What's up with REALTORS Who Love Tech?

I forgot an angle on this post about agent ratings and consumers that’s more in line with the light and snappy flow of this blog.

As the NAR survey, flawed as it might be, shows, consumers overwhelmingly want these skills/qualities in a REALTOR:

  • Honesty and Integrity – 98%
  • Knowledge of purchase process – 96%
  • Responsiveness – 93%
  • Knowledge of real estate market – 92%
  • Communication skills – 85%
  • Negotiation skills – 84%
  • People skills – 79%
  • Knowledge of local area – 79%

The one quality that majority of consumers don’t care about? Skills with technology, at 40%.

So here’s my question.

The REALTORS who love, love, looooove technology, and spend most of their time talking about and studying/learning Facebook, Twitter, SEO, QR Codes, augmented reality, mobile technology, iPhone apps, and the rest of it… should I be assuming that y’all have the top eight skills/qualities mastered?

When I go to a REBarcamp and see literally hundreds of young REALTORS who couldn’t possibly have more than 5-6 years of experience in the business, should I assume that they’ve learned all they can about the local market, knowledge of purchase process, and negotiation skills, such that the only thing left to learn is technology skills?

If the answer is “Yes”, then followup: Is real estate really that easy? Why does a consumer need to pay tens of thousands in transaction fees if it is?

If the answer is “No”, then followup: Why would a professional spend so much time and energy learning things that their clients have said they don’t care about?

What do you think?


35 thoughts on “What's up with REALTORS Who Love Tech?”

  1. I personally think that while they may not care about what *THEY PERCEIVE* about technology skills, it’s obvious that they care that we are RESPONSIVE (93%), COMMUNICATE (85%), not to mention DEMONSTRATE LOCAL KNOWLEDGE (79%) . So how do you think we do all that these days Rob? Technology of course. That just may seem the norm to most consumers these days as they are all here on these platforms too, and perhaps don’t consider it “technology” as such.

    • Maybe it’s just me, Lori, but I find that Sue Adler (for example, who is my listing agent) demonstrates all of those most effectively using 100-year old technology of the telephone.

      Think about tech support. Say you’re having a problem with some piece of software. Would you rather (a) email tech support and wait 24-48 hours; (b) call an automated self-help telephone number; (c) access an online knowledge base with various questions and solutions, or (d) talk to a human being on the phone?

  2. I might also argue that the #1 thing on that list, Honesty and Integrity, can’t be taught. You either are, or you are not. But again, I think it can come across online as well. But the proof of ALL of this is IRL. For sure.

  3. BTW, with my Murphy’s Law Luck with technology, I have had more than my fair share of occasions to overcome my tech meltdowns, with utilizing the phone or fax or whatever other means.But I also tend to talk to my clients/consumers online about the way I do on a phone. Service is service. But when technology works, it is impressive to consumers and can help the agent manage their time to better serve more clients.

    The one thing though that I will truly confess will make you stand out in the crowd these days is this: a handwritten note or two throughout the transaction or on those special occasions. Your clients will NEVER forget that, while they will forget how quick you respond in an e-mail. 😉

  4. The business is a multi-layered cake.

    Technology as a tool impacts all of them. Knowing how to point and shoot your technology tools has benefits in layers like Client Service and Satisfaction, Prospecting, Brand Building and Transaction Management. Learning how to leverage you tools requires continuous education.

    As for area market knowledge, communication, presentation, negotiation, persuasion and people skills, while not as sexy, these layers require continuous education too.

    I believe people are focusing on the technological/social media layers because they are newer, funer, sexier and, well, more social. Plus, it’s easier to look like your a winner, even if you’re not listing and selling a lot, you can look good on technology-paper, so to speak.

    Bottom line, there’s really only one standard, closed sales and happy clients.

    To stay successful or become successful, a pro should focus on all layers of the business, with an emphasis on what yields them highest return. Highest return equals, what knowledge, skills, actions and activities will lead to more closed sales and happy clients.

    My 2 cents.

    • So Ken, looking at that NAR study… say I’m a new-ish agent with 3-4 years experience, and I come to you and ask, “I have about 20 hours a week I could be spending on professional development. What should I focus on, Ken? How many hours should I devote per week to which activity?”

      What would you advise said newish agent?

      • I believe the answer depends on the agents strengths and weaknesses. One size or plan does not fit all.

        NAR also includes in their reports what we experience here in our market. The majority of Homebuyers and Seller’s only contact 1 or 2 agents. The reasons they choose the 1 or 2 out of 100s or 1,000s, are included in your post above. So, whether a rookie or a vet we focus on creating Top Of Mind Awareness (as a trustworthy, knowledgable, choosable agent) within their networks (for direct and referral opportunities) and uncovering a discovering opportunities.

        The most important thing in terms of being productive is a focus on in-person and on-purpose contact and conversations within their networks, tribes and niches. (face to face, some on the phone, some in cyber space). This proactive focus uncovers and attracts listing and selling opportunities – as opposed to waiting for something to happen to you.

        Choosing which layer to focus on depends on the agents strengths and weakness. Let’s say one agent is migrating from a sales and service field and another from engineering. The sales and service person might benefit from investing more time in learning the market than presentation skills. Whereas the other might need to focus heavily on communication and presentation skills. Also, most everything a productive agent does is professional development. For example, previewing property, showing property and creating CMA’s is improving your market knowledge.

        There’s no pat answer for how much time to invest in each layer, it depends on the agent. Having said that, I know lots of agents who are super great people, with lots of knowledge about technology, social media, marketing, etc., but they have few or sad listings and sales success. I also know wildly successful agents with raving fans, and their tech-savvy is so-so.

        In conclusion I would say, invest your time connecting and conversing with people and you’ll uncover or attract listing and selling opportunities. If you’re not talking to people, you’re going nowhere. Learning how to use tech stuff to fast forward your Top of Mind Awareness, connection and conversations is priority #1. Priority #2 is delivering the results required to earn positive word of mouth and referral recommendations. Using technology wisely will accelerate success for both.

        PS. It’s all professional development all the time. That’s what it takes these days.

        PS. It would take a book or hours of conversation to do your question justice.

  5. OutdoorLori, If indeed a person is honest or they’re not then why bother with the Realtor Code of Ethics?
    Proof of honesty doesn’t actually exist In Real Life in all cases. I have met a handful of people in my life who would look right at you and lie to your face….and some of them were Realtors.

    Honesty and integrity, respect, responsibility, justice, beneficence, non-maleficence, compassion, loyalty….all these things CAN be taught. Research in moral development has shown that all humans (with some very minor exceptions such as the mentally retarded or average garden variety sociopath) can definitely grow morally all throughout our lives.

    If indeed this is how the stats shook out in the Realtor survey, it would be wonderful if we saw Realtors pile into their Ethics class eager to learn….but instead ethics is only a required course once every 4 years.

    Rob, the other reason why agents love techie classes or free Bar Camps is because of the diet pill theory: Some agents believe in the idea that they will be able to discover a magic techie tool that will instantly create eager clients out of thin air with no hard work. So they keep showing up at the free camps. The winners are often the vendors selling the techie products.

    Smart Realtors know that the tech tools are not an end in themselves but a means to an end. Used to communicate, negotiate, respond, prove knowledge, and so forth, the tech tools will result in clients but this is a LONG road. Just like diet and exercise are the only way to lose weight long term.

  6. Oh there’s a whole other blog post there Jillayne. I think the Code of Ethics is there for those who either need the guidelines and to know what the retribution will be for violating them. It is a good reminder for those of us who care enough to be concerned too, but I too see those people in our industry who are always going to push the ethical boundaries to get ahead. And that’s what the consumer HATES about our business, hence why I think it’s important to them. Whether or not they get caught here & now, I just take comfort in Karma or Judgement Day (however you believe) in taking care of them.

  7. Those eight qualities/skills should be a given. What consumer would respond negatively to any of those basic attributes. Ken hits it on the head with what I am surprised is not number one on the list – getting the trade/transaction done. I would also argue that given the choice, consumers would opt for obtaining the highest price with the lowest cost and least amount of inconvenience. I doubt, however, NAR offered those options in the survey?

    Brian Hickey

  8. Agent need to learn technology because they are using it to reach clients. If they never reach clients, then they don’t have the chance to demonstrate those other skills 🙂

  9. Technology… all forms get them in the door, or the phone ringing. HOW it is handled and who we are is the fruit of our referrals. IMHO clients want to be in contact with the Realtor that they hired. They want to know what is happening in their neighborhood, in our area feedback from the showing, and weekly updates. They want a relationship.

    • That may be what is changing in the business. Does a buyer want/need a relationship with an agent or is the available technology making a relationship less valuable? I’m also not too sure sellers really want a relationship with their Realtor? If they do, what kind? Friend, business partner, confidant?

      I think these are the type of topics that really need to be thought through, and this is one of the issues/problems that needs to be realized in the new world of social networking, the Internet, transparency etc. IMO, the relationship and the top eight skills/qualities will, over time, be replaced with a less personal and more mechanical transactional based execution model, the brokerage (agent) that offers these services will have an advantage.

      The Internet has proven that things can get done at arms length, fast and less expensively – even though we are talking about local, tangible assets – a lot of these new technologies will undoubtedly make their way into our industry negatively impacting the need for a relationship.

      We’ll see?

      • You make an interesting point about “relationships”. To me, personal relationships are important and desirable, but what’s more valuable is Top Of Mind Awareness as a Trustworthy and Knowledgable Professional. We don’t need to have a personal relationship, but a trustworthy and professional relationship is what I want. If I have that, I’ll be the first person they refer or think of when there’s a need. Cheers.

  10. As a few said above, it’s the tech that gets us in front of today’s client. When asked, I’m sure the client doesn’t care, but if we’re not up on tech it can be harder to communicate via the client’s preferred method – be that e-mail, texting, etc) – which is important to them. A lot of the market knowledge the client desires is online and it’s a lot easier to crunch that market data with a spreadsheet than an abacus.

    @Lori: I agree, the REALTOR Code of Ethics is a useless waste of paper and time. If you didn’t learn ethics and honesty from your parents you are beyond help by the time you earned your license. The Golden Rule is all that is needed and I learned that before I entered Kindergarten. If you really need the CoE as a guideline you probably shouldn’t be in this business.

  11. The NAR study is exactly right. I live in a high-tech area, and I can tell you that clients here don’t select an agent based on the agent’s perceived technology acumen. They absolutely don’t care about your Twitter presence, QR codes, etc. They care about expertise and success in the market. They must feel that they can trust you and that you’ll deliver a high-level of service.

    Many of the agents you’ll see at these conferences are chasing technology because they think that’s the business – and it’s not. For many/most, this is a distraction from doing the hard work necessary to be successful.

    For newer agents you asked “I have about 20 hours a week I could be spending on professional development. What should I focus on? How many hours should I devote per week to which activity?” I would say the need to define their target market and know it better than anyone else. See every home that comes on the market, understand what’s selling, what’s not and why. Your clients need to know the market, and you are their window into it. Meet the agents in your market (not your office) through broker opens and develop professional relationships with them. If you aren’t a natural at sales, then spend time (books, practice scripts, etc) on becoming an effective sales person. Of course, you must also invest time getting leads: farming, prospecting, referrals, etc. Without leads, you have no business.

    Having said all that, I do believe that mastery of technology can make an agent much more productive and more profitable. I think that’s where technology can have the biggest payoff for agents.

  12. I should I be assuming that y’all have the top eight skills/qualities mastered?

    YES, you should assume they have already mastered what I consider the basic skills, EVEN IF THEY HAVE NOT. They are skipping a step to the fun part. Its also the part that you can learn easy compared to other factors that take experience closing deals.

    So most of the newer agents at bar camp may be getting ahead of themselves but their experience will catch up one day as long as they have excellent communication skills built in.

    If you master all of the skills listed and you are tech savvy then you have the edge you need to be successful. I think that new and old agents alike put to much effort into tech as it is already. It is crazy that people put up facebook pages and twitter accounts hoping to find buyers and close deals. I use it to build personal relationships not advertise. People know whats real and fake.

    Most of my new leads come from my websites. I have IDX system and make sure I have the google juice to come on top for a local search. That is combine with knowledge, which is one reason I blog. When a client calls on a house I educate them on the market and the process.

    But its the referral and repeat business that comes from my skills.

    It seems like much of the skills can be grouped into two parts:

    ◦Knowledge of real estate market – 92%
    ◦Knowledge of purchase process – 96%
    ◦Negotiation skills – 84%
    ◦Knowledge of local area – 79%

    This kind of experience comes from closing deals. So if you lack experience then you need to partner with someone who has that local knowledge and negotiation skill. The best thing for a new agent to do is latch on to an experienced listing agent as a buyers agent. They will be motivated to train you because they get paid when you close.

    Communication: (Important too, especially more so if your not strong in the above skills. Also if you are not current with tech your communication points go down)

    ◦Responsiveness – 93% (To me this means how much you are on top of your business. This is a mind set. One of the worst aspects of being in real estate is that your personal time comes secondary to your clients needs.)
    ◦People skills – 79% ( this is your natural ability to relate to other people. Like IQ you can only take this so far. seems like to have people skills you have to be responsive, communicate well and be honest)
    ◦Communication skills – 85% (kind of like responsiveness right)
    â—¦Honesty and Integrity – 98% (built in, you have it or you don’t. This is number one for me I call it “keeping it real”. Without this as a base you have nothing)

    To keep it 100% and be the best its important to have all of these skills. Using tech once you master is the best way to take it to the next level.

  13. I believe Ken hit the proverbial nail on the head with his comment that technology is much sexier than acquiring the other traits. Plus, it’s an almost immediate fix. An agent with adequate funds can buy all of the whizbang gadgets and look competent as they juggle iPads, iPhones, etc. But Rob, you also made a valid point about your own agent who is servicing your business quite well using century-old technology. It’s not the tools, its how you use them. Ansel Adams took some of the world’s most stunning photographs with a $30 camera he bought at a yard sale.

    I tend to believe that many people are looking for shortcuts to success in this industry – or perhaps seeking the silver bullet that will enable them to achieve greatness overnight. Take the recent availability of data vendors who are ready to supply us with the latest numbers to impress our clients. Easy, impressive. . .and totally worthless. Our own MLS has such flawed data that we have to keep our own databases of every property – when it was listed, when it was re-listed, when the price was reduced and more. For example, it is quite common to see a listing that has closed and reflects a sales price of $1,200,000. The most recent list price was $1.4 million, so they report that the home sold for 85% of the original list price. And that it sold in 18 days. What they forget to mention is that the original listing date was 18 months ago and the list price then was $2 million. Guess that wasn’t relevant.

    And don’t get me started on the NAR! I gave up on that group a loooonng time ago.

  14. Technology is nothing more than another tool in the REALTOR® toolbox. Be it the telephone, fax, text, e-mail, or video chat, it’s all about communication and the Clients. You need to be able to communicate with them how they want!

    In my mind the best Technology saves time, money, and paper. Password managers, electronics signatures, smart phones, tablets and computers make you more effective. The ability to use a smart phone to scan documents in the field and send them via e-mail, look up active or sold properties, search for foreclosure properties with Foreclosure Radar saves hours per day. The one constant is we all have only so many hours per day to get things done.

    I think many are missing the boat with the increased importance technology will have on the real estate business. The old school listing agent who handles everything from an cubicle with a desk, phone, and fax machine is fine with a large sphere on influence. The new agent loaded up with all the latest technology bling and a complete lack of experience of the business is missing all the important components and will not likely survive.

    Somewhere in the middle lies the successful agent of the future with a rounded skill set. And yes, I believe there will be a few beacons of light across the country for those bloggers that continue to produce original content and information that prospects are looking for. But, like everything else this is hard work and takes a great deal of effort. Certainly not a path for most agents who would be better served leaning the local markets, honing negotiation skills, and increasing professional knowledge.

    The very best of technology should allow you to answer your phone when it rings. Then it is up to you not to spew verbal vomit at the prospect on the other end of the line.

  15. Rob, I have not read the other comments so excuse this if it is duplicate. Let me tell you why it matters and is a priority in my business. And yes I agree you need the other things on the list too.

    1) When I am doing a listing presentation I ask them how they found me. The answer is always, ALWAYS one of two things. (Remember I have had my license 2.5 years). It is always either referrals or Internet. I am guessing close to 75% of the time it is Internet. So I can tell them that is because I spend time being found online. With the same intensity I will market your house online. Now technology is value added. As far as the referrals I do my best for my clients which usually makes them happy then I stay in touch with them often via Facebook in a clients list I create.

    2) Having all the knowledge in the world will not help you one bit if you dont have clients. My first year I had 0 listings. Since then I have had 31. Of the 31, 20 came from people who saw my videos. The rest were all referrals. In the last 30 days my websites have generated 152 idx signups, not including the ones I get from my great broker. That is why technology is so important to some agents.

    Yes you need a lot of knowledge and take care of your clients, but it means nothing if you dont have clients and technology is a tool to get those.

  16. I love this thread, and these comments. Nothing convinces me more that the dominant brokerage business model is fundamentally broken for a “profession” than these comments. 🙂 I’ll explain further in a future post.

    • Rob, you big tease 🙂

      Looked up my top 9 things to look for in a REALTOR® I like my list better and I truly believe that Tech should be one of them.

      Honesty, agency, experience – The 3 pillars.

      Market knowledge, personalty match, communication, technology, and finally using a REALTOR® over a salesperson.

      Now hurry up with that post! LOL

  17. Rob,

    It’s possible that a part of the answer lies in your post about creating a marketing advantage by differentiation or by execution. For the young agent, they may recognize that they have little chance to compare positively against a good, veteran agent that has clear advantages in the categories listed in this post which seem to me to fall under the execution banner. In response, the young agent must turn to novel technologies to pursue a differentiation strategy.

    Can’t wait to see the post you’re teasing in your last comment.

  18. You are confusing sexy technology with expected technology and our subsequent abilities to use them.

    Cell phones were unusual 20 years ago and had that Wow sex appeal with them. Now a days it drives us nuts when a client doesn’t have one or won’t give us their cell number. On top of that, almost every agent has gone to a smart phone for text, email, and data applications. Thus a sexy tech thing is now expected.

    We take laptops with mobile access, online MLS, email, blogging, electronic forms, GPS, and so much more without thought because it’s now expected vs sexy.

    I’m pretty sure this poll is telling us clients have a high level of expectation without realizing it.

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