needless to say that he wasn’t very impressed with the service he received.

Whilst I agree that we are no longer the gatekeepers of information that we once were, if a buyer knows more about your listings than you do then your positioning within any negotiation begins from a position of weakness.

How vendor management has now changed
Throughout Australia, the marketplace is now primarily a buyers market with fewer buyers, more stock available, and average days on market increased and the vendor management process has now become a larger part of the work that an agent must focus their attention on.

The buyer feedback/reporting function has now changed significantly from what it was back in the buyer’s markets of the 1990’s (before the Internet played such a key role) and many agents are struggling to relay the web statistics effectively to their clients.

Whilst many sellers are complaining that they aren’t getting buyers inspecting their property, sellers may be surprised to know that they are actually getting quite a lot of people inspecting their property – it’s just that the dynamics around the physical inspection of a home have now changed.

In most cases, the first inspection is now being conducted online and the physical inspection of the property is more of a validation inspection, to make sure that what the buyer has seen on the web is the same in real life, before deciding on whether to proceed or not.

Today’s physical inspection is almost the same as the 2nd inspection that a buyer used to do back in the 90’s. In fact if the agent provides enough images and information about a property online, many buyers will walk through the home during the validation inspection and know exactly where everything is almost down to the last detail.

People are now time poor and if you don’t provide enough information about a home online, a lot of buyers find this frustrating and will not be bothered ringing the agent for the details and they will simply give the property a miss.

Buyers simply want to be able to select the homes that they want to see, and then call the agent to arrange a suitable time, or turn up to the open home. For example, they often book a time with one agent at 1pm, then another property inspection with a different agent at 1.15pm, and then do the same again at 1.30pm – all the time meeting the agents out at the property.

Which means that today’s agent doesn’t need to drive people around all over the place but they do need to manage their inspection times effectively.

Agents need to be there on time and also anticipate that the buyer may get held up. Once at the inspection, today’s agent doesn’t get much time to build rapport with the client so their icebreaker scripts need to be first class.

Tip:
A take-home buyer handout with local info about bus routes, schools, etc could leave a good impression and provide some handy reading whilst the client is waiting for the agent to turn up at their next property inspection.

More and more people are browsing the web via their mobile devices so you need to make sure that the content you are sharing across the web is compatible and easy to access.

Seller Behaviour Has Changed
One of the basics won’t change, ‘Sellers want to deal with someone they like and trust’. But now with the major portals providing a medium for displaying listings out to a large volume of online buyers, we are now seeing more and more agents who may have previously referred a listing across to a local agent, that are now listing these properties well outside of their typical service area.

These agents often meet potential sellers at a property inspection, where both the agent and client build rapport and the agent is invited to appraise/list their home and quite often the local agent doesn’t even get a look in.

The web is such an immense space where your potential clients are now spending lots of time doing research. If someone is looking for an agent, Google now plays a huge role in customer online search behavior.  If you aren’t appearing amongst the top search results (appearing on page one) then chances are that you won’t be on the list of agents contacted.

Did You Know?  “Australian residential property sellers research their market place for, on average, 19 days prior to contacting an agent to conduct an appraisal. The majority of this research is conducted via the internet.”   Source: Best Practice

What this means to you as an agent is that your online representation (digital footprint) has now become your real estate shop front and how you position yourself online has a large influence on whether you will get a chance to present or not?

People can read so much into you over the Internet, which means that a potential client could be literally only a mouse-click away from inviting you into their home for a market appraisal, or just as easily be lost to one of your competitors.

In fact, you can be the best agent at ‘scripts and dialogues’ or you could be the best negotiator, and rank 10 out of 10 for attitude, communication skills, and customer service, but if your digital footprint is only say a six or seven out of 10 then it is currently working against you continuously for 168 hours per week.

On the other hand, if your online profile is a nine or 10 out of 10 then you can have the odd “off-day” out in the field and yet the Internet will still keep working for you around the clock, 24 hours per day, seven days per week, 52 weeks per year.

Some quick suggestions
Right Now! There is a golden opportunity for innovative agents to accelerate away from their competitors and create a compelling Unique Value Proposition (UVP) by being seen as an innovative agent and engaging with customers more effectively online.

There are micro-markets right across the country, and the question on most buyer and seller’s minds is ‘How’s the Market?’ You should share what you know and your insights into the market via blog posts, forums, video marketing, and social networks.

Also, more and more people are browsing the web via their mobile devices so you need to make sure that the content you are sharing across the web is compatible and easy to access/find.

Whilst the main emphasis of your marketing should be to direct visitors back to an engaging company website, people trust people more than they trust companies or brands.  Unless they have met you before, it’s highly likely that potential clients will Google your name to find out more about you before employing you.

For these reasons, building a more engaging personal profile on the web via Social Media sites has now become a very important ‘Go Forward’ strategy for agents both now and into the future. 

Greg Vincent the online guy for Real Estate Professionals, is the founder of the X Factor Agents – Online Dominator System. Having been a successful real estate principal for over 20 years. Greg now has multiple web-based businesses and has appeared on Sky Business News, 2UE, 4BC and has trained thousands of real estate professionals throughout Australasia abotu how to achieve better results online without all of the confusing ‘Geek Speak’. For more information, visit www.XFactorAgents.com/forward.

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