In a recent meeting with real estate industry leaders, we played the role of clients purchasing property in today’s market. We randomly established the customer profile, as a family comprised of a young couple with two teenage children that were buying their first home.
The couple began by searching for information on the internet which helped establish desired communities and house styles. Next they researched financing online and contacted a loan officer to find out how much home they could comfortably qualify for.
Armed with information they had collected they started visiting open houses and calling agents from yard signs in the areas that they were now targeting. They visited an open house that they liked and asked the agent to write an offer for them.
Another scenario brought the agent into the process after the loan officer referred the couple to an agent to help them find a home.
Since the majority of the participates in this exercise hold real estate licenses and have practiced real estate in the past, we could not help but notice the startling changes in the steps then and now. There is a recognizable difference in an agent’s role in days of yore when customers walked into a real estate office and asked for assistance and today when buyers have sometimes identified the home they want to purchase before contacting an agent to structure the deal.
Of course, change is inevitable in any industry, and the individuals in the group have worked through the recent changes, but there is something about seeing it on a whiteboard that makes a big impression.
What impact have the changes in the buying process had on the role of the agent?
When customers used to depend on agents to find properties, and show them one by one over a period of time, rapport and trust were generally developed during this showing stage. Now, since technology provides the platform for the majority of consumers to begin and advance their home search without an agent, and agents enter the process later rather than at the beginning, there is less time invested in building bonds that bind.
Let’s face it. We can’t change the impact that technology has made…nor would we want to. And I will never suggest that an agent turn down the opportunity to work with a customer who is well on their way through the home buying process. However, we must not lose sight of ways to help customers from the start and ways to increase our value to consumers.
A few ways to start at the beginning of the process are:
1. Providing consumer education classes that explain the home buying process step by step.
2. Holding open houses in order to give buyers the opportunity to experience homes on their own.
3. Providing consumer friendly websites with industry information, community information, and housing details for customer searches.
4. Utilizing social networking to detect real estate interests. (Careful with this one. Social networking is for relationship building and not to be used as a sales tool.)
Getting involved with buyers at the beginning of the process, conditions for a stronger bond and a trusting relationship with a customer that will carry you through the closing as well as through many years to come. This relationship establishes the reputation of a real estate professional, not just a real estate agent.
Technology may have changed the agent’s role in a real estate transaction. But, the importance and value of building lasting, trustworthy relationships will never be replaced by technology.
What do you do to help buyers at the start of their home search?