I had my very first opportunity this week to actually sit behind a one-way mirror and observe something that was beyond educational for me. I was invited to observe a group of consumers who had recently bought and sold a home using a REALTOR®. There were eight consumers and the discussion was led by a professional facilitator. Even though the consumers were aware I was behind the mirror, I have to admit it was a little strange being the fly on the wall!
As you can imagine the responses vary and are dependent upon the quality and the level of professionalism of the REALTOR® with whom they worked. One consumer was smart enough to say that every industry has good and bad people.
How they found their REALTOR® –
Surprisingly (or should I say sadly) most of them didn’t put a whole lot of thought into how they found their REALTOR®. Many went with the first person they interviewed or with a friend’s recommendation. One consumer used their best friend, and thankfully had a great experience with them, otherwise they might have lost a friend! It was interesting that during this discussion they didn’t realize they had gone with the first person they met, but later they commented on this and said maybe they should have interviewed more people. One consumer just used the listing agent to represent them and thankfully they had a wonderful experience with that REALTOR®. I cringed when she first said she went with the listing agent, because so often dual agency doesn’t work, even though I believe it is and can be good. Lessons learned from this question – better be first, or you better have your SOI recommending you to their friends.
How they found their home –
This wasn’t surprising, but it was still educational and informative for me. ALL of these consumers found the homes they were interested in online and by themselves, before they ever called a REALTOR®. In fact, the group went so far as to say that REALTORS® do not help in the process of finding homes…
So what do REALTORS® do –
According to these consumers, REALTORS® are there for the process (paperwork, scheduling, coordinating etc.) and for their professional advice. The consumers all admitted for the most part their REALTORS® handled the process well (with some exceptions), but what they really wanted in addition was to have their decisions backed up with professional input.
Speaking of the process, what was lacking from their REALTORS® –
Overwhelmingly the group discussed communication. Unfortunately it was the lack of communication! This is clearly hurting REALTORS® on two fronts. First, the consumer doesn’t know the process like we do, so we need to educate and communicate with our clients to help them understand. This will automatically help with the second front – commission and value. Because of this lack of communication they seem to think that REALTORS® don’t do a lot of work and make way too much money for what they perceive their REALTORS® do for them… ouch! COMMUNICATE!!!
How has REALTORS® roles changed in the last 10 years –
The consumer’s felt they were more educated with access to internet etc. They felt that this is forcing the REALTOR® to be better and to be more service oriented. I can only see this trend increasing as agent ratings and use of social media continues to grow and develop more in our industry. Again, they use the REALTOR® to guide them through the process and for their professional advice.
Talking about vs. rating their REALTOR® –
This was interesting for both the facilitator and myself. When asked questions and allowed to verbally explain their thoughts, the consumers tended to be a little tougher on their REALTOR®. However, when the facilitator moved to a number rating system of 1-10 with 10 being best, the scores were mostly 8-10 range. The facilitator mentioned that in a focus group the day before in Florida, the consumers were even tougher verbally, but again gave higher number scores ranging 6-8.
Differentiating a real estate agent from a REALTOR® –
Sadly the group of consumers couldn’t do this. They all admitted to seeing the ads, but they couldn’t put their finger quite on what it really means. They had the overall idea or impression it was better for them, but didn’t really know. Some said, “Doesn’t that mean they are licensed?”. In fact, speaking of differentiating, one consumer mentioned they thought their REALTOR® had won an award or something, but had no idea what it was! I think this goes back to communicating…
Lessons I learned from observing this group –
As REALTORS® we often times approach the process from a very transactional point of view. There’s this deadline and that appraisal, this form and that inspection, etc… This is a big thing for our clients. They are buying and selling a home! According to these consumers I observed, it is a very stressful experience for them. They want us to hold their hand and walk them through this process with compassion and understanding. Granted we are the third party professional in this process, but they want us to be their friend and understand their needs.
Anyway, it was an amazing experience and gave me some new perspectives. Hope you enjoyed the debrief.