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Many small changes in real estate this year, but something’s not right

There have been many notable changes in the industry in 2012, but the focus has shifted away from what is truly important, as agents are captivated by shiny iPads and slick lead gen apps.

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An overview of the state of affairs in the industry

[pl_blockquote pull=”right”]
Agents are more connected than
ever, and their systems have
never been better.
[/pl_blockquote]So Chris Smith, formerly at Move, Inc. hits Inman, and does some amazing rainmaking for the brand, and is now at DotLoop. DotLoop’s CEO is much deserving the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine (and yeah, his teeth really are that amazing). It wouldn’t be an article if I didn’t mention Zillow, now Trulia going public (congrats to both), or Move’s recent acquisition of TigerLeads. Keller Williams makes some bold new international moves, and the Good Life Team in Austin has joined the trade show business. Who would have thunk that Marc and the 1000Watt team would rock the real estate industry with Nudge, a great new product essentially putting their money where their mouth has been for years to Joel Beasley launching Merge to unforseen popularity – I mean it’s a really, really crazy popular product.

So many changes, and so many tiny moves in a small space that the industry seems busy busy as we trend into a sellers market. Agents look sharper today with their iPads, and if you haven’t seen Ben Kinney’s application of presentations mixed with scripts that sell on a stage yet, you’re really missing something. Agents are more connected than ever, and their systems have never been better, and for those who have not yet, they soon will, because the rest of the industry has gotten the word that mediocrity isn’t a winning system.

An ear to the ground

[pl_blockquote pull=”right”]
…the industry is leaning very
heavily toward modernizing the
agent and the agent’s experience,
but not so much the experience
of the home buyer or seller.
[/pl_blockquote]In our AgentGenius Group on Facebook, I watch daily agents discussing cold calling, mailers, email marketing, and things once thought irrelevant. Agents are talking about tough problems, mentoring others to give old systems a second thought, or even finding tweaks to old ways of doing things. It’s truly amazing to see others openly helping each other, and discussing the news of the day or week, or just giving each other a hard time – it’s a lot of fun.

I know I’ve missed some much deserving accolades here, but I need to get around to the meat. I’ve simply thrown out what’s top of mind for the moment, so please don’t be offended. What I’m pointing out here are good things – the industry from my perspective has never looked more modern or more professional. Sure there’s a long way to go in regards to innovation, but it seems to me that the industry is leaning very heavily toward modernizing the agent and the agent’s experience, but not so much the experience of the home buyer or seller. That’s not getting much press at all, and why? Because it’s not happening.

Why is this the focus?

[pl_blockquote pull=”right”]
Agents would rather spend an hour
on a session on how to capture
more leads than how to build
consumer loyalty and keep it.
[/pl_blockquote]The conversations I’ve heard over the past week are sales related, and they’re agent-centric, not consumer-centric. They are completely numbers driven, not people driven. Agent consumers will sit through an hour long presentation on how to boost up their Facebook by Stacey Harmon (which I hear is actually useful and not to miss) rather than spend 15 minutes talking to the guys at Better Voicemail about how to better control the consumer experience on the phone.

Agents would rather spend an hour on a session on how to capture more leads than how to build consumer loyalty and keep it. I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’m saying they go hand-in-hand and are not one in the same. Noted columnist Jeff Brown is as old school as it gets, but having worked with Jeff and his clients, even he’ll admit that it’s a red carpet situation from start to finish with very little technology, but the technology he is using is much much better than 40 years ago (the length of his career).

Shifting the focus to consumers

[pl_blockquote pull=”right”]
This is the conversation we need
to get back to. You’ve got your
iPad, so now what?
[/pl_blockquote]I guess right now Keller Williams is winning in the consumer experience race with two JD Power and Associates awards, but what is their difference? Culture? This is the conversation we need to get back to. You’ve got your iPad, so now what? What is your brand failing at and how can you make it better? Or are you just going to repeat the past and ride the seller wave until the wave is no more?

The National Association of Realtors has done an amazing job of preparing to handle Capitol Hill, and are even getting consumers involved in housing matters. Their ad campaigns make more sense to a new generation, and bring a message of hope and prosperity through homeownership, and we applaude them – we’ve been their loudest critic, but have always been fair. But there’s more work today for the big NAR. It’s time to tear down the walls and allow competition in the marketplace when it comes to new technology that better helps consumers. There needs to be more agent choice in the products NAR backs, for example, why not DotLoop? Why ZipForms? Hell, why not both? There is a lot more Second Century Ventures could do to incentivize outside influence in technology to really prepare the industry for a Second Century. There are so many budding startups NAR should be partnered with that the industry really is missing a large opportinity.

The bottom line

There are so many more issues in real estate still to be dealt with, but I fear politics of the residential industry get in the way. But I wonder, if it really is about the overall consumer experience that agents are tweeting and conferencing about, if true progression and greater changes could be felt thoughout the industry and across the consumer beltway?

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Ozarksagent

    September 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    ozarksagent

  2. Ozarksagent

    September 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    The market has caused us to focus on short-term results at minimal cost for survival. That is why we are not relationship ie long-term focused as well as the types of clients a diatressed market attracts are not really that responsive to typical marketing either.

  3. krisstinawise

    September 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Ben, you are an incredible writer. I think the best in the business. 
     
    Just to let you know, what we think differentiates us at GoodLife Team is our focus on the consumer experience. Our #1 company Core Value is “Delivering a 5-star customer experience”. Our Tech is simply a way to deliver it…better. Our upcoming conference is the place where we will be sharing with other agents across the country how we consistently produce a 5-star experience as a local consumer brand so that other local brands (in other markets) can do the same.  
     
    Thank you for what you do for the industry. I (almost) always agree with your point of view 🙂 
     
    Krisstina

    • krisstinawise

      September 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Oh, and I totally agree with the opinion you share in this post. You are right on. 

  4. RussBergeronMRED

    September 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Technology of the past 30 years has focused on the delivery and monetization of the listing data.  The actual real estate transaction – the art of the deal – has not changed a bit. It’s still between you and me.

  5. michellepoccia

    September 22, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Benn, great piece…full of valid questions and points. (“spell check” would have come in handy prior to posting). The title…the tablet VS JD Power awards could be changed to a piece with “the tablet + JD Powers Award”. I think technology and an agent’s desire to acquire, learn and utilize these technologies is totally driven by the desire to better serve the consumer (the consumer, who I might add, is often more up to speed on using these technologies than the average agent!). 
    If I grasped your point about NAR opening the door to more than one vendor per venue…your point about it being “political”…well, I think you hit a nail on the head with that point. (I hope I understood it correctly).
    With all the many associations and MLS’s across the United States alone, any vendor would be hard pressed to provide services that work seamlessly with all players. That presents a huge problem for these “start ups” in developing their technologies to serve our industry as a whole. And getting the attention at the NAR level would require attending lots of real estate conferences on local, state and national levels spending long nights providing steaks and scotch for the current heads of those entities (ouch! did I just type that!).
    I totally agree that “crowning” one vendor over another as “the” service provider is a problem. The door should be opened. As we all know in our real estate businesses…there are many real estate offices that the consumer can choose from in any given area. The consumer has a choice. That competitive nature is what keeps us all on our toes perfecting what we do and pointing that out in order to drive consumers to “choose me”.
    Oh, and by the way, those JD Power awards…this is just my opinion…as I see it get passed back and forth between the major franchises…KW, RE/MAX, Coldwell Banker, Prudential, etc… Didn’t you just fall prey to the game of giving greater meaning to that award than is perhaps deserved? Yes, it is a good thing to poll the consumer population and take the temperature for “how are we doing?”. I do not think that consumers are going to the JD Power site to see who won the award that year to choose the real estate agent and/or company that they will use to list or buy a home. In the long run, doesn’t that consumer really only care about the person who is sitting in their home talking with them one on one about servicing their specific real estate needs. I think those awards are just another “political” weapon used in our industry to “fly a flag” for the year and show it off to the other companies. In fact, many times when you see the breakdown of the counts…the numbers are incredibly close. And that, my friend, is a good thing. If all these companies are staying on their toes taking care of consumers…then surely they must be sharpening their tools along the way, raising the bar of how we behave and service clients and customers. So, I have no problem with the JD Powers awards at all…just not sure how much creedence to give them and in what category. Don’t get me wrong…they are valid. But they are awarded for past behaviors and achievements. 
    Thanks for making me think about all this stuff this morning. Good job, my friend!

  6. DavidPylyp

    September 22, 2012 at 10:26 am

    All good and valid points!  We are seeking a way to justify what has become a commodity, with the deliver of listings to anyone with an ipad.   They can search and do all their own neighbourhood comparisons.
     
    Realtors need to define the value that they bring to the transaction without a 30 second elevator speech when you are only going two floors/   Having the shiniest newest iPhone iPad or tablet does not enable you to Docusign anything until you have a prospect and a property.
     
    I’m in Toronto Canada    Google Me.
     
    David Pylyp
     

  7. ChrisShouse

    September 22, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Very excellent article and so many valid points.  Great job Benn.

  8. nigeria hotels

    September 23, 2012 at 11:05 am

    …..Agents are more connected than ever, and their systems have never been better, and for those who have not yet, they soon will, because the rest of the industry has gotten the word that mediocrity isn’t a winning system….. So what do they actually think of nigeria hotels, if they think that selling through your iPad would make it much better. You can’t just sell if you’re sitting around just meddling with your gadgets. Yes, I see your point about the advantages of our technology today and I do admire Stacey Harmon’s point of view, but still I’m old school as you put it because I believe in “getting up close and personal” with the client. 

  9. PioneerTraining

    September 29, 2012 at 3:37 am

    There are many small changes in real estate but something is not right. Read to know more
    https://www.pioneertraining.org/

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Business News

Fake news? Well, what about fake reviews?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon is swamped with fake reviews, making it harder than ever to trust whether or not a product is legit. How can you spot them and avoid falling victim to this shady practice?

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Person shopping online with credit card, but are they reading fake reviews?

These days, most of us have turned to online shopping in lieu of brick-and-mortar establishments to get our favorite items shipped directly to our front door. With many retailers still closed, and many more of us understandably wary of exposing ourselves to the risk of COVID-19, it’s easier to just click “buy” and then spend the next two days with our noses pressed to our windows in anticipation of the arrival of our new toy or garment. But are we at risk of being tricked by fake reviews?

If you’re like most people, you probably depend on product reviews to make a purchasing decision. Honestly, it’s perfectly reasonable to see what others thought of the item before you buy it. These online reviews are almost like your neighbor, who whipped out his lawnmower and bragged how it goes from 0 to 4 mph in less than thirty seconds. Obviously — obviously — you had to run out to your nearest garden center to pick up one of your own after his glowing review of it, right?

That’s kinda like online reviews, too. You can’t just knock on the purchaser’s door and ask them what they thought of it, which is why you carefully peruse those reviews and weigh those pros and cons. Okay, this shirt fits loose. Fine, these kitchen shears broke after three uses. Whoa, this brand of potato chips puts hair on your chest…? Sweet! And you also probably looked at those 3-star reviews, too, to see what was merely “meh” about the product. With this assortment of mixed reviews, you can be confident that you’re making a rock-solid choice.

Uh, sadly, nope.

Unfortunately, Amazon (as well as other major retailers, such as Walmart) are often fraught with a glut of fake reviews. In fact, there are numerous Facebook pages dedicated to the purchase of these reviews, and many of the reviewers are compensated with a monetary reward (usually the cost of the item, plus a few extra dollars for their work) for posting the glowing 5-star rave.

So what can you do to help protect yourself for falling for these seemingly harmless lies?

Well, first and foremost — a fake review isn’t necessarily harmless. If a defective or dangerous product is boosted by a false review, it can seriously harm you. Sure, there’s a good chance the fake reviews are benign, and the worst you’ll be in for it is losing a few bucks on a crap item. But if something is using counterfeit or unsafe ingredients (such as minoxidil in potato chips because, real talk, chips aren’t supposed to put hair on your chest), then yes, you need to be informed of it so you can make an educated decision about whether or not that item is coming home with you.

So, the question remains: How can you, intrepid shopper extraordinaire, avoid purchasing a lemon? (Unless, of course, your goal was to buy an actual lemon in the first place. Margaritas, anyone?) The good news is that there are a couple things you can do. For starters, common sense goes a long way. Do the reviews offer any context, or is it just line after line of, “Loved it!” without any actual feedback on the item? That’s why those 3-star reviews are so priceless. Usually the reviewer actually used the item and had a valid reason for their tepid review, allowing you to make an educated decision about it.

Finally, there are a couple of websites you can use to help you out. First, there’s Fakespot. This web extension will cull out all the fake reviews, allowing you to see at-a-glance the remaining genuine reviews. It then reviews the item for its credibility, letting you know if the seller was trying to pull a fast one on you. Then there’s ReviewMeta. Unlike Fakespot, this website goes through the views and instead of grading the seller, it actually grades the item based on the average score of the remaining real reviews. And by using both of these websites together to check those reviews? You’ve now got yourself a pretty decent idea if the product is actually worth your hard-earned dollars.

It’s far too easy to get scammed these days. However, by staying alert and remaining mindful about your online purchases (and avoiding the temptation to give into those stress-motivated impulse buys), you can avoid being bilked, too. And hey, instead of looking at online reviews, maybe you should go back to the old-fashioned way of doing it: By asking your neighbor for their opinions of items. Just, y’know, do it from at least six feet away, while wearing a face mask.

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Manufacturing is bouncing back, but supply of materials is struggling

(BUSINESS NEWS) As manufacturing demands surge, so do material costs. The pandemic has shifted where we’re putting our money, but supply is struggling to keep up.

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Manufacturing worker sealing a large pipe together.

As the United States’ manufacturing process comes back up to speed, a surge in demand is creating a shortage of the one thing manufacturers need in order to do their jobs: Supply.

Fox Business reports that, due to a much quicker return to normalcy for manufacturing than some expected, a price hike for materials is affecting everyone from the bottom up: “Prices for steel, aluminum, lumber and other materials are rising in response to higher order volumes. Commodity supply chains are now clogged with orders, causing some producers to add weekend hours and overtime for employees.”

The fast manufacturing rebound seems to be a harbinger of better days ahead, but this supply bottleneck could dampen producers’ resolve.

It should be noted that the spike in demand for goods which use the materials in question isn’t an entire surprise. As Fox notes, much less of consumer money has been going toward travel and dining out. This has resulted in more money flowing into things like appliances, vehicles, and entertainment commodities.

But the toll is hitting producers coming and going as things like depressed oil and the paper used in packaging undergo substantial price hikes, leading some companies to stockpile resources in hopes of having an edge in the future.

Others find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between lower profit margins or higher prices on manufactured productsa choice that is sure to impact consumers, if not the rate of consumption.

Indeed, some companies, such as Northwest Hardwoods, have an upper limit on the price they can charge on a finished product regardless of rising material costs.

It’s not all bad, of course. Global prices for materials like aluminum and scrap steel have gone up, which means people like Brad Serlinthe president of United Scrap Metalcan make a killing. “We can sell everything we have,” says Serlin, referencing “big orders” from recently busy steel mills.

As the pandemic wears on, though, one thing is crystal clear: The high demand for domestic goods coupled with rising global prices for materials is going to make for some severe price hikes in the coming months.

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Business News

Jeff Bezos steps down as Amazon CEO, moves into space travel

(BUSINESS NEWS) Jeff Bezos is stepping down as Amazon’s CEO in order to focus on other passions, such as his space company, Blue Origin.

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Jeff Bezos standing in front of very large Blue Moon spacecraft.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will no longer be Amazon’s CEO starting in the third quarter of 2021. On Tuesday, Bezos announced he is resigning and will hand the job over to Andy Jassy, Amazon Web Services’ CEO. Bezos will transition to the role of Executive Chair on Amazon’s board.

“I’m excited about this transition. Millions of customers depend on us for our services, and more than a million employees depend on us for their livelihoods. Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming,” said Bezos to employees in an email. “When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else,” he said.

By stepping down, Bezos says he will have more “time and energy” to focus on “other passions” like Blue Origin, his space company. In 2000, the billionaire started the rocket company to make space travel affordable and easily accessible by using reusable launch vehicles.

Since the company was founded, it has yet to reach orbit and is lagging behind Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX). SpaceX, which began two-years after Blue Origin, has already achieved some huge milestones.

In September 2008, Falcon 1 became the first privately developed liquid-fuel rocket to reach Earth orbit. In May 2020, SpaceX launched two NASA astronauts to space.

Blue Origin has a lot of catching up to do, but, with more free time, Bezos might make sure the company moves full-speed ahead.

I mean, look at what he did with Amazon. In 1994, Bezos founded the multinational technology company. Since then, the e-commerce giant has grown into a trillion-dollar company. It has more than 1 million employees and millions of customers.

“This journey began some 27 years ago. Amazon was only an idea, and it had no name,” Bezos said. “Today, we employ 1.3 million talented, dedicated people, serve hundreds of millions of customers and businesses, and are widely recognized as one of the most successful companies in the world.”

There is no word about how much more involved Bezos will be with Blue Origin, but the company already has things to look forward to.

Last December, NASA selected Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket to “launch planetary, Earth observation, exploration, and scientific satellites for the agency.” This contract will allow the company to “compete for missions through Launch Service Task Orders issued by NASA.”

Last month, it conducted a successful flight test of its New Shepard capsule, and many more tests are, without a doubt, in the company’s future.

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