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We’re laughing at you, not with you – Realtors should be fired

Gwen Banta: Hollywood Realtor and humorist

Our resident humorist Gwen Banta shows up every Friday morning to poke some fun at our industry peers for their faux pas on MLS listings from around the country. Beyond the issue of funny photos, she’s more into the typos and gaffes Realtors leave in their listing wake, subtly pointing to a broader industry epidemic.

It’s funny to laugh at, and I admit that I personally look forward to her Friday lists, but there is a part of me that feels sad and angry. Angry because consumers count on real estate professionals to actually be professional. I can’t imagine the reaction on a Realtor’s face if a marketer handed him or her their new print marketing full of the same types of mistakes- the truth is, the marketer would be out of a job and probably ruined as we all know that word of bad marketers burns as quickly as a grass fire in August.

I’m not sure what can be done, I mean, mistakes happen, but Brokers should actually take action. Brokers should follow up and penalize poor marketing by their Realtors and take listings from agents who repeatedly offend the principals of basic professionalism. True, Realtors are sales professionals, but they’re also self professed marketers, are they not? Realtors lately seem incredibly sensitive to their online reputations, but what about offline? Maybe they should be afraid if this is what they (Realtors) define as great client service and supposed 2.0 marketing…

Okay, maybe it doesn’t matter as words don’t sell a home, right? And I suppose the MLS doesn’t sell a home either? Neither do photos? Oh, here’s a good fall back position, “the MLS was never meant to be consumer facing.” Guess what?  It is now. What must matter is that you can also misspell on Twitter and even poke your Realtor buddies about your listing on Facebook to show off how stupid you are. Or how about sitting through another coaching session on selling half assedly?

I want Gwen to keep making us laugh, but also reminding us that we can be better. Does the consumer even matter anymore? I keep asking…

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Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network. Before AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation has received the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular offline events. He does not venture into the spotlight often, rather he believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits and develops, so he gives all credit to those he's empowered.

35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Jim Flanagan

    March 26, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Benn,

    So sad but so true! Nothing depresses me more than reviewing a “New Listing”. The lack of creativity (marketing)and consistently poor photo quality in our “rush” to get it into the system never ceases to amaze me. Fortunately, as the Broker, I have and exercise the ability of Editor-in-Chief!

    My personal favorite, although my sales force knows better; PROPERTY DESCRIPTIONS IN ALL CAPS!

    Thanks,

    Jim

  2. Jim Flanagan via Facebook

    March 26, 2011 at 8:16 am

    MY PERSONAL FAVORITE IS ALL CAPS PROPERTY DESCRIPTIONS!

  3. Gwen Banta

    March 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    Thank you for the shout-out, Benn. And thank you even more for your thought-provoking post. I have often considered why there are so many gaffs in the MLS and in real estate ads, for as you point out, we have a responsibility to our clients to provide professional marketing. As a youth, I was taught that one’s Word means everything, as does one’s Words.

    Have we lost all pride in how our words reflect us as professional, thoughtful individuals? Honestly, I would like to believe that for the most part, such is not the case. If I am wrong, please don’t burst my bubble, as I need to believe that most of us still care how our words help to define us as human beings, and as professionals.

    In my past posts, I have mentioned the obvious causes of such sloppy verbal presentation: “Ham fingers” when typing (my specialty!), English as a second language, formats that do not provide spell-check, failure of spell-check to detect homophones, and the brain’s ability to fill in what the writer intended to say, rather than what the writer actually wrote. (Exp. I once signed a letter “Best Retards”; and let’s not forget my favorite gaffe from our Los Angeles Open House Guide: “Live near the Hollywood Bowel!”)

    When I was composing listing remarks recently, I realized there is yet another problem. On our MLS, we are limited to a finite number of characters – much less than in other multiple listing services. Thus, we all tend to abbreviate constantly to assure that the salient features of a home are included (FP, Hdwd flrs, appl, etc.) This presents a challenge, as spell-check then becomes fairly useless. Thus, I think many agents, myself included, have stopped using it.

    What, then, is the solution? We certainly need to be more aware of the impression our words make. We owe that to ourselves as well as to our clients and our companies. HASTE is our biggest foe. Thus, I urge people not to compose in haste. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, use a PROOFREADER if you are spelling-challenged. In fact, use one even if you consider yourself a spelling wizard, as one’s eye will often fool one’s brain.

    If spell-check is not available, copy and paste your composition into a Word program or an email draft to check the spelling. Read your words ALOUD to see how they sound. (Exp. How does “Great for horse livers” sound? What about “Drawing for free Ppad”? And I can assure you, “High in Laurel Canyon” has a different meaning to local denizens who are aware of my beloved canyon’s rock-n-roll roots.

    It’s impossible to be perfect, of course. Worse yet, I would have no material if everyone could suddenly spell. Nonetheless, professionalism is a goal we should all strive for, and proper spelling is a tool we all need to achieve that objective. Without it, we are just a branch of itinerant socks. Uh, I mean, “a bunch of ignorant sods.”

    • Benn Rosales

      March 26, 2011 at 5:23 pm

      Brilliant as ever Gwen. Keep making us smile!

    • Ken Montville

      March 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm

      While I see your point, I’m not sure you’re reaching for the right solution.

      Sure. Attention to detail, creativity, innovation and even simple caring about your j-o-b all come into play. But, let’s look at who we’re talking about: independent contractors that are recruited from the general population and encouraged to take limited course instruction to obtain a license to sell real estate.

      Nowhere in the pre-licensing course I took was anything about marketing. The Broker’s “Fast Start” classes, post license, touched on the old tried and true – cold calling, door knocking, postcards and the like. Nowadays, I suspect that litany includes Facebook, Twitter and Virtual Tours.

      What’s my point?

      The real estate profession (industry?), as such, does not attract the highest quality marketers. Brokers are constantly churning through new recruits and letting “the market” sort our who will be in and who will be out. Months ago, a nascent “Raise The Bar” movement was ridiculed and belittled. Maybe I’m out of the loop but it seems that effort has gone by the wayside. It might have been worth encouraging.

      Finally, marketing, while important, is not represent the total skill set a Realtor needs. The real work, in my opinion, comes when an offer is made and the negotiations begin…and the tracking of deadlines for the contract’s milestones…and the hand holding and comforting and counseling to the client when the glitches inevitably occur.

      In my book, all these “get rich selling real estate” and Social Media gurus, Brokers and other snake oil salesmen are the ones that need to be fired.

      • Ken Montville

        March 27, 2011 at 12:41 pm

        PS….I [heart} Gwen Banta

        • Benn/AG

          March 27, 2011 at 7:01 pm

          She is pretty fantastic isn’t she.

          Did you know she was in the Blues Brothers? 🙂 Yep!

      • James Malanowski

        March 27, 2011 at 3:52 pm

        Agreed, which is why the broker should be smacked upside the head for allowing their agent look like an idiot which, in turn, blights the brokerage.

        The traditional brokerage takes the BS independent contractor status too literally. We need to step up and do our job which includes the OVERSIGHT of our agents. If the broker is too busy to review the MLS data before it goes public then hire someone to do it. Preferably someone that has a decent grasp of the English language.

        I’m with Benn on this one. Gwen’s columns are good for a laugh, but I tend to end up more pissed-off about the state of our industry after reading them.

        • Benn Rosales

          March 27, 2011 at 7:03 pm

          It does boil down to redundancy, doesn’t it. Basic services include some basic professionalism and care. Brokers can easily correct this problem, as well as images on listings.

      • Benn Rosales

        March 27, 2011 at 7:12 pm

        Raising the bar is one thing, but I’d start with simple professionalism. Representation is responsibility, and if Realtors want to be taken seriously as professional representatives then they shouldn’t need to be told, but at the end of the day, that’s the Brokers listing and the ultimate responsibility is theirs.

  4. Cliff Stevenson

    March 26, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    A big pet peeve of mine. In my market, it is quite surprising to see the number of “dinning rooms” in homes for sale.

    • Benn Rosales

      March 27, 2011 at 7:05 pm

      Dude, I actually printed 100 glossy tri-fold brochures with that exact typo! Don’t think I didn’t wonder if anyone would notice? It cost me nearly another 100 bucks, but I fixed it.

  5. Paula Henry

    March 26, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    Ben – I love Gwen’s posts. They make me laugh and often I will come back and reread one just to brighten my day. Many times, I couldn’t get through them without a total breakdown and don’t dare start to read with a beverage of any kind.

    In all seriousness, though, I wonder – do clients ever read what is put on the MLS about their homes. Some of the things written are atrocious mistakes, albeit, very funny! Unfortunately, I don’t think Gwen will run out of content any time soon. I owe it to my clients to make sure my listings never end up as content on Gwen’s posts:)

    • Benn Rosales

      March 27, 2011 at 7:08 pm

      I don’t know, I really don’t. I always sent a copy to my client, but I’m not sure all MLS systems offer that option.

      I always asked my clients for feedback too. I feel like they bought the house once, and if anyone knows the next buyer best, it’s probably the current owners. I’m pretty sure I always loved my listings more than my sellers though, after all, they were moving on up. 😉

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