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Tools, Toys and Tricks… Have we forgotten anything?


I love the real estate industry for many reasons, but few come close to the right and ability to buy tons of toys and call them a business investments. From new laptops to GPS, we can use it all! We’ve got super cool webpages, twitter, digital cameras and more! We’ve even figured out how to qualify our Facebook time as business. We’ve adapted it all… but have we forgotten something?

I’ve read hundreds and probably thousands of real estate webpages/blogs and too many times have I found them all about the Realtor. Marketing to and about the consumer simply pays more.

dogontreeYou’ve seen it, the “Million Dollar Producer” tag lines that are on all the business cards and the sacred production awards that agents feel compelled to spill all over the newspaper. This information is put out there, as if selling millions is impressive to the consumer. Is it any wonder that the consumer thinks practitioners get paid too much?

In most areas of the country, it’s not a real struggle to sell millions of dollars in real estate. In the Northern Virginia area, the average home sale is about $400,000, so selling three of these will put you in the Million Dollar Producers club, but still leave your income at less than the national poverty level…that doesn’t leave much money for marketing and caring for the client.


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How about those photos? I love the glamor shots, photos from 12 years ago or holding the phone to their ears. Talk about false advertising! The phone up to the ear? What are you saying to the consumer…that you’re so busy that you can’t take the phone from your ear long enough to get a photo? If that’s the case, than you’re too busy to help me with my phone purchase. Blueroof has done a good job at explaining the difference of good versus bad.

As far as bad housing advertising, this isn’t just a mistake, it’s a disservice to the client who has put their trust in you. Norm Fisher does one of the best jobs of capitalizing off of other agent’s mistakes. He has put together a VirtualTour of bad agents photos to see how he can do better.

Almost everything that’s done in marketing has some message that resonates with the consumer, and not usually is it what you might have intended. A group of college students have come up with interpretations for Real Estate Jargon, and it’s pretty funny. But, what I got more out of it, is that people really think that practitioners are trying to hide something in their marketing. We need to understand that people inherently do not trust sales people; regardless of the industry.

Here are a few hints from the 2007 National Associations of Realtors Profile of Buyer and Sellers.

86% of consumers started their search on-line

95% were looking for Property For Sale

smokingdr4% were looking for the Real Estate Agent

Consumers wanted an agent for the following services:

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49% Wanted help finding the right home to purchaser (largest category)

13% Wanted help with negotiating the terms of the contract

11% Wanted help with negotiating the price

What did the consumer appreciate about their agent, once hired?

97% Thought Honesty and Integrity were important

36% Thought Proficiency with Technology was important

68% would use the Realtor again and only 5% wouldn’t use their agent again….

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The Internet is absolutely important to the real estate practitioner, but we have to embrace it and it’s appropriate application to consumer interaction. What can we learn from these numbers? First, the largest majority of home buyers go on-line to start their real estate transaction and very few use print media. Of those that do go on-line, they are looking for the property and not YOU. Sorry to hurt your fragile ego, but don’t fear, there is more than enough back patting to go around in a real estate brokerage or local association – we love giving ourselves awards .

But really, when a consumer goes looking for real estate, they go to Zillow and because that’s where the homes are! It’s interesting that when we visit most static webpages, we find the “About Me” page as the “Home” page instead of an IDX link to homes. By the way, no one goes to your webpage to JUST look for your personal listings. Very few, if any do a google search on “homes for sale by <insert your brokerage / firm name here>.” The only people doing that are your competitors because they aren’t busy enough to keep them from fretting about you. So, why worry about what the competition is searching for online? If they had business, they wouldn’t have time to stalk you!

I think that one of the main reasons why we’re seeing social media applications working, is because of the next bracket of information. 49% percent of consumers wanted help finding the home, 13% negotiating terms and 11% negotiating price. A well maintained blog will allow the real estate agent to put information out there for the consumer to grab and realize that the writer has a clue and can be trusted to help them with aggregating the information. A poorly maintained blog tells the consumer that the agent doesn’t put a lot of effort in their own marketing venues and that may translate into their practice. I am amazed, as an instructor, how often I ask how many students have a blog and many don’t know or say that they rarely maintain it. I think it’s better to not have a marketing venue, than to have one that you only tend to half-heartedly.


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girlscdsHaving technology and knowing what to do with it are two different things. I don’t think it’s surprising that the consumer wants transparency in the form of honesty and integrity. It maybe surprising that Technical Proficiency wasn’t rated higher. I theorize that it’s because the consumer simply expects us to have the tools to do the job and they realize that the job is still a person-oriented industry.

For all the nay sayers in regards to technology and to those who say that technology will replace the real estate agent, I say that it simply enhances us and proves our worth more! How many consumers will spend the time to really know how to use all these application for the their real estate benefit and to meet their ultimate goal of a successful transaction.

Social media is the next natural evolution of consumer interaction. It’s the marriage of the static internet that consumers were using and the inherent need for social interaction that is required by most to have a well rounded existence.

I think that 68% of consumers saying they would use the same agent again, is a great standard. Most liked their agent and that says volumes, the fact that only 5% would not use the same person again also says positive things for our industry. How many of you have been accused of a bad transaction, simply because it didn’t go your client’s way? How about when the home doesn’t sell because of the market or the high sales price? So, 5% isn’t that bad, but I do agree that we could do better.

The social media aspects have armed the practitioner with advantages that others do not have. Entering a client’s Facebook page or Twitter profile (you can follow me HERE) in with yours let’s you connect with the client much better than those agents who sweep in and spend the minimum 45 minutes to get a listing agreement signed and then calling back only when it’s time to renew that listing. Interacting with them will help put a personal connection that will help when you’re trying to deliver uncomfortable information or convince them of a decision that is in their best interest.

Keeping up with trends and techniques is vitally important, but not if you’ve placed more value and effort into having the best webpage over having the best connection with the consumer. If you’re ever in doubt, look at what you’re doing and ask what you would think if you saw the other guy doing it?

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Written By

Matthew Rathbun is a Virginia Licensed Broker and Director of Professional Development for Coldwell Banker Elite, in Fredericksburg Virginia. He has opened and managed real estate firms, as well as coached and mentored agents and Brokers. As a Residential REALTOR®, Matthew was a high volume agent and past REALTOR® Rookie of the Year & Virginia Association Instructor of the Year. You can follow him on Twitter as "MattRathbun" and on Facebook. Matthew's blog is



  1. Teresa Boardman

    March 17, 2008 at 6:13 am

    My marketing is certainly different than that of most of my peers. I tend to focus on real estate and not on my face. I am going to disagree with you on one thing here. No the homes can not be found on zillow. At least not homes for sale. When consumers look for homes on zillow and some of the other national sites they are seeing about 20% of what is available in our market. Nice sites but not the best for consumers looking for homes.

  2. Mike Farmer

    March 17, 2008 at 7:53 am

    Teresa, that is a very pertinent point. If buyers really want to see what is available they will go to local RE sites that have an IDX function and the capability of putting the homes in context with accurate area information.

  3. Mack in Atlanta

    March 17, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Teresa, I agree that zillow does not show all the homes that are available. They also give out flawed estimates of value in their zestimates. We as REALTORS must do a better job of educating the buyers that they can obtain more complete information about homes for sale by utilizing our sites.

  4. Matthew Rathbun

    March 17, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Teresa, MIke and Mack… I agree that is what is currently going on, but I think it’s going to improve itself over time. I am not endorsing Zillow, per se; but I think the concept is going to be more popular in the future IF NAR doesn’t fit I think and Jim Duncan has illustrated this, that Zillow and Truila area listening and reacting to the need for change faster than NAR.
    Thanks for pointing out the issue!

  5. Mariana Wagner

    March 17, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Thank you for offering all the great stats. I POUND this into the agents I train, on a daily basis .. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOU… THEY JUST CARE ABOUT WHT YOU CAN DO FOR THEM.

  6. Sean Purcell

    March 17, 2008 at 1:30 pm


    Great post. Lots of good ideas and “lane markers”. I will print this and add it to the folder where I keep guidelines for every online piece of marketing I do. Would love to see you expand on the idea of
    Entering a client’s Facebook page or Twitter profile (you can follow me HERE) in with yours

    What would you look for, what would you do and how would you do it?

    Thanks for an informative post.

  7. Toronto realtor

    March 19, 2008 at 9:37 am

    I actually do like real estate business. I started a years ago with buying this small appartement in Toronto, then I sold it after a time and so it went all again.. After a certain period I was owning few properties and I was living on the rental income. Now I work as a realtor in Toronto and I encourage my clients, or anybody interested to invest in real estate. There are many creative players on the market that succeeded, but I always advise to get a professional, to do the research and other work for you. Investing in a real estate is a high-level commitment, but as a future buyer, try to collect solid informations, don’t get scared by initial hurdles.

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