Columns share an author's personal perspective.

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Reader Question: We recently put our home up for sale. The presentation was very professional, and we both liked the agent. The emphasis was on how much the real estate business has changed. She mentioned the difficulty of keeping up with technology. She explained how their company was ahead of their competition with staging experts (for an extra $150), smart lockboxes, virtual photography and search engine optimization (whatever that means). I asked about an open house, and they haven't held open houses for over two years. "Video has replaced open houses," was the response. Has the real estate business changed this much?

 

Monty's Answer: The description is mostly accurate because consumer behavior has changed over the years, and the industry has adopted additional features that can be helpful. Like companies in every industry, real estate companies have always sought new methods and promotions to either stay ahead of the pack or usurp the leader. Years ago, the differentiators were products like a fax machine, a color copier or a home warranty program. Some of those changes have survived.

Today, business's bombard agents with many tools, educational programs and offers to mentor. To give you a better idea, here is an example of what the National Association of Realtors calls The Tech Tools You Really Need (http://bit.ly/3oZt7E6).

 

My theory

Agents work in an ultra-competitive market and strive to find ways to gain an advantage. Investigating, testing and the learning curve to put these tools into practice is distracting them from the nuts and bolts of the business. This pressure to invest in such tools has created whole new industries. While some of the innovations will survive, many of them will fall by the wayside. In some ways, Vince Lombardi's iconic quote, "Gentlemen, this is a football," comes to mind.

 

The basics still work

We part company on your agent’s open house stance. An "open house" remains an excellent tool to gain exposure for the home. It provides prospects a genuinely casual, nonobligatory chance to view the home in person. The video is helpful to qualify showings, but positioning it to replace the open house is counter-productive, in my opinion. Many people come to an open house because they are interested in buying it. Good agents can be very creative and skilled in ensuring the open house is promoted and take steps to encourage prospects to attend. Here is a link about preparing for an open house (https://bit.ly/3nScicA).

Yard signs generate buyers. There are four different ways that yard signs work. Families moving from other areas have "scouts" that are actively helping. A neighbor may know of someone looking. Buyers look for homes by cruising neighborhoods they like. Real estate agents will see the sign.
Today's focus on the latest and greatest seminar or lockbox to gain the upper hand on a competitor can be a distraction from high-quality customer service. Properly applied, some tech tools make sense. Agents could consider spending that tech learning curve time learning more about the home itself.

 

Richard Montgomery is the author of "House Money - An Insider’s Secrets to Saving Thousands When You Buy or Sell a Home." He advocates industry reform and offers readers unbiased real estate advice. Follow him on Twitter at @dearmonty, or at DearMonty.com.