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The value of neighborhood connection within & without technology

Technology has helped bridge many gaps and provided amazing progress in real estate, but this broker shows how in-person remains valuable.

A neighborhood of brick walled apartments and townhomes, with a view from the sidewalk.

Blake Wallace’s career in real estate began in the neighborhoods of Minneapolis. Not, at first, by helping clients directly buy or sell property, but instead by laying a foundation that would carry him through the next eighteen years. 

One by one, Wallace would approach a home, knock on its door, and talk with the strangers inside. Many of them would go on to become close friends and clients.

“It started out with a goal of knocking on 100 doors a day, just because I didn’t really know what else to do,” Wallace recounts today from the office of his brokerage in St. Paul. “I kind of went with the adage of ‘go where the people are.’ 

“Not a lot of people still do that.”

The somewhat unconventional approach has allowed Wallace to get face to face with thousands of homeowners over the years, opening up conversations about couples’ plans to downsize or families’ hopes of moving into better school districts. In the nearly two decades since ringing that first doorbell, confronting an unknown face and an uncertain outcome on the other side, Wallace has built countless relationships that are so critical in his profession.

The strategy, at first, was simple: “I would pick a general neighborhood where I wanted to work or get more listings,” Wallace said. 

His track record validates the approach, but it comes with an expected downside.

“I’ve had a couple doors slammed in my face,” he notes with a laugh. “It happens, but not as often as you might think. The funny thing is that people are actually way nicer at the door than they are on the phone.

“Typically, once I knock on a door, I’ll step quite a bit away from it, and I’ve had 30-minute conversations with people right there in their front lawn. Being the agent who was there, when they see that you’re a real person, it really goes a long way.”

Wallace still aims to visit his target neighborhoods two or three times a year, offering property valuations to interested homeowners and maintaining regular contact with them from there. 

His methods, however, have changed slightly since those early days, evolving alongside many of the technological innovations that have transformed real estate since the early 2000s.

Specifically, Wallace has expanded his reach by capitalizing on the tools available through the Realtors Property Resource®, the nation’s largest property data platform which is accessible at no additional cost to members of the National Association of Realtors®.

Wallace employs Comparative Market Analysis videos—often referred to as CMAs—that he has refined over the years and have become a favorite of his clients. Using data from RPR, Wallace can provide concise analysis of any property, customizing the reports to ensure he’s sharing only the most relevant and requested information.  

Integrating those figures and statistics into a personalized video CMA has allowed Wallce to interact with clients virtually while capturing the same face-to-face feeling he could once only find by braving the Minnesota climate and approaching strangers in their homes.

“I came across the RPR tools three years ago, just as I was starting my own brokerage,” Wallace recounts. “A lot of the other tools, they went for so much flash and flair, but I liked how RPR just spit out the information black and white with figures and numbers. 

“From that point on, I’ve been using it every single day.”

RPR added over 10,000 new accounts this July alone, defying trends for similar platforms in the market. The release of new, cutting-edge features and products have helped to sustain that growth. 

RPR’s hyper-local Shareable Market Trends feature, specifically, offers localized housing statistics and metrics that Realtors® can easily and efficiently share with their clients, while its market Trends Scriptwriter has helped agents quickly generate market-specific messages for consumers.

“Going in and doing those videos—putting a face and a voice to the report and to my name—usually I’ll get a response back telling me how awesome the video is and saying they want to meet with me,” Wallace says. “Once I get to their front door, it’s almost like I’ve met them 3 or 4 times by then. 

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“That’s been the most amazing result to me, is that you’ve already developed a certain level of trust and credibility just because you’ve given people this information in a video format.”

Despite the progress Wallace has made integrating these technologies into his business, he still relies on the personal touch that comes with knocking on doors and talking face-to-face with homeowners he’s just meeting for the first time, knowing that initial interaction is not something that can be replaced by a phone call or customized video. 

One of Wallace’s current clients, a family looking to downsize within the Minneapolis area, was generated through a cold-call door knock. The story sticks in his mind.

“It was one of those perfectly timed visits where I knocked on the door, they happened to be home, and immediately told me they were looking to move into a smaller place in a different neighborhood,” Wallace reflects today. “The prospecting gods must have been looking down on me, as we like to say.”

Wallace said he went home that night, shot a video CMA using data from an RPR report, and included a call-to-action link where the family could schedule a follow-up meeting.

“Literally, 15 minutes later I got a notification that they watched the video and soon after I had an email thanking me for the report and asking to set up a meeting.”

The family told Wallace they were interested in hearing more from him for two primary reasons. The first was that they found his report thorough and informative. The second, he says, was because they appreciated that he was “out in the neighborhood meeting with people and working hard.”

‘It looks like you did so much research,’ they told Wallace in their email. ‘Going and walking around the neighborhood like that, it looks like you’re in pretty good shape and it’s obvious you take care of yourself. That’s someone we want to work with.’

Technology, of course, can do many things for us today. But maybe there are some things that can never be replaced by an app or captured through a screen.

Bob Goldberg is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Realtors®

Chief Executive Officer, National Association of REALTORS, Bob Goldberg has overseen transformations that have positioned NAR as real estate's leading figure in the fight for diversity and inclusion; the industry's primary driver of technological innovation; and as an association lauded for a genuine, unwavering commitment to its members. Bob's full bio is available here.


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