A generation ago, the process of house-hunting was very different than it is today. House-hunters would scour newspaper ads, call to set an appointment with the listing Realtor, and spend hours riding around with the local real estate agent looking at house after house. Sellers might similarly engage a real estate agent in the hope that he/she would aggressively market their property and bring in a buyer in relatively short order. In addition to the Multiple Listing Services (MLS), most agencies would promote their listings through print advertisements in newspapers, real estate magazines and via open houses. And of course they would work their list of interested buyers.
But that was then, and this is now. Can you picture groups of Millennials, for example, going through that old-fashioned process of searching for a home?
Boston is a strong real estate market. As a hub for education, business development and medical treatment, interest in this market has always been high. Boston outperforms the national average of home prices, with 2016 statistics citing a median single-family home price of $345,000, according to The Warren Group, publisher of Banker & Tradesman, as opposed to a national average of $235,000, according to the National Association of Realtors. It’s a good market for homebuyers and investors alike, and the region enjoys a strong appreciation rate for its homes. Whether it’s a “seller’s market” or “buyer’s market” at any given point in time, rarely if ever has this market been seen as one lacking activity.
Sellers and buyers both seek professionals who know the market, can solve problems and complete a transaction quickly and smoothly.
Most agree that technology has been a strong driver of change in our industry, and it’s a big difference from the “old days.” The market is more competitive and today’s customers are more sophisticated and informed. However, there is a great danger in assuming that technology somehow takes the place of the traditional, face-to-face, personal relationship. It does not. Yes, a buyer may be able to access websites which advise about property values and comparative sales, and that technology is very helpful. Technology is a great addition to the market; it has brought a lot of openness to it. But we believe that real estate agents, not the technology they use, are a real estate agency’s strongest assets. Technology is impersonal and metrics-driven; it cannot deliver the same level of service, advice and expertise that an agent can.
The challenge for real estate agents and companies is finding that balance between technology and the “old fashioned way” of interacting with the customers. One cannot replace the other.
Today’s real estate agent is more driven, more serious. And with good reason! Real estate is serious business. Smaller agencies are forced to scramble to compete with the larger ones. The real estate agent of today has a much more sizeable toolbox for lead generation than his/her counterpart of a generation ago – including is email marketing, text messaging, a strong Facebook presence and pay-per-click opportunities.
Again, though, all the right resources are only as good as the agents using them. Technology is great, but it is impersonal by its very nature – and it does not deliver the same level of quality to customers that a skilled real estate agent can. Successful agents act as advocates for customers in the marketplace. That is something that technology cannot do.
With that said, agents must be up to date on the latest trends and technology available to them, because their competitors will be. As for agencies, the industry leaders in 2017 will be those who invest in their salespeople as well as in technology. The successful agencies recognize that their agents and salespeople are the lifeblood of their company. Look for an increase in the use of professional coaching of real estate agents. There are a number of well-respected and effective national coaching firms dedicated to the real estate industry.
Our own experience in utilizing professional real estate coaching services for our agents is that it pays significant dividends. It is a great tool for the real estate agent looking to be competitive in this market. A knowledgeable real estate coach can help with key issues of increasing lead generation, utilizing technology to its utmost, and guiding individuals to further extend their spheres of influence in the communities they serve. Because most industry experts believe that it takes between 50 and 80 conversations to create a sale, the emphasis is on not only working hard but working smart. It’s an exciting time, and a great time to consider a career in real estate. The opportunities are very strong.
So, this is truly “not your grandfather’s real estate market” in 2017. But if he were here, we’re betting he’d be amazed at the direction the industry is taking.