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Death By Real Estate Offer Writing Software

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Law_20When transactions really get messy, the representation offered by agents is superseded by that offered by the lawyers. We’re like the kids in the back, strapped into car seats and sucking on pacifiers while Mom and Dad sort out where we’re all going.

We aren’t lawyers. Brokers are pretty keen on explaining that to new agents. Don’t write contract clauses on the forms they beg, just fill in the blanks.

You mean like trained monkeys right?

Hmmm…

I think that the entire writing up the contract aspect of the business could all but disappear completely within a few years. The proper people to write up binding legal contracts are lawyers, and agents only do it because we have been issued boiler plate “fill in the blanks” contract forms to use.

TurbotaxThe truth is that real estate contracts are no more complicated than personal income tax forms, and software like TurboTax etc handle them for about $50 and likely provide better expertise than the local boobs recently hired at H&R Block.

And make no mistake…

That software will come with clauses to channel offered co-brokes towards the buyers closing costs etc if the buyer doesn’t have representation. And armed with offer writing software, some savvy buyers won’t see the value in having 2.5–3% of the purchase price of their home go to a buyer agent for something $50 of software can do.

Specially if the software package can do an online look up for local home inspectors, real estate lawyers, appraisers etc to provide the buyer with contact numbers and prices of services.

DalekNeed a showing agent? Note that I said showing agent, not buyer agent. Buyers could hire one for a set hourly fee and deny representation. (Would you show homes for $100 an hour? I dare say that’s a taxi service many agents wouldn’t mind providing.)

The software could even cross reference with online estimates of the homes value to check the buyer isn’t plonking down silly money on a shack.

When it comes to contracts and signing off on things at the closing. You know… making it all legal. The skilled labor is the lawyers, the unskilled labor is the real estate agents, and unskilled labor has a nasty way of become disintermediated these days.

Writer for national real estate opinion column AgentGenius.com, focusing on the improvement of the real estate industry by educating peers about technology, real estate legislation, ethics, practices and brokerage with the end result being that consumers have a better experience.

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Chris Lengquist

    January 16, 2008 at 9:50 pm

    LOL. Or were you being funny?

    Automate all you want. I used tax software until I got to the point that I realized my situation was too complex for a 3 question answer period.

    Sure, some real estate may be replaced by automation, internet, whatever. But if you want expertise, real expertise and experience, you are going to have to go old school and talk to a human being.

    I know, it’s a nightmare.

  2. Athol Kay

    January 17, 2008 at 10:13 am

    I am likely overstating the case to make a point, but I’ll stand by my thought that if all you bring to the table is “fill in the blanks” expertise, then that will likely be a trouble spot for you.

    CPA’s for example aren’t likely to be overly worried by TurboTax for example.

    That being said, once upon a time chess programs were said to be workable at best but would never hope to beat Grandmasters. They simply lack the expertise, creativity and flair of a real live human. Now they are a hair better than the World Champion.

    We live in a world where ER doctors are Googling symptoms for difficult cases. So I think the lines of expertise and software are starting to blur somewhat.

    Most agents for example, would be all but incapable of doing a formal CMA without their CMA software. Even then, the only thing that the software doesn’t do is select the comps in the CMA. I wonder if that step was left purposely unprogrammed.

  3. Benn Rosales

    January 17, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Athol,can you say it was google without question?

  4. Benn Rosales

    January 17, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    You know, I asked because about a year ago there was a face/face conversation I had with a DR where the DR basically said they were safe from disintermediation- I’m beginning to wonder if maybe that just is not the case. Sure, if you’re having surgery you’ll not want your mom cutting into your chest, but I would imagine this will be the first real impact on clinic use and cost of diagnosis.

    My parents were both in the medical field so I take a personal interest in this sort of stuff. thanks for the link…

  5. Athol Kay

    January 17, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    I think being a doctor is currently one of the worst jobs in the whole country. The workload is extreme. I can see how different aspects of their job could be reduced eventually with technology. But I do agree that in essence “doctors” are basically safe. This after all is still fantasy.

    That being said, real estate is still behind the times compared to many other professions. There will eventually be a catch up though.

    Will the entire profession be disintermediated? No. Will some of what we do be disintermediated? Yes. Just gotta work out what real estate bits will and won’t get shafted.

  6. Glenn

    February 12, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Your post is something that real estate agents can truly be worried about and could occur. Someone pointed out how difficult it was at one point to use a tax software program. But for someone familiar with income taxes does not have a problem using it and knowing how to do the research and understand the terminology used within the IRS code.

    The example of the surgeon is an excellent example of a physician that has a higher level of training and something that can not be replaced by your “Mom”.

    We as real estate agents do in fact only fill in the blanks or add clauses that are pre-written by the attorneys, as suggested by real estate agents.

    IMHO – we as real estate agents have to raise our knowledge and analytical skills in order to continue to practice real estate. If we don’t change, we will go the way of the travel agents!

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Housing News

Take Two – Getting Used to the Video Camera

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video camera with amyI am intrigue by the power of video. Armed with a video enabled cell phone people have captured footage that has captured our minds and hearts. Why? Video allows an emotion connection because it involved more senses, sight sound and feelings!

Think about it. Video has consumed America. Youtube claims that half of Americans view videos and share then virally with their friends. Youtube claims the number two search engine  spot more and more.

So why real estate. According to NAR, 39% of all homes sold in 2008 were found on the Internet. Many consumers go online long before they contact us. Video  allows you to create trust and can motive those prospects to contact you!

So how do you get started?

Don’t go crazy spending money. First think about using the video feature on your digital camera,  or purchase the well known TheFlip video camera. If you want a little more camera consider the Sanyo Xacti HC1010. This is a high def camera that has great sound and a swivel screen so you can see what you are videoing.

Start simple. Here are 5 different types of videos you can start one.

  • Testimonials, (new homeowners in front of their home, or at the signing table)
  • Area (Show us why living in your area is the best!)
  • Neighborhoods (as a “neighborhood expert”, show us your favorite dry cleaners, best hamburger, favorite playground)
  • Events (pull out your video camera and hand it around, they’ll interview others around them for you)

How long should a video be? – The shorter the better. Videos under 2 or 3 minutes work best.

Should video be raw (as shot) or Edited and if so what to use to edit? Mike Mueller, my friend and a wonder with The Flip suggests:

Always edit if at all possible.  Cut the beginning and the end to length, snip out anything in the middle and add your branding; Make sure you include contact info, titles and links to items referenced in the video.

Most Important:  Use but minimize the transition effects and use a tripod whenever possible.

As for what program to use, it depends on if you have a Mac or PC.  Mac has imovie which does wonderful stuff, for the PC user they can use Windows Movie Maker.  Both are free and simple to use.

Other programs that I like and use (not free) are Camtasia Studio, and Sony Vegas  Movie Studio. Each has its benefits.

Most every editing program has a Storyboard and Timeline view.  You can alternate between the two.  You’ll need to be in Storyboard to insert transitions, and you’ll need to be in Timeline to clip the length and add titles.

Ok, so we’ve created our video, now what do we do with it? Stay tuned . . .

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Business Marketing

Psst! Want to Buy Some Technology?

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Salvation … or Sellers of Snake Oil?

You can’t swing a dead cat these days without hitting yet another new company, enhanced web site or new product to “help” agents during these lean times.  When they release these new or improved products/services/enhancements, are they on to that “thing” that will change the market.  Is there a silver bullet that will return us to a vibrant market (or at least one that’s less than dismal)?  Maybe.

Are RE Tech companies opportunistic??!!

The bigger question is: are companies taking advantage of agents’ fear of extinction by developing products, websites, software, widgets, etc.?  More important, will that new bright shiny wysiwyg truly drive toward solving the core problem?  Do the RE Tech companies, or big brand Realtors® really have their fingers on the pulse of what buyers and sellers of real estate need, or are they preying on the fears of agents?

Buyer come back!

People aren’t buying real estate as much now as they were for a myriad of reasons: lack of cash, distrust real estate’s value, uncertain employment, lack of financing options … the list goes on.  The bottom line is these factors have created a fearful market.

Fear causes paralysis

Are the RE tech companies and big RE Brokers going the right direction?  Is a new widget, blogging tool, a plethora of data (historical, by the way – not necessarily telling as to what will happen in the future) going to instill enough confidence to bring buyers back?  I don’t think so. 

Nobody has it right.  Yet. 

How does a blog instill confidence?  How does a Zestimate, Trulia Voices, user contributed content, pictures of neighborhoods, walkability, neighbor comments, automated marketing systems, a CMA or software designed to help agents find blue-eyed, left handed investors bring back buyers?    

Double dog dare you …

Zillow, Trulia, Cyberhomes, Realtor.com, and big RE brands – Century 21, Coldwell Banker and ReMax – what are you doing to address this?  Are enhanced listings or a prettier GUI your answer?  Is that honestly enough to reinstate confidence in real estate?  The money is out there.  No, not the free for all we’ve seen over the last several years, but there are potential buyers out there hesitating out of fear.

Hyundai figured it out

Hyundai’s recent campaign to let people return cars if they lose their income hit the nail on the head.  Brilliant example of recession marketing.  This struck right at the core of buyer’s uncertainty.  Sales of the Hyundai Sonata reportedly surged 85% in January, making it one of the country’s top-selling vehicles.

No, you can’t buy back a house. But, can you offer a buyer’s guarantee?  I think it would give me some piece of mind if as a buyer I was guaranteed that after five years my house will sell for at least what I paid (barring damage or changes that devalue the property).  I’m sure there are RESPA issues here, and all kinds of arguments about why this won’t work. But, isn’t the idea worth entertaining?

Buck it (the trend, that is)

Come on companies!  If a car company can do it, why can’t real estate?  Stop worrying about answering to your investors, VC’s, IR or PR folks, and start coming up with real solutions that will give people the confidence to get back into the market!!  If we stop worrying about eyeballs, traffic, perceived value, positioning and ego and don’t over analyze or complicate we get to solution.

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Business Marketing

The 100th Monkey Effect

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Do You Know Ze’ Monkey?

Are you familiar with The 100th Monkey Effect?  The notion that you and I, yours, mine and humankind, we are all connected by a flexing delicate web of unseen subconscious energy and the universal collective knowledge of our species.

The 100th Monkey Effect Experienced 

You’ve seen The 100th Monkey Effect in simultaneous scientific gee-whiz discoveries like Calculus, Sunspots, Typewriting and the freaking Telephone.   Malcom Gladwell wrote on the subject in his New Yorker article titled, “IN THE AIR – Who says big ideas are rare?.  Wikipedia outlines the pros, cons and WTHs HERE.

You’ve personally experienced the effect too.  For example, white plate plain, a house languishes longtime unshown.  Shazam, on the same day, not one, but three offers roll in.  

Want another example?  Ok.  

You’re booked on the 6:07pm flight to Vegas.  Your business is responsibly zipped up and cooled out.   At 3:07pm you toss your bags in back and head for the airport.  Smiling like tomorrow’s lottery winner, you board.  Surprisingly, phone calls from perviously MIA buyers and sellers begin to roll in, “We want to buy now.  We must list tomorrow!”   Happens all the time right?

Friends, this is the 100th Monkey Effect in action.

The 100th Monkey Effect & Surveys

The subject of surveys is buzzing, flexing and blooming.  I’m speaking about using Consumer Surveys to identify your strengths, opportunities, challenges and triumphs.  Using surveys to provide current and prospective clients with transparent analysis, feedback and evaluation.  Using surveys as the garden path to follow-up, reengage and request referrals.

Check out these recent Survey Story sightings. All share smart insight, approach and consideration.

1000Watt Consulting guru Marc Davidson wrote a blog post titled “What If You Recieved This In Your Inbox?” 

Redfin CEO, Greg Kelman shares his Consumer Survey sentiment with his post titled “A Call To Arms.”

Brandie Young – Marketing savant and AgentGenius.com contributor, penned this, “Get Word Of Mouth – FAST”

SurveyMonkey.com

SurveyMonkey.com is a super simple way to create professional, fast surveys .  Online anytime, create, send, collect and analyze your results.  No postage costs, no dead trees.  Small surveys are FREE. Splash out creatively and exponentially for less than 20 bucks a month.   As a Sales Manager, I use Survey Monkey with my Icon Team Members.  It’s easy – here’s a recent  SAMPLE Survey.

If I were a high flying, aspirational real estate agent like you, I would send at least two surveys to my buying  and selling clients.  One during the transaction and one after the transaction. I’d jazz my contact and conversation by  polling, quizzing and engaging my sphere of influence at least four times a year.

What types of questions should you ask?  Great examples and approaches are outlined in the three posts above.  My personal opinion, the type of questions you ask is not as important as the asking.  Don’t agonize over the questions, agonize over inaction.  Take action, create, send and follow-up.  Today would be nice.

There’s power is in the action of sending the survey, it shows you care.  Beauty and prosperity building occurs when you follow-up and engage in On-Purpose, In-Person Conversation.  

I hear this all the time,  “I know I need to talk to people but I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what to talk about.”  This is simple, send the Survey, call and ask if they received it.  Call and ask if there are any questions that should be added.  Call and thank them for positive comments.  Call and recover by addressing and correcting un-positive feedback.  Call, call, call.

Should you mail a survey too?  Sure, why not?  Get to it.

Seven Pointers:

Short is best.  Long is worst.

Ask Questions that invite written answers.

Write questions in your own voice, not stuffy, corporate BS style ad speak.

Don’t sit on your butt and think about it, do it. Do it today!

Don’t send a survey, then do nothing.  

Do send the survey, follow-up In-Person and On-Purpose.  

Remember, it takes Personal Contact to Write Contracts.  Get to it:-)

What Survey Questions Work Best?

Marc Davidson, Greg Kelman and Brandie Young share keen examples and inspirational angles of approach in their blog posts (included above).  I know you have some savvy thoughts on the subject, share the questions you would ask….or, maybe you’re asking them now.  Share them in the comments and we’ll all WIN, so will our clients.  

Thanks – Rock on!

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