A Changing Industry
In just the past fifteen years, the way real estate has been marketed to the public has changed significantly, and it is about to change again. In discussing these changes I want to be clear that the purpose of this post is not to blast the real estate industry, but rather showcase the point that social media may be the final push that forces the real estate industry to finally maximize current technology to benefit home sales. All major industries have their issues. For our local real estate market, it has been its inability to fully capitalize on technology. However, the extreme popularity of social media may soon force our local industry to truly maximize previously untapped technology in several different areas of the industry.
Through the late 1990s, real estate was being marketed in much the same way it had been in the 1950s. A small booklet was published each week with the current MLS listings and it was distributed to each brokerage. Realtors would go out and see the properties on tour day and then set up a tour for their clients of possible matches. After 2000, buyers and sellers started to regularly use the internet to track down possible matches. Within the last seven years, buyers and sellers could freely search the MLS on the web and gain valuable information on the property prior to setting up a visit. Virtual tours and an abundance of other information was suddenly instantly available through sites such as Trulia, Zillow, RedFin and MLSListings.com. The ability to have much of the relevant information prior to visiting the home marked a significant change in the way real estate was marketed to the public. It also changed the role of most real estate agents.
Behind the Curve
My experience with our local real estate industry is it has always been behind the curve with regard to technology. It in other words, the industry has never been pro-active enough in matching their technology to the true needs of the consumer. Conversely, a good example is to look at what Redfin did with their online presence. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe the Redfin model has major holes and the ultimately comes up short on many fronts, but they nailed the online technology that every other brokerage should have been aiming for but simply did not produce. Why was Redfin successful with their online work? Because they took the time to maximize the technology outside of the basic real estate web pages and online presence and gave the consumer a user-friendly interface with the statistics and information most consumers were looking for. Change is not exactly embraced by most realtors and the industry as a whole. Given our Silicon Valley location, this is simply unacceptable. For example, perhaps you have had the joy of downloading and printing out a 200 page disclosure package. Aside from this being a complete waste of resources, it is inefficient and time consuming. In fairness, some companies have entered the market place, such as Docusign, which allow for the management of the entire transaction, including online signatures. However, I would be willing to wager that maybe 1 in 25 agents actually use Docusign or something similar. Why are more agents not taking advantage of services that could save resources and add to efficiency? Three reasons:
(1) as mentioned, most involved in real estate do not like change. The unknown factor for many represents too great of a risk; and
(2) many brokerages have archaic and uninspired marketing techniques that are taught to their associates; and
(3) many brokerages and the industry in general have been unsuccessful in convincing the majority of realtors on the marketing benefits of the mostly untapped technology market as it relates to real estate. Third-party participants in the real estate industry such as companies like Docusign, are at the mercy of those using their product. Obviously, it is difficult to encourage more companies to inject products of ingenuity into the real estate world if their consumer is going to be less than thrilled to purchase them.
Another example of the inefficiency in the real estate world can be found on the hardware side of technology. There is no doubt that Apple products are much better at showcasing and working with real estate matters. Everything from presentations, to marketing, to easy integration with laptop and phone capabilities, Apple is simply a step ahead as it relates to marketing real estate for sale. However, many of the sites local realtors use for drafting forms and marketing materials, are not Apple compatible. It’s a frustrating scenario that has kept the real estate industry as a whole from not reaching its potential from a technology standpoint.
Enter Social Media
Social media may be the one dominant force that finally gives the real estate industry the kick in the pants that it deserves. Social media is everywhere. Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and a host of others are becoming a staple in the lives of millions of people, especially in Silicon Valley. The ability to post, repost, tweet, recommend, like, tag, search and every other term available to get your message out via social media is simply not being used anywhere close to its fullest potential. As a listing agent, you have two primary responsibilities: (1) obtain the highest price for your client’s home; and (2) make sure the transaction is completed efficiently with as little risk as possible to your client. Now, social media will not solve (2) above, but it could have a major impact on (1). It stands to reason that the more qualified buyers who view your client’s home, the better the chance you have of obtaining the best possible offer. Social media allows this to happen easily, and at really no cost to the agent or the seller. What other type of marketing can offer a seller this type of return on their investment? The ability to send out write-ups on the listing, photos, virtual tours, comments, and a host of other items that could introduce a possible buyer for the property is tremendous.
People are absolutely addicted to social media. If you are trying to market something, it stands to reason that you would want to be front and center in the middle of something that people cannot get enough of. Additionally, with social media, most people are connected to people who are family, friends and colleagues….in other words, a host of people who most likely share many commonalities with the user. It’s also reasonable to assume that those people connected to you on social media are also connected to third parties who may also share commonalities with you.. The ability to share and forward homes for sale through this medium is absolutely critical and cuts to the very core of why social media is so successful. The ability to reach a core target with very little leg work is social media at its finest. Working with your realtor to establish a comprehensive social media campaign is absolutely crucial.
The true beauty of social media for real estate is that the benefits are so overwhelmingly positive, with absolutely no downside, including a cost of $0.00. With this being so painfully obvious, the real estate industry may have no choice but to finally jump in with both feet to maximize the use of technology.