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Step Away From The Computer, Go Out and Sell


I remember my first week or so as a Realtor like it was yesterday. I was affiliated with one of those huge real estate companies. I arrived at my new office with my laptop computer. I had to walk down a long hall and past several offices before I got to my own. There were agents working in the office but none of the office had computers in them.

Things have changed a bit since then. It seems like most real estate practitioners use computers in their businesses. I remember my first manager telling me that I should spend less time in front of the computer and more time in front of people.

I heard a similar comment from a colleague just last week. She said that agents shouldn’t spend their time in front of a computer they should be out meeting people. She runs her own business the same way real estate practitioners did twenty years ago and she is good at it too. She is a little uncomfortable with a class that I teach about web 2.0 and marketing.

What she doesn’t get is that we do meet people on the internet. We need to go where the home buyers are and more than 80% of them are surfing the net, looking for agents and looking for a home. If we want to meet the people who live inside of our computers we need to first spend some time on the internet.

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Here is another way of looking at it. I could spend two hours at an open house and meet three people face-to-face. I could also take that same two hours and write a couple of blog posts that will be read by a couple of thousand home buyers.

If you have a manager who is telling you to go out and meet people and stop spending so much time on the computer, tell your manager about Teresa Boardman of St. Paul, MN who has 6 closing in the month of May, and that four of those closings are with people that she met on the internet. The other two are because of a relationship with some neighbors.

I currently have two sellers that I have never met in person and that I may never meet. I have met most of my clients in person but I don’t have to get in front of someone to sell a home for them or to find them one. I do most of that through the internet without ever leaving my home. I would truly enjoy meeting all of my clients but would be so expensive and time consuming that it just isn’t practicle.

If I were training new agents I would tell them to stop wasting their time at open houses and get in front of a computer. They will be able to sell the house faster and will meet more motivated buyers in a shorter period of time. I guess I am some what thankful that new agents are not being taught to work that way because there is plenty of competition in my market already. New agents should be taught how to compete with me. Right now I am the only one in my market teaching that class.

Much of my time is spent in front of a computer screen and a significant portion of it is spent behind a camera. I met a young man that I know about through Flickr, a social networking web site for sharing photos. I would not know him at all if I had not been on the internet. He introduced me to two other people. I call that networking.

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The way I run my business is not for everyone but it really is possible to make a decent living as a REALTOR by spending more time in front of the computer than in front of people. My blog and the social networks I belong to serve as an introduction and make it possible for me to meet the right people in a fun and almost effortless way. I could spend my Sunday afternoons at open houses but I would much rather be out with my camera or sitting in the local coffee shop writing blog posts.

There is still a lot of skepticism about using the internet for meeting potential clients. Real estate is a people business. What some practitioners and managers are missing is that there are millions of people on the internet right now. The internet is for people and about people. Don’t tell me to step away from the computer and go out and sell, it isn’t going to happen, save it for someone who doesn’t know any better.

Written By

Full time REALTOR and licensed broker with Saint Paul Home Realty Realty in St. Paul, Minnesota. Author of, Columnist for Inman News and an avid photographer.



  1. Missy Caulk

    May 1, 2008 at 6:13 am

    People that say, get off the computer have no clue about selling RE in this generation. I know people might pick up buyers in this market at an open house, but not in my area. They are all online.

  2. Diane Aurit

    May 1, 2008 at 6:21 am

    This is EXACTLY what I was told by my broker. However, if you start on the Internet/Blogging with open eyes knowing it is a long-term commitment the net result will be much higher and more far-reaching. The clients I have from my blog are incredible people whom I would never have met any other way. I am particularly disappointed when I hear “new agent” training programs that focus on FSBOs, Expireds, Phone Duty and Open Houses with NO mention of web 2.0. Great post!

  3. Maureen Francis

    May 1, 2008 at 6:21 am

    However works for you. Much of my business comes from my online activity, but far from all. My larger transactions almost never come from the web. Those clients come by referral from our sphere of influence, and from referring agents. The big ticket buyers and sellers still cruise the web looking at houses, but they tend to rely on referrals to find their agent. Often though, the referring agent will find us on the web, so that does add to the importance of what we are doing.

  4. Teresa Boardman

    May 1, 2008 at 6:31 am

    Maureen – My largest dollar transaction come in through the internet. They are people who are relocating from the East coast where housing is more expensive and so they spend significantly more than the referrals, past clients or other business that comes it.

    Diane – You broker has to say that. They have offices to fill.

    Missy – I agree and there is a little fear out there too.

  5. Bill Lublin

    May 1, 2008 at 6:47 am

    Teresa – You just have a newer paradigm – step into the computer and meet people so you can go out and sell. People still use the computer to hide though, and any manager needs to be aware of that tendency – after all its not the tool, its what you do with it –

  6. Teresa Boardman

    May 1, 2008 at 6:58 am

    Bill – excellent point. I know people who play around on the internet all day and accomplish little.

  7. Chris Lengquist

    May 1, 2008 at 7:44 am

    My laptop is so married to everything I do I just simply could not do business without it. Now, that’s not an excuse to not learn and utilize people skills. It’s not an excuse to never pick up the phone, mail a handwritten letter or knock on the ocassional door. But for me, it all starts on my websites. Really.

  8. John Pohly

    May 1, 2008 at 8:25 am

    Traditional real estate agents are going to have to learn some new skill sets with Web 2.0 and Social Marketing or pay someone to do it for them. The challenge that I am finding in teaching seasoned agents about Internet lead generation and lead nurturing is that they do not have the personality or discipline that it takes to follow an Internet marketing plan. What made them great as a traditional agent actually works against them in the world of Internet and social marketing online. As you probably know it does take a strategic plan, time discipline, a high level of focus, and learning based

    I think the hybrid model is the best. The real trick for an individual agent or new agent is changing hats between Internet Lead Generator to a social in-person or on-the-phone Buyers Agent or Listing Agent. You can go too far in either direction by spending all of your time with 1 or 2 clients or the opposite, spend so much time behind the computer that you forget how to communicate when your phone is ringing off the hook with leads.

  9. Teresa Boardman

    May 1, 2008 at 8:41 am

    Chris – no a computer is not an excuse to stop meeting people just another way to be introduced to them.

    John – my phone has been on silent for days. There isn’t any way I can keep up with the calls. Answering it isn’t a solution that is going to work because I won’t talk on the phone when I have people in front of me. I agree with your “hybrid” model, we really can’t just sit behind a computer or just not use it at all.

  10. Benjamin Bach

    May 1, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I can rarely provide great service when I pick up a cell call. Unless I’m in front of the computer, or know what the call is about, it’s going to voicemail. I NEVER pick up the phone or read blackberry email when I’m talking with a client.

    Teresa, I agree with you. There are real relationships to be made online. I’ve done 12 so far this yearwith clients who I met via my blog. From what I gather, that’s what the ‘average’ agent does in a year using the traditional methods.

  11. Mike Taylor

    May 1, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Teresa – You make some very good points. I actually just picked up a client today simply from answering questions in forums. The internet is a great place to meet people you would have never had the opportunity to meet without getting on you computer and putting it to work for you.

  12. Jacob

    April 13, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Very interesting post and just what I need to see sometimes! I’ve stumbled upon it a little late but it was very helpful. I struggle with this topic every day as I continue to find myself fighting against a tide. I don’t look to discredit the folks who like to get out there and knock doors or make calls all day. It’s just not me and beyond that, I’m not convinced it’s necessary!?

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