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The biggest failure of the real estate industry – communication

Failure to communicate

Nobel Prize winner for Literature, George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” What we find a top consumer complaint to be regarding Realtors is poor communication. A psychologist recently recounted to us her experience with a Realtor and noted that she found the agent to be abrasive, borderline rude, but they were pleased with her service because she was a pit bull at the negotiation table, and most importantly, she communicated with her clients frequently, even to simply report that there was nothing to report.

When we ask consumers what they don’t like about Realtors, it is never that they find agents to be cocky, stupid, or anything derogatory, rather complain that communication is terrible in their experience. Why is this the case? Why do consumers have this perception?

The panicked feeling about having no news to communicate

In a down economy, many agents know that panicked feeling when the phone rings and it is their listing client on day 120, wondering why it has been weeks since anyone toured the home. Clients don’t believe that no news is good news, nor do they believe that no news is bad news, rather are putting their biggest asset into an agent’s hands and are nervous, even in a hot market.

Shaw hits the nail on the head about communication, in our opinion, in that many agents often feel as if they have communicated because nothing has changed with a listing since the last phone call. For consumers that are pleased with communication levels from their agent, like the psychologist, they typically point to communication that is predictable. In this case, she said that every Wednesday night, they knew their agent was going to call and tell them not only the status of their home, but the status of the market.

For example, “your house looks good” is far inferior to a call that says, “your home had two tours, one agent gave feedback that the second bedrooms are too small, and I am still expecting a call to be returned from the other agent to get his feedback. The flyer box was refilled three times this week, and we need to meet this week to prepare for the broker open in two weeks in case it is still on the market. Two houses in your subdivision have gone up for sale this week and one has a pending contract and the agent who sold the house works in my office and said the offer accepted was within $2,000 of the asking price, so that’s good news. Because your home was built by one of the town’s founders, I have some calls in to local reporters to see if they would be willing to write about it.”

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Having a game plan

When communicating over the phone or over email, it is ideal to do so on a regular basis with clients, and offer the following:

  1. Summary of all activity pertaining to the client (listing info, loan status, etc.)
  2. Summary of neighborhood activity if pertinent
  3. What actions you have taken since you last spoke
  4. What plans of action you have for the coming week (set expectations)
  5. Offer to answer any questions

With a plan of action, that panicky feeling will be far less, because you will have set expectations and have something tangible to deliver, because in this market “nothing is going on” is the most common answer, so agents find themselves not checking in with clients (thus driving them crazy). So, take the anxiety out of communicating with clients and have a game plan, because phoning a client three weeks ago to tell them no news is, as Shaw alluded, an illusion that communication has taken place, thus communication has failed.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Matthew Collis

    September 12, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Great article! In my opinion, it's vital that Realtors use the technology and tools available to them to ensure consistent communication with their clients and those in their SOI takes place!

  2. Dona L. Crane

    September 12, 2011 at 10:33 am

    Great information! It was very helpful to me.

  3. Michael Bolton

    September 12, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Great post! Communication is very important; and would greatly improve the quality of real estate transactions if both Realtors and appraisers communicated more often. I’ve been appraising for the past fourteen years, and I'm still surprised how few appraisers reach out to real estate agents.

  4. Property Management

    September 12, 2011 at 12:12 pm

    With today's technology, there are many options that a person involved in real estate business can opt for to have better communication with their clients/costumer.

  5. Brandon

    September 12, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    We see this all the time on our site. Clients really, really appreciate the real estate agents that are available to them (by phone, e-mail or text) and have the information they're looking for (neighborhood, schools, trends, community).

  6. Pingback: The Top 7 Qualities Your Real Estate Agent Should Have

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