Am I Hamstrung without a National Brand?
TTechnology has changed everything. Almost everyone goes online to search for real estate now. They can see dozens of pictures, virtual tours, videos, satellite images, various maps of the neighborhoods and areas, and gather endless information about any property online in a few minutes and a couple of dozen clicks. There is more information available to buyers at their fingertips than Realtors® even had in the past.
What Buyers No Longer Do!
People do not go to a brand regardless of how big and well-known it is, a brokerage office, or to a Realtor® first. They make that decision usually many months later when they have fine-tuned their search and have established their time frame. This is a radical change from the past when they had to start by looking for a Realtor® to give them information. In those days they might have thought of one of the national brands and they would have gone to their local brokerage office to get information. If they were moving far, the local agent might have partnered with an agent at the destination and worked together to assist the client. The local agent would have been paid a referral (typically 30% of the commission). No longer do buyers go to a brand or an office in the area they are moving from, or even in the area, they are moving to. Instead, they virtually go right into cities, towns, communities and all the neighborhoods which they are considering. They go directly to the houses they like and learn a great deal about the houses. It does not matter where on the planet they are if they have decent home internet plans, they can virtually visit the property I have listed in Carlton or Sherwood or anywhere.
This Has Changed How We Do Business
Especially during this housing recession, when sellers were increasingly desperate, we have pulled out all the stops and did everything we could think of to find buyers for their homes. We hosted endless numbers of Open Houses! We even cooperated with other agents from any office and did massive open houses in whole sections of the city with drawings and gifts and food and circus clowns (well not quite). The reality is they did not work except to get the neighbors over for a visit! The internet is obsolescing the need for open houses. People can see as much or more online and can eliminate houses or keep them on the shortlist without ever stepping into a home.
The same is true about the office ‘Walk-ins’. The ones who call us, walk-in, or contact us through our websites are those who are ready to get serious about a select list of properties and are ready to see the properties physically before buying. It is time to drill down into the details and evaluate the value of this home of interest. It is no longer a reality that someone will walk into our office and ask us about buying a home in Denver. The truth is that even if they have never taken a flight to Denver, they have visited Denver 50 times already and seen 100 homes. This is true locally as well. When someone visits our office, more than likely they already know about what is available.
The Only Market of Interest is the Local Market
In the beginning, the farthest thing from the mind of a buyer is whether he or she needs to contact Century 21 or Prudential; it is not even necessary to find an individual Realtor®. However, it is important for us to know that these people are in town every day regardless of the fact they could physically be 200 miles away in Seattle, 1000 miles away in LA, 2600 miles away in Toronto, 3200 miles away in Miami, or 4900 miles away in London England. They are in town learning about hotels, restaurants, climate, tax rates, schools, and real estate. They are visiting our homes, checking out neighborhoods, and trying to find a job or a builder, or a church. In their virtual visits, they pass our ‘offices’ frequently and see the same faces of Realtors® over and over again, and learn who the players are. Without attempting to search for Realtors® they already know which local brands are dominant, which agents are the producers, and which websites they most at home with. When they are ready for a consultant to answer more questions, or when they are ready for a guided tour physically, they already know where to look and who to consider. And it has nothing to do with what is national or regional, it is all about local! Nothing else matters.
A couple of years ago Joni and I helped some clients buy a second home in The Dalles/Hood River area of the Columbia Gorge. We wanted to help these people we liked very much, sales were slow so we had the time, and Joni and I could get away for a number of trips and enjoy that most gorgeous area of quaint towns and breath-taking scenery. We also knew how to conduct due diligence in an area we were not experts in which is crucial to doing something like this (a sobering thought). All the big brands were there and there were a number of local brands. It did not take long at all to know who the real professionals were and to identify the top 20% of the agents. If we were buyers, we would have had a pared-down list of agents before we even gave it a serious thought. What brand they had would not have entered into consideration. By that point, we would only be interested in who was one of the best people to interview. A local brand would have fared as well as a national one, but really, it would always come down to the individual, not which hat he or she wore.
The Only Agent of Interest is the One Found in the Local Market
You can be here and available when the buyers come looking and you can be found by them if you build your virtual presence strategically. You do not need a national presence, you need a local presence! You do not need to advertise in the Bay Area, you need to be visible when someone from San Jose is moving to Yamhill County. If you have a personal website, are involved in social networking in a PROFESSIONAL manner, are on local directories, and take advantage of other local sites and opportunities, you will be noticed. If you employ IDX (internet data exchange) for buyers who need to search the MLS they will use your services and be reminded of you. The more listings you have the more opportunities you have to be contacted directly. When they decide to find a Realtor® you have a better chance of being found locally than by being on a website in Parsippany New Jersey – no one is looking for a Dundee agent there!
In the local community, you can be found by our neighbors who are ready to move by also being a contributing member of the local community. Network with all the associations, clubs, and groups you can. Support local causes and events with your money and your presence. Connect with people everywhere you go and ask them to refer their friends, families, and neighbors to you. There is so much more you can do in the local community; the creative options are endless.
Finally, you have the ability to be in direct contact with anyone on the planet at any time. Maximize the exposure of your email address, your cell phone number for voice and text, your website address, your Facebook and other new-generation directories. Get your name out there. There are lots of people visiting each day who eventually will be looking for someone like you. Make sure they can find you, be impressed by your presentation, and can make a connection with you directly. Then, do not keep them waiting; respond quickly and begin to show your value to them.
Meet Our Agents
Randy McCreith, Principal Broker
Bella Casa Real Estate Group