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Opinion Editorials

What are your Buyers’ Search Processes?

A lot of them are better at searching for homes that I am, and that’s just fine with me – I don’t want to spend my time searching the MLS, craigslist, etc. – I want to learn what tools my clients are using, and most importantly, what tools they should be using , show them the tools and work to represent them as best I can.

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What do buyers know that we don't?

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Fast internet and indoor utilities

My buyers tend to value high-speed internet access as much as they do running water. A lot of them are better at searching for homes that I am, and that’s just fine with me – I don’t want to spend my time searching the MLS, craigslist, etc. – I want to learn what tools my clients are using, and most importantly, what tools they should be using, show them the tools and work to represent them as best I can.

Here’s a thought – if your buyers are anything like mine, ask them how they search for homes. You might be surprised. Here is one of my client’s responses to my request. Clearly it’s a response localized for my market, but it’s one from which anyone seeking insight to buyer’s minds and processes can glean useful information.

Client’s response:

1. Your IDX site- Browse the map for affordable homes in places I want to live. Or, check the local MLS for new listings and then look on IDX to see if there is more information there.

2. Look up found home on City Assessment website to find:

a. Tax Assessment price b. Who owns it? Does the owner live there? This often leads to another search on the City Assessment website for the owner’s name to see how many properties the owner has. Do the owners seem to be in good financial shape or have they made a lot of bad decisions (i.e. may need to get rid of the property to stay above water)? c. Check for any inconsistencies in square ft, room numbers, etc between MLS listing and tax assessment. d. Look at picture to see how different the home looked a few years back (pics usually taken in 2002 or 2003). e. Study transfer information to see when house was last sold, what it sold for, when it may have had work done, etc.

3. Use Google Maps to see what surrounds the house. Is the street tree-y? Industrial? How far is the nearest park? How far to downtown, UVA, etc?

4. Google the street address + Charlottesville to get more information about the neighborhood. For example: Grove St. plus Charlottesville clued me into the Grove Square development (which I was unaware of because I’m new to C’ville).

5. Google the complete address of the house to see if anyone has written anything about the house. Search the address of the house on Real C’ville Bubble blog to see if people have been blogging/laughing about the home’s asking price.

6. Lastly, physically drive or walk by the house the old-fashioned way.

The IDX provider who can best integrate these processes wins.

Dad, Husband, Charlottesville Realtor, real estate Blogger, occasional speaker - Inman Connects, NAR Conferences - based in Charlottesville, Virginia. A native Virginian, I graduated from VMI in 1998, am a third generation Realtor (since 2001) and have been "publishing" as a real estate blogger since January 2005. I've chosen to get involved in Realtor Associations on the local, state & national levels, having served on the NAR's RPR & MLS groups. Find me in Charlottesville, Crozet and Twitter.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Ken Montville - The MD Suburbs of DC

    March 4, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    Wow! That’s pretty detailed. I rarely run into clients that are into that level of search and detail. However, your broader point is well taken. It’s as important to know how our clients look for homes as it is to know what they’re looking for in a home.

    I’m often surprised by clients suggesting homes they found on site A or site B in area A or area B that are totally unrelated to what I thought they said they wanted. Their parameters just got larger based on the physical search, price range, condition, etc.

  2. Paula Henry

    March 4, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Jim – I have seen it time and again – homes sit without showings, because the buyer can see (via Google Maps) that the train runs right behind the home or the home backs a vacant lot zoned light industrial.

    So, I give them Google Maps on my IDX search.

  3. Elaine Reese

    March 5, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Google Maps has added a whole new dimension to home searches. A few weeks ago, I had a listing appt at a home that was ‘close’ to a RR. There is a high mound of earth such that the track isn’t visible from the street and it helps deafen the sound. However, when I tried to explain what the home looked liked on Google and what effect that would have on showings, she didn’t believe me and still wanted to overprice the home. I withdrew my name from consideration in the agents she was interviewing.

  4. Reliable Robert

    March 5, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Interesting insight! Now that over 90% of buyers are going to the web first, we need to be sharper than the average pencil!

  5. Thesa Chambers

    March 6, 2009 at 12:42 am

    I too try to know what my buyers are doing to find homes and help guide them – with the lack of technology in my area it is always interesting to see where people find me.

  6. Jim Duncan

    March 6, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Ken – Amen, and that’s why I tell my clients that I’d rather point them in the direction of the best search tools, as they often have more time (and are better at it) than I do.

    Paula – Agreed, and also, search has a ways to go. I’d love to see a site with overlays of everything important – demographics, school districts (so long as this is accurate), crime, etc.

    Elaine – Another reason to explain to clients the need to understand technology. And why Google scares me.

    Thesa – I’d see that lack of technology as an opportunity to build a lead over all the other agents before the tech “hits” your market.

  7. Reba Haas

    March 6, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    We also live in a very heavy tech centered area – can you say Microsoft? So, we know that we need to have the right tools or at least understand the tools that our clients are using. Our locale is also one way that we got early insight into Zillow since it is also a home based company. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re here and we have to be able to discuss what they post on their site to our clients.

    I’ve been told often that our team is quicker to use technologies than many of our peers, but having come from a tech background and now having been out of it for over 5 years, I am starting to feel like I’m just keeping steady. But, many of our clients do work in those fields so we do get some good exposure to what’s coming down the pike.

  8. Claudia Gonella

    March 8, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    Buyers in emerging markets would love to get their hands on the kind of data that’s served up by the MLS and valuation databases in more developed markets like the US. Unfortunately they often only have access to information from vendors, glossy brochures and whoever they happen to stumble into on their visit.

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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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Opinion Editorials

How a simple period in your text message might be misinterpreted: Tips to improve your virtual communication

(OPINION/EDITORIAL) Text, email, and IM messages may be received differently depending on your communication style and who you’re communicating with. Here’s some ways to be more mindful.

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Black woman smiling in communication talking on phone and laptop in front of her.

Life is full of decisions, learning, hopefully some adventure, and “growth opportunities” through our careers and work. One that some of us may have never considered is how our text, email or IM communication comes across to the receiver – thus providing us a growth opportunity to take a look at our own personal communication styles.

It may have never occurred to us that others would take it a different way. After all, we know ourselves, we can hear our voices in our heads. We know when we are joking, being sarcastic, or simply making a statement. The way we communicate is built upon how we were raised, what our English teachers stressed, and even what we’ve been taught through our generational lens.

NPR put out an article recently, “Are Your Texts Passive-Aggressive? The Answer May Lie in Your Punctuation”. This article discussed what to consider in regards to your punctuation in text.

“But in text messaging — at least for younger adults — periods do more than just end a sentence: They also can set a tone.” Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist and author of the book Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, told NPR’s All Things Considered last year that when it comes to text messaging,”the period has lost its original purpose. Rather than needing a symbol to indicate the end of a sentence, you can simply hit send on your message.”

While it may seem silly that the receiver would think you are mad at them because you used a period, here are some things to consider in our virtual communication now that we are all much more digital:

  • There are no facial expressions in a text except for emojis (which, even then, could be left up to misinterpretation)
  • There’s no sound of voice or inflection to indicate tone
  • We are emailing, texting, and sending instant messages at an alarming rate now that we are not having as many in-person interactions with our colleagues

Gen Z (b. 1995 – 2015), who are the most recent generation to enter the workplace, grew up with much quicker forms of communication with their earlier access to tech. They’ve had a different speed of stimulation via YouTube videos, games, and apps. They may have never experienced the internet speed via a dial-up modem so they are used to instantaneous results.

They also have quickly adapted and evolved through their use of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and now TikTok. The last two platforms are designed for pretty brief attention spans, which indicates our adaptation to fast communication.

Generational shaming is out and uncomfortable but necessary conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion are in (which includes ageism). You can’t just chalk it up as “those kids” don’t understand you, or that they need to learn and “pay their dues”.

So if you are of an older generation and even a manager, here are some considerations that you can take regarding your virtual communications:

1. Consider having yourself and your team take a DiSC assessment.

“The DiSC® model provides a common language that people can use to better understand themselves and to adapt their behaviors with others — within a work team, a sales relationship, a leadership position, or other relationships.

DiSC profiles help you and your team:

  • Increase your self-knowledge: How you respond to conflict, what motivates you, what causes you stress, and how you solve problems
  • Improve working relationships by recognizing the communication needs of team members
  • Facilitate better teamwork and teach productive conflict
  • Develop stronger sales skills by identifying and responding to customer styles
  • Manage more effectively by understanding the dispositions and priorities of employees and team members

This quiz is designed to help you identify your main communication style. It helps you to be more conscious of how your style may come across to others. Does it builds relationships, or create silent conflicts? It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change, but you can adapt your style to best fit your team.

2. Always ask your direct reports about their preferred method of communication (call, text, email, IM, meeting).

Retain this information and do your best to meet them where they are. It would also be helpful to share your preferred method with them and ask them to do their best to meet you where you are.

3. Consider putting composed emails in your drafts if you are fired up, frustrated, or down right angry with your team.

You may feel like you are being direct. But since tone will be lost virtually, your message may not come across the way you mean it, and it may be de-motivating to the receiver. Let it sit in drafts and come back to it a little bit later. Does your draft say all you need to say, or could it be edited to be a little less harsh? Would this be better as a meeting (whether video or phone) over a written communication? Now the receiver has a chance to see you and have a conversation rather than feeling put on blast.

And finally, be curious.

Check out Lindsey Pollak’s books or podcast on the best ways to work with a variety of generations in your organization. Lindsey is a Multigenerational Work Expert and she does a great job explaining her research to drive multigenerational workplace success. She gives ideas on what all employees, managers, and even corporations should consider as we experience so many generations and communication styles in the workplace at the same time.

You may laugh that your children or employees think you are mad at them when you use a period in a text. But there’s a lot more behind it to consider. It may take adaptation on all sides as communication styles and the “future of work” continue to evolve.

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