Relationship advice

“Real estate is a relationship business.”

This idea has been drilled into my head over the last 15 years.

And rightly so. Buying and selling a home is not only a big financial endeavor, it’s also fraught with emotions like fear, anxiety, pride, frustration, hope. For this reason, working with an agent you either know, or who’s at least worked with someone you know, can be reassuring.

I have yet to meet anyone in real estate who refutes this.

And then there’s this parallel reality:

The list of tasks that agents are taught – and expected – to do seems to grow every year: keep up an online presence, write content, engage on social media, attend local events, use apps or software for collaboration and follow up, be an amazing on listing presentations, stage every house to perfection, negotiate every deal with conviction, know every local market statistic, recommend without hesitation good local painters/plumbers/electricians. And of course every agent in 2017 faces a relentless need to generate, instantly respond to and nurture “leads”.

Etc. Etc. Etc.

This reality sabotages every working agent’s chances of building the relationships necessary to succeed in this business.

For a busy agent, there are a million things to do in order to keep the bus on the road. And no one is offering to drive while an agent makes the rest of the passengers feel heard, understood and in good hands. Instead, the agent is driving while everyone on the bus is talking and the agent either misses a turn from listening or she misses important details being discussed in the back (details that are often critical to the relationship piece).

This model doesn’t seem sustainable. It doesn’t serve agents well and certainly doesn’t serve buyers and sellers well. Distracted drivers rarely create good outcomes.

And honestly, this model doesn’t serve brokers well either. We’ve met many over the years who spent a fortune implementing new technology to help agents generate leads or automate tasks only to have a slim percentage of their agents even set it up, let alone use it.

It seems to me that brokers who are struggling to stay relevant and profitable could gain something by evaluating everything they do – every technology and service they offer – by whether or not it helps agents cultivate more relationships and build better reputations.

Otherwise the “real estate is a relationship business” mantra is total BS.

Taking relationships seriously, for instance, would mean teaching market insight classes to agents instead of selling them automated market data software that sends emails written by engineers to their clients on their behalf. It would mean creating a culture of hand-crafted deals that require attention to detail and expertise rather than a culture of leads, conversion and sales volume.

It would mean slowing down because relationships take time.

There are brokers out there who get this. We’re lucky enough to work with a few. I’ve been learning a lot from them about the value they bring to agents and the marketplace and how challenging – and rewarding – it is to maintain their position.

The reason technology hasn’t displaced agents is because they are human and can form human relationships. But meanwhile the world outside is trying really hard to take human agents and turn them into technology-slinging robots with no time for anyone or anything.

Seems really backwards to me – like the industry is stabbing itself in the back instead of nurturing what the market around it sees as its most valuable asset. That feels dangerous in a time when new entrants are continuously questioning the agent’s value and agents are continuously questioning what their broker can and should do for them.