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Are You Being Cuckolded by Agents on Trulia Voices?

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We talk a lot about the need for reputation management through Google Alerts and the like, with the idea being that you need to know what’s being said about you. But almost as important is the notion of relationship management. Do you know where your clients are going for information when your back is turned?

From Trulia Voices …

Seller won’t disclose Seller Property Disclosure Statement … Should this be a red flag for us? … BTW our real estate agent is great.

And another …

We put an offer on a house, seller countered. We agreed to counter and had it back to them within a couple hours. That was 4 days ago. Shouldn’t we be under contract by now? … I spoke with my agent today, and we are just gonna move ahead and start inspections. Kinda scary that we can’t open escrow yet though. (This after multiple agents had chipped in their two cents.)

And another …

I’m looking at a home in Queen Creek just a few miles from Gilbert. … It’s been hard to find relevant comps … We are thinking 550K is a solid price, we love the property – but we want to be sure not to overpay in this volatile market. Advice?

… Yes, I am working with a Realtor and using comps off the MLS.

These are three examples, only from the Arizona RSS feed, only within the last week. And this is what happens every single day on Trulia Voices.

It’s 3 a.m. Do You Know Where Your Client Is?

Let’s put aside for a moment the fairly clear-cut violations of the NAR Code of Ethics that are taking place every single day as agents provide advice that at worst conflicts and at best interferes with the relationship established between these clients and their agents.

(I know, I know … they’re the ones asking for the advice. But even we as real estate agents ought to be able to stop panting and pouncing like starved hyenas long enough to see what we’re doing.)

Your value is in your experience, your expertise, your advice. Have you ever watched as a transaction went south because your client’s parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends from school or the local bartender gave them advice not based in reality? Have you ever found yourself explaining how things are done in your state compared to the state from which your buyers have moved?

Take that phenomenon, multiply it by 100 or so, and you have the daily frenzy that is Trulia Voices. Here’s the basic scenario:

  1. Client doesn’t trust the agent they have hired. (Most likely because they never really interviewed an agent, instead trusting whatever name they saw on a sign.)
  2. Client goes to the web searching for someone to validate whatever position they already have taken. (Because nothing is more effective than searching for the one, best answer among those shouted from a crowd. Kinda like The Price is Right.)
  3. Agents desperate for business jump all over themselves and their peers, trying to demonstrate their expertise … regardless of the area about which the client might be asking. (But hey – there’s little difference in real estate in Arizona and North Dakota, right? Houses are houses, 50-below or 120 degrees, right?)

And step four becomes the inevitable … client becomes so frustrated about the inability to receive a coherent answer from an incoherent mob that their driving theory – that there is no value brought to the table by a real estate professional – is confirmed.

Take a Breath … and Have Some Dignity

To be valued you need not only to demonstrate your expertise, but you have to expect to be valued for that expertise.

If your clients are running to Trulia Voices looking for answers that contradict the advice you’re providing them, and if you’re confident in your answer, confront your client and explain that they are hampering their ability to meet their goals. If they don’t agree and don’t see the value you add, fire them.  Don’t waste your time on people who think nothing of what you know and what you do.

And if you’re one of the agents stomping on other agents’ agency relationships in hopes of winning an MVP award for having the most answers, take a step back. Think about what you’re going to say and what the ramifications might be.

Fooling around and not knowing the other person’s attached is one thing. Fooling around knowing full well your cuckolding some poor sap trying to put food on his table … that’s just not good form.

Jonathan Dalton is a Realtor with RE/MAX Desert Showcase in Peoria, Arizona and is the author of the All Phoenix Real Estate blog as well as a half-dozen neighborhood sites. His partner, Tobey, is a somewhat rotund beagle who sleeps 21 hours a day.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Tom Vanderwell

    May 16, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    Jonathan,

    Every time I hang out at AG, I learn something new. Thanks for the post. Very well said, and very appropriate for those of us on the lending side too…..

  2. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    May 16, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Dalton, this is a tough one. It’s frustrating because Trulia has set up something that is really cool- a place for the curious to draw answers from a pool of expertise but often, the “point hungry” do exactly what you’re saying.

    My feeling is that whether it is regulated or not, if people would…
    (a) stay in their own back yard
    (b) be EXTRA cognizant of the code of ethics and representation agreements
    (c) ignore becoming MVPs and answer because they are the source of the true answer

    …Trulia Voices as a self-governed body would function much better and the consumer experience would be better for agents stepping up voluntarily. Like you mentioned, it’s the PEOPLE that are answering the questions that are the problem, not the format. I have hope though, don’t you?

  3. Kevin Boer

    May 16, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    …not to mention the craziness of asking for advice in a public forum on a negotiating strategy! People! A client of mine told me a story …they were buying a home a while back, and like most savvy home buyers, they googled the sellers. Turned out the sellers had a blog and they were … you guessed it … blogging about their home selling process. e.g. “We put it on the market for $X, but we’re willing to settle for $Y.” Hello!

  4. Jonathan Dalton

    May 16, 2008 at 7:01 pm

    Kevin – that’s priceless. I love it.

    Lani – yes and no. Will the consumer enjoy the experience if the answer they get is “sorry, but you need to talk to your agent for that advice.” Not that such an answer ever will be unanimous because people are still hoping to win the business that someone else already has.

  5. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    May 16, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    JD, I disagree. Well, partially. If it swings to the most polar opposite of today’s behavior, Trulia users will (as you stated) provide no value if the answers become canned, thus defeating the purpose of Trulia Voices. HOWEVER, an agent can answer without violating COE by saying “in my experience X, Y, Z but each situation is unique and it’s always best to consult your Realtor who knows all the details first hand.”

    It’s not just Trulia voices though, it’s everywhere where online Q&A exist- the current consumer trend is to vet everything. Even if you’ve been told one thing, despite that adviser’s expertise, many just HAVE to consult every source possible before making a final decision. It’s what Benn has referred to as the “bread crumbs” left online for consumers to try to piece together themselves… the excellent professional is always where the expertise is at, regardless of online behavior of some professionals, right, JD?

  6. Barry Cunningham

    May 16, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    I call it the Active Rain syndrome. For some reason people go crazy over flippin points! Thos systems that are designed to award responses..any responses..allow so much inaccurate information to be offered up…but by gosh they got their points didn’t they?

  7. Ryan Hukill

    May 16, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Steve, this may be the most intelligent assessment I’ve seen all day:

    “client becomes so frustrated about the inability to receive a coherent answer from an incoherent mob that their driving theory – that there is no value brought to the table by a real estate professional – is confirmed.”

    Unfortunately, this situation presents itself daily, in many different forms and forums, and the momentum of stupidity is amazing!

  8. Faina Sechzer

    May 16, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Jonathan, My concern is not so much about “monitoring” what my clients do on the Internet. It is more about the quality of the advice that is provided. It amazes me how many RE agents give advice related to transactions in other states. Saying “XYZ is my experience, but in your state you may need ABC”, how useful is it? Even when it’s in the same state, it is like a patient calling up several doctors and asking how his surgery should be done. What could the doctors answer? “In general I do this surgery in an XYZ way, but you may need it in the ABC way. I can’t tell without examining you and seeing the X-ray”.

    I had someone on my blog ask very specific questions about the value of the home they were considering buying. I would imagine they were using and agent. Why would they consult an anonymous Internet agent instead of their own? If they don’t trust their agent’s advice why are they using him/her?

  9. Rich Jacobson

    May 16, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Jonathan: You won’t get any argument from me. I wrote something along a similar line the other day entitled, “Open Mouth, Insert Fine” or “Real Estate Roulette” that was based on a Trulia Voices encounter. Bottom-line is that way too many agents are far more concerned with littering their contact info than they are giving viable, professional expert advice. Oh, and of course, it never hurts to actually be licensed in the State you’re dispensing said advice….

  10. Dan Connolly

    May 17, 2008 at 12:08 am

    I have always wondered about the basic idea that it is unethical for one agent to comment on the business practices of another. I understand the reasoning behind NAR and the Code of Ethics, (and I don’t do it) but think about it from the consumer’s point of view! What if doctors did what NAR requires? No more second opinions?

    I see the most absurd answers from agents on Trulia, and I want to flame them back to the cabbage truck they fell off of, but I don’t do it. It would make the industry look bad if we bickered amongst ourselves on public forums. But what about the consumers?

    What do you do when you see someone spouting crap? Do you comment on the quality of their advice? When we suffer in silence I think the general public thinks we agree!

  11. Jonathan Dalton

    May 17, 2008 at 12:30 am

    Rich – an excellent point, actually … at what point do the answers delve into unlicensed activity? Had not thought of it but I think that’s a legitimate concern.

    Faina – first question for those folks would have been if they’re using an agent. If not, I’d be happy to help if they contacted me through my own blog. Agents giving away free comps on Trulia Voices? Makes much less sense.

    Ryan – Steve’s my dad, but I take the compliment anyway.

    Barry – stop agreeing with me. You’re freaking me out, baby. 🙂

    Lani – just because it’s the trend doesn’t mean it’s necessarily effective. Bell bottoms, flowery design, plaid leisure suits and white shoes were the trend in the 1970s. Doesn’t mean it was the smart way to go, with the benefit of hindsight.

  12. Russell Shaw

    May 17, 2008 at 12:42 am

    Jonathan, I agree with everything you’ve said here *except* your last comment. Bell bottoms, flowery design, plaid leisure suits and white shoes *was* the smart way to go. Okay, maybe not the flowery design or the plaid leisure suits – but white shoes and bell bottoms sure were! 🙂

  13. Jim Duncan

    May 17, 2008 at 7:19 am

    I see a couple of problems with the “advice” being given on Trulia Voices, et. al, and Rudy said it in a comment last week:

    Overall, many of you have been in the online real estate space much longer than others. You know how to participate and how not to. I remember when I first started commenting and contributing many, many years ago – I too had to learn the ropes…..But I did. Some people are at that earlier learning stage now. Rather than shooting them down, I think it’s much better to lead by example – as many of you do. Remember AR when it first started? Many didn’t know what they were doing, but everyone learned from each other. And today, they are doing great and teaching others.

    I’d argue that the space has become so diluted with agents trying to gain presence on the train that *everyone* else has jumped on or is jumping on that there are fewer great ones to learn from.

    The competition now to get points, rankings, etc. has become more important than actually giving good advice.

    Also, Lani’s right – today’s consumers/buyers/people need to vet everything – it’s why I google things my doctor tells me, what the mechanic says is wrong with my car, how much tires cost, etc. I expect my clients (especially first time homebuyers/sellers) to ask friends and family and google for advice or verification.

    The agents offering “advice” and whether that crosses ethical boundaries … that’s an entirely discussion altogether.

    /shoulda made this a post

  14. Jonathan Dalton

    May 17, 2008 at 8:55 am

    Russell – if you were a king here like you and Ladmo, dining at Durant’s every night, maybe … 🙂

    Jim – I think Rudy’s timeline is backward … Active Rain was more effective then than now. There are too many people writing schlock for points for the experts to be heard above the shouting.

    Trulia Voices is the same way … consumers need to pick through the “I don’t know how it is in Phoenix, but here in Milwaukee …” and the other “call me (please? please? please? please?” answers to get to the real nuggets.

    Not that some questions don’t deserve the latter answers, like the recent spate of “would someone help me sell my house?” queries that have popped up. You almost can see Realtors waking to an alarm and sprinting to the keyboard when that happens.

  15. Thomas Johnson

    May 17, 2008 at 10:22 am

    After the great google juice fiasco at Trulia, my inclination is to just post such point winners such as:

    “Consult your Realtor
    https://www.ERAHouston.com

    1. Gives me points
    2. Keeps me a a top poster in the area with my happy mug/avatar
    3. No COE violation
    4. Civil disobedience makes me feel better about being bagged by their no follow policy on my listings until Realogy renogotiates the deal.

  16. Eric Blackwell

    May 17, 2008 at 11:18 am

    @Thomas — too funny. and yet an effective strategy…(grin)

    @Kevin Boer–that was a great point. Do I really want a customer who is constantly going and check my advice through as many other folks as they can find on a public forum?? In my SEO consulting practice, you get a couple of those “Well whaddabout what so and so said?” questions. On number three, I ask you if you trust me. If not, go pay them.

    If you’re a jackass, that could happen on time #2. (grin)

  17. Patrick Mahony

    May 17, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    Dude, you`re raining on my first MVP since fourth grade football…..Com`n you`re mess`n with my self esteem,

    Dan Connolly

    “I see the most absurd answers from agents on Trulia, and I want to flame them back to the cabbage truck they fell off of,” [ Hey! don`t be blaming the IRISH! for this ] “but I don’t do it. It would make the industry look bad if we bickered amongst ourselves on public forums. But what about the consumers?”

    “What do you do when you see someone spouting crap? Do you comment on the quality of their advice? When we suffer in silence I think the general public thinks we agree!”

    When you correct another Realtor in a public forum, it is not bickering. It is giving the consumer the correct information, you may actually be helping a Realtor who is unconsciously incompetent.

    Myself I compete for clients with about 5 or 7 of Arizona`s finer Agents, my answers have to be above par or don`t bother answering at all, and if I am wrong, or I happen to “bend” a rule. They will let me know.

    My advice, don`t suffer in silence. It does hurt the industry. Correct away.

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Opinion Editorials

Can we combat grind culture and injustice with a nap?

(OPINION EDITORIALS) A global pandemic and a climate of racial injustice may require fresh thinking and a new approach from what grind culture has taught us.

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Sleeping cat with plant, fighting grind culture.

Information is delivered to us at warp speed with access to television, radio, and the internet (and more specifically, social media). We are inundated with messages. Oftentimes they’re personalized by something that a friend or family shared. Other times we manage them for work, school, or just keeping up with news. Many entrepreneurs already wear many hats and burn the midnight oil.

During this global pandemic, COVID-19, we have also seen a rise in awareness and attention to social injustice and systemic racism. This is not a new concept, as we all know. But it did feel like the attention was advanced exponentially by the murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day 2020. Many people and entrepreneurs felt called to action (or at least experienced self-reflection). And yet they were working at all hours to evolve their businesses to survive. All of this happening simultaneously may have felt like a struggle while they tried to figure out exactly they can do.

There are some incredible thought leaders – and with limited time, it can be as simple as checking them out on Instagram. These public figures give ideas around what to be aware of and how to make sure you are leveling up your awareness.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, Director of the Center for Antiracist Research – he has been studying anti-racism and has several books and interviews that help give language to what has been happening in our country for centuries. His content also delves into why and how white people have believed they are more than people of color. Here is a great interview he did with Brené Brown on her Unlocking Us podcast.

Tamika Mallory – American activist and one of the leading organizers of the 2017 Women’s March. She has been fighting for justice to be brought upon the officers that killed Breonna Taylor on March 13. These are among other efforts around the country to push back on gun control, feminist issues, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Brené Brown – research professor at the University of Houston and has spent the last two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She has been listening and engaging on how racism and our shame intersect. She also speaks about how people can reflect on themselves and where they can take action to better our society. She has some antiracism resources on her website.

With all of this information and the change in our daily routines and work habits (or business adjustments), what is a fresh approach or possibly a new angle that you haven’t been able to consider?

There is one social channel against grind culture that may not be as well-known. At an initial glance, you may even perceive this place as a spoof Twitter and Instagram that is just telling you to take a nap. But hold on, it’s actually much smarter than that. The description says “We examine the liberating power of naps. We believe rest is a form of resistance and reparations. We install Nap Experiences. Founding in 2016.”

It might be a great time for you to check out The Nap Ministry, inspired by Tricia Hersey. White people are called to action, and people of color are expressly told to give time to taking care of themselves. Ultimately, it goes both ways – everyone needs the time to recharge and recuperate. But people of color especially are being told to value their rest more than the grind culture. Yes, you’re being told you need to manage your mental health and include self-care in your schedule.

Through The Nap Ministry, Tricia “examines rest as a form of resistance by curating safe spaces for the community to rest via Collective Napping Experiences, immersive workshops, and performance art installations.”

“In this incredibly rich offering, we speak with Tricia on the myths of grind culture, rest as resistance, and reclaiming our imaginative power through sleep. Capitalism and white supremacy have tricked us into believing that our self-worth is tied to our productivity. Tricia shares with us the revolutionary power of rest.” They have even explored embracing sleep as a political act.

Let this allow you to take a deep breath and sigh – it is a must that you take care of yourself to take care of your business as well as you customers and your community. And yes, keep your drive and desire to “get to work”. But not at your expense for the old grind culture narrative.

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Opinion Editorials

The actual reasons people choose to work at startups

(EDITORIAL) Startups have a lot going for them, environment, communication, visible growth. But why else would you work for one?

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Startups meeting led by Black woman.

Startups are perpetually viewed as the quintessential millennial paradise with all of the accompanying perks: Flexible hours, in-house table tennis, and long holidays. With this reputation so massively ingrained in the popular perception of startups, is it foolish to think that their employees actually care about the work that startup companies accomplish?

Well, yes and no.

The average startup has a few benefits that traditional business models can’t touch. These benefits often include things like open communication, a relaxed social hierarchy, and proximity to the startup’s mission. That last one is especially important: While larger businesses keep several degrees of separation between their employees and their end goals, startups put the stakes out in the open, allowing employees to find personal motivation to succeed.

When employees find themselves personally fulfilled by their work, that work reaps many of the benefits in the employee’s dedication, which in turn helps the startup propagate. Many aspiring startup employees know this and are eager to “find themselves” through their work.

Nevertheless, the allure of your average startup doesn’t always come from the opportunity to work on “something that matters.”

Tiffany Philippou touches on this concept by pointing out that “People come to work for you because they need money to live… [s]tartups actually offer pretty decent salaries these days.”

It’s true that many employees in their early to late twenties will likely take any available job, so assuming that your startup’s 25-and-under employee base is as committed to finding new uses for plastic as you are may be a bit naïve—indeed, this is a notion that holds true for any business, regardless of size or persuasion.

However, startup experience can color a young employee’s perception of their own self-worth. This allows them to pursue more personally tailored employment opportunities down the road—and that’s not a bad legacy to have.

Additionally, startups often offer—and even encourage—a level of personal connection and interactivity that employees simply won’t find in larger, more established workplaces. That isn’t symptomatic of startups being too laid-back or operating under loosely defined parameters. Instead, it’s a clue that work environments that facilitate personalities rather than rote productivity may stand to get more out of their employees.

Finally, your average startup has a limited number of spots, each of which has a clearly defined role and a possibility for massive growth. An employee of a startup doesn’t typically have to question their purpose in the company—it’s laid out for them; who are we to question their dedication to fulfilling it?

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Opinion Editorials

How Peloton has developed a cult-following

(OPINION EDITORIALS) How has Peloton gotten so popular? Turns out there are some clear takeaways from the bike company’s wildly successful model.

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Man riding Peloton bike with instructor pointing encouragingly during workout.

Peloton is certainly not the first company to gain a cult-like following–in the past we’ve talked about other brands with similar levels of devotion, like Crossfit and Yeti. Now, full disclosure: I’m not an exercise buff, so while I’d vaguely heard of Peloton–a company that sells stationary bikes–I had no idea it was such a big deal.

I mean, it’s not really surprising that an at-home bike that offers the option for cycling classes has grown so much during the pandemic era (a sales growth of 172% to be exact). But Peloton has been highly popular within its fanbase for years now. So, what gives? A few factors, actually.

Vertical Integration

If your company really wants to guarantee the vision and quality you’re aiming for, one of the best ways to enact it is through vertical integration, where a company owns or controls more than one part of its supply chain. Take Netflix, for example, which not only distributes media, but creates original media. Vertical integration lets companies bypass areas that are otherwise left to chance with third-party suppliers.

Peloton uses vertical integration–everything from the bike to its Wi-Fi connected tablet to the classes taught are created by Peloton. Although this may have made the bike more expensive than other at-home exercise bikes, it has also allowed Peloton to create higher quality products. And it’s worked. Many people who start on a Peloton bike comment on how the machine itself is well-built.

Takeaway: Are there any parts of your business process that you can improve in-house, rather than outsourcing?

Going Live

But with people also shelling out $40 a month for access to the training regimen Peloton provides, there’s more going on than simply high-quality craftsmanship.

Hey, plenty of cults have charismatic leaders, and Peloton is no exception. Okay, joking about the cult leader part, but really, people love their trainers. Just listen to this blogger chat about some of her favorites; people are connecting with this very human element of training. So much so that many people face blowback when suggesting they might like training without the trainers!

The trainers are only part of this puzzle though–attending live classes is a large draw. Well, as live as something can be when streamed into your house. Still, with classmate usernames and stats available while you ride, and teachers able to respond in real time to your “class,” this can simulate an in-person class without the struggle of a commute.

Takeaway: People want to see the human side of a business! Are there any ways your company could go live and provide that connection?

Getting Competitive

Pandemic aside, you can get a decent bike and workout class at an actual gym. But the folks at Peloton have one other major trick up their sleeve: Competition. Whether you’re attending a live session or catching up on a pre-recorded ride, you’re constantly competing against each other and your own records.

These leaderboards provide a constant stream of goals while you’re working out. Small accomplishments like these can help boost your dopamine, which can be the burst of good feeling you need while your legs are burning mid-workout. With this in mind, it’s no wonder why Peloton fans might be into it.

Takeaway: Is there a way to cater to your audience’s competitive side?

Conclusion

At the end of the day, of course, Peloton also has the advantage of taking a unique idea (live-streamed cycle classes built into your at-home bike) and doing it first. Plus, they just happened to be poised to succeed during a quarantine. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from what Peloton is doing right to build your own community of fanatics. There are plenty of people out there just waiting to get excited about a brand like yours!

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