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The HAR agent productivity app and other false signs of the real estate apocalypse

Above the effervescence of cheers and applause for HAR’s new agent productivity app, fear and absolutes rise like hot steam. Not all in real estate are hailing Bob’s Hale’s HAR-don for transparency. Many believe publishing agent sales stats will:

  • End the big box brokerage
  • Spell doom for real estate brands
  • Level the playing field
  • Raise the bar
  • Confuse the public
  • Thin the agent herd
  • Create a new brand of superhero agent
  • Leave EBA’s in the lurch
  • Create an unfair representation of what an agent does

I don’t buy any of this. What HAR is doing is important. It’s pure. Inspired. And a long time coming. But game changing? I’m not so sure.

Real estate’s history is replete with disruptive events and dire predictions that never materialized.

Let me jump-start your memory:

1995: “The lion over the hill” is conjured. The Internet was going to replace Realtors.

2000: The stock market crashes. Many predict housing would follow.

2001: The jihad many thought would decimate the real estate market does just the opposite.

2005: The fuse of fear is lit by the Bobbsey twins of real estate, Zillow and Trulia. Sparks flew. Not one ignited.

2007: The bubble bursts. America’s heart is heavy. The real estate agent is painted as the least trusted professional in America in colors millions seem blind to.

2008: The gallop of horsemen trumpeting the housing apocalypse is heard. More doom. More gloom. The industry perseveres.

2009: Real estate’s insipid buffalo is let loose inside the world’s social media china shop. Even I feared the worst. I was wrong.

California sunlight.

Sweet Calcutta rain.

Honolulu star bright…

The song remains the same

If you think HAR’s move is catastrophic, you place too much stock in HAR, too much stock in data and way too much stock in human beings.

In the face of sound advice, oodles of data and stern warnings people continue to:

  • Move to cities high in crime and low in culture in search of 4,000 square-foot dreams.
  • Smoke cigarettes despite the death threat published right on the box.
  • Jam down fast food that bears very little resemblance to its namesake.

Are we to believe people will change their natural tendencies and get all Albert Einstein on real estate?

The truth about people is that we are only lightly motivated by facts and data. Especially when it comes to real estate. Sure, we look around online but we always have and always will buy homes based on emotion and use agents we don’t know and who may not be all that experienced.

The simple truth

HAR’s application will serve to help everyone. Even those agents who do not sell forty homes a year.

Consider this: Agent A has sold forty homes so far this year. Agent B has only sold four. You check with HAR and learn that of the forty homes Agent A sold, the one closest to your home was ten miles away whereas of the four Agent B sold, three were within one mile and one was on your street. Which would you choose? Common sense might dictate Agent B. Then again, Agent A might have a cute dog. And when it comes down to it, as every agent knows, personality and pets tug harder at the heart than common sense.

Let’s not forget that every agent was once a newbie with no experience and no clients. They kicked-off their career with friends, family or through some wonderful coincidence that clears a path to a closing despite the odds – and the data.

This will never change. Ever. Real estate is about me bumping into you at the right moment and you helping me buy a home. And all the wonderful variations of this reality.

HAR’s endeavor, of which I am in full support, is not a problem. It is a bold move from a bold leader that will positively impact – but not upend – a fantastically durable industry.

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25 Responses to “The HAR agent productivity app and other false signs of the real estate apocalypse”

  1. Michael McClure says:

    Marc,

    I am still waiting for a blog post from you that disappoints. Foiled again!

    I love the historical perspective. Such great examples.

    I’d love to say more, but I have a Glamour Shots sitting this afternoon with my Shih-Tzu, and I cannot be late…

    In the light,
    Michael

  2. mjeffers99 says:

    I did a search using the app. Drew a box and found that 9 agents had sold a property within the box in the last 90 days. Each sold exactly 1. Not one agent with more than one. It also showed listings within the box. 23, no agent with more than 1. Great for showing me the activity inside the box, really not a lot of value aside from providing a list of agents I might consider interviewing. If you say, well you should have searched further back and you would see perhaps an agent that sells more than the others. I say, what do I care who sold a house here last year. I’m thinking of selling now. I think consumers will appreciate the data, and will use it to see who is active in their area right now, and perhaps brokerages will use it to both congratulate and motivate agents to prospect again.

  3. Kristin Walker says:

    I certainly wouldn’t say this service is apocalyptic (which seems to be the nouveau mot du jour), but how relevant are sales numbers and agent productivity to the general public? Sure, the brokerage firm loves it – “Jane Smith is our Top Producer!!” – but what do those numbers really mean? Does the agent who has 26 listings (and therefore potentially higher sales numbers) provide their clients better, more creative service than the one who only has 5? Does the agent who sells one $5,000,000 home by luck, really have twice as much clout than the one who sells four $600,000 homes? When you create a public numbers game, agents may start to work even harder, but you are also fostering a scenario ripe for cheating, ethical variances, and cutthroat-do-whatever-it-takes kind of attitudes. Realtor reviews and localization based on where an agent is selling, or what their area of expertise is are all good ideas and will help the general public – but sales numbers? I think it may just serve to tick people off. After all, wasn’t it our industry’s huge sales numbers in the boom that contributed to the reputation of “least trusted sales professional”? When it becomes 100% clear that someone’s random so-so real estate agent neighbor is making $300,000 a year – people might get just a little bit mad.

  4. The Mayor says:

    Your Bobbsey Twin moniker for Trulia & Zillow, why didn’t I think of that? I’m going to go jot that down in my clever phrase notebook for future use.

    “Real estate is about me bumping into you at the right moment and you helping me buy a home.” Brilliant summary.

    And believe Professional One when he says he’s taking his pooch in for a portrait, I would expect nothing less of him than to use every tool in the chest.

  5. Ken Brand says:

    My concern is publishing and promoting a metric that doesn’t include other important factor is a disservice. For example if it was decided that the proper metric for evaluating cars is 0-60, would we think that’s a great step in the right direction? There’s so much more to consider.

    I’m all for agent ratings, but before we launch something that is thin, and supposedly good for the consumer, let’ add other important considerations. Considerations the consume might not be aware of. Things like Days On Market, Sold Price To List Price %, etc.

    Let’s beef it up, add other important stuff and really make it an important and valuable tool. Right now, it’s sorta lame.

    My 2cents.

  6. Tim Ney says:

    What’s all the fuss about?

    In our industry transparency is what sets us apart from other real estate professionals” Most customers have no idea how many transactions a real estate agent closes, how to determine their level of experience or to ensure that they have chosen the right agent. My feeling is that the number one fear of a customer is that they will be misled in some fashion.

    Our industry is about relationships and trust” which means being as transparent as possible. I hear buzz words at company meetings about integrity, accountability, being authentic” You have to live it not speak it. You are hired by customers because they trust you to be open and honest” to take care of them” Whether you do 40 or 5 transactions is mute. It may also be the case that a customer does not want to work with an agent who has 40 transactions to work on”

    Bottom line is that HAR will only create more transparency for the customer. If you are open, honest and professional” what else matters?

  7. Marc says:

    Ken,

    Valid concerns. But given the fact that currently all the consumer has to go on is promotional hyperbole by agents, unsubstantiated monikers like “Top Producer” and/or silly branding antics concocted in a vacuum, this is a wonderful step in the right direction.

    To your point, more information would of course be wonderful. Opening the data up for comments and allowing agents to posts more facts could be even more beneficial for everyone.

    I’m taking an iPad view of it. In other words, while it’s limited in it’s offering, what it does offer is breakthrough, important and beneficial on it’s own.

    Having only known HAR from afar, I am not privy to their inner workings as others might be but from my perch, they do things methodically and with clear intent and my guess is there is more to come.

    To my point, I’ve found events like this tend to inspire big reactions at both ends of the reaction spectrum when in fact, very little every turns out to be really bad or really great. They really end up absorbed into the great mashup of what real estate is.

    I don’t foresee this release of info to be anything anywhere near detrimental to real estate and could in fact be something of real interest that might drive some new business to agents.

    The good thing, we’ll know soon enough how it all pans out.

  8. Tyler Wood says:

    Lots of great points in the post and comments. I agree this is a step in the right direction, opening the doors of transparency even more. Will it be the finished product, most likely not. Will it be the end of the world for newbie agents or those that do not do a lot of transactions, nope.

    Maybe it’s just me, but a lot of consumers I talk with want to do business with someone who does a lot of business, is productive, and has the stats to prove it. I agree that customer satisfaction and other factors are just as important, but I still think consumers today look at transaction levels and get a level of trust from that. “This agent does a lot of business, they must be doing something right” they may think.

    With some tweaking as mentioned, I think it is a great step forward for our industry.

  9. Barrett Powell says:

    Hum. What I find ironic is that we sit here debating whether or not you should be able to see how many houses your Realtor has sold, but we still can’t find out if our surgeon has been sued for malpractice before.

  10. Toni G says:

    The most important factor in any transaction is the agent that produces the “buyer” — that is the information that should be published by any association. The listing agent has the easy part, take the listing, kick it on MLS and wait for someone to bring a buyer; or for a consumer to call them direct. In my opnion, this would do nothing to improve the industry. For those that are not dealing RE on a 24/7 basis and only deal with the marketing aspect “to promote the big companies or agent” please do not comment when you have NO IDEA what is involved with listings and/or sales. Providing that information will do nothing for the consumer, only inflate the EGO of the listing agent and/or broker that lucks out with the listing.

  11. Tyler Wood says:

    With all due respect Toni, I disagree.

    In my opinion, the listing agent’s job is not necessarily to sell the property but rather to make sure it sells for the most possible money. There’s a difference between the two. If they sell it, great. But, the odds are another agent will be involved. Isn’t that one of the main points of the MLS? To say they just put it in the MLS and get lucky is bit simplistic and naive in my opinion. Any good listing agent or marketer will tell you that.

  12. Toni G says:

    Tyler,

    With all due respect, I am all too familiar with the role of a listing agent and its’ responsibilties. Yes, I agree about price. However, there is more involved to make you an expert in listing roperties, such as correct pricing, knowing the area, knowing the house and its’ history, and take your role as a professional seriously when marketing a property. Since it is all about transparency that the assoication is trying to establish, why not indicate how many price reductions, how many days on the market, the difference form “list” price and “get” price. And of course, the agent that produces the buyer, if that is the case.

  13. Bill Lublin says:

    Marc;
    I agree with you on all of your points –
    1. HAR is taking a bold move –
    2. Wrealtor.orghether its a good or bad one for either the consumer or the industry will play out in the future (and probably not the way any of us think it will)
    3. People act from convenience and emotion in their real estate purchases
    4. People will not change their natural tendencies and get all Albert Einstein on real estate (a phrase I find myself deeply enamored of)

    I do think that its interesting that the number of units an agent sells is still equated with their proficiency or the level of advocacy and skill they bring to a new client or potential transaction – the truth is there really isn’t a correlation – you could sell a quantity of homes without being the best possible representative for a potential seller – maybe you sell so many because your sellers are intimidated into accepting the first offer they get or acceptng terms that might not be optimal for them. Even the number of homes they sell in a specific market only shows where they are most active, not that they are the best agent for the job.While it does indicate a familiarity with that marketplace, it doesn’t mean that the agent is the hardest working, most creative, or the best negotiator – it only indicates (factually) that they had the highest volume. Perhaps I’m alone in the experience but I knew an agent who was extremely high volume and hard working, but really difficult to work with because they didn;t take care of details and were much more insterested in facilitating the transaction than being the best advocate for their client – not that they didn;t do an acceptable job, but they didn;t do the ‘best’ job – and the cooperating agent always needed to be the ‘laboring oar’ in any transaction.

    In any case – great and thought provoking article – thanks

  14. Bill Lublin says:

    sorry for the ‘Wrealtor.orghether ” instead of ‘whether’ – but that is the danger of working across 2 computers with one keyboard;-)

  15. Matthew Ferrara says:

    Interesting points – and I mostly agree. However, most consumers really don’t search for an agent; they search for homes. Agents are found through referral and repeat business 64% of the time.

    We’ve seen websites and apps in the past that have tried to “rank” the agents and somehow communicate this to the public. But the research shows that most people find their professional (agent, lawyer, accountant, hair dresser, etc) from other people, not apps, Google searches or postcard mailings…

    Maybe HAR should work on something that helps its agents actually SELL more homes, rather than rank who’s doing it or not… just saying… :> Keep up the good blog posting!

    Matthew Ferrara
    http://www.matthewferrara.com

  16. Carmen Brodeur says:

    I would love it if they would publish agent stats in Arizona. It would be very useful to objectively rank our peers…but would it be useful to the public? I’m not so sure. I don’t think the majority of the public would bother going to the website to look at the stats. We currently have a very open transparent system in Arizona where any member of the public can look at an agent’s history of complaints and discipline. There are several agents with a sketchy history that still do very well. So apparently their clients either aren’t looking at it or don’t care.

  17. Greg Cooper says:

    Not knowing everything about the app, my personal concern is that it’s not an accurate reflection. I’m a co agent for my team leader on dozens of properties and basically do all the work on those transactions. Further, all of my buyers go through him for the volume credit. We agreed to it when we partnered and I’m fine with it unless I’m going to penalized for it. This leads to a larger point. How will teams be handled in this formula and doesn’t it then become difficult to distinguish who’s productive and who’s not? To be clear I am ALL FOR TRANSPARENCY…but not if it reflects negatively on me in an incorrect way.

  18. Jim Canion says:

    Good post Marc. Here in Houston HAR is widely respected and clearly deserves that respect. Anything that will help raise the status of our industry in the eyes of the public should be welcomed. I am not sure this does much though since the agents with big numbers were already touting them and the public doesn’t seem to care about stats. To raise the bar of respect it will take the effort of every single agent one step at a time. Seeking daily excellence and looking out and acknowledging it in others will do more than anything else in my opinion.
    Jim Canion

  19. Randy Hazle says:

    Great morning, I want to say thank you for an great blog about a subject I’ve had an interest in for quite some time now. I’ve been browsing in and reading the commentary and so just wanted to voice my thanks for giving me some really useful reading material. I look ahead to reading more, and taking a more active part in the chats here, while picking up some knowledge too :D

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