“If you think you’re in the business of revealing carefully concealed data to people, you are sorely mistaken.” -Seth Godin, in his keynote address at ICNY
For many years – nearly a century, in fact – real estate agents based their value proposition on being gatekeepers to listing data. Without an agent, sellers could not get their homes in front of a wide audience, and buyers could not efficiently access property information (or the properties themselves, for that matter).
With the advent of public MLS sites, ZTR, and FSBO portals, however, the gate was pushed wide open. And now, thanks to disruptive technology – VR, transaction apps, on-demand showings and the like – you could argue that the gate is completely off its hinges.
So where does that leave you as an agent? To be blunt, out in the cold – that is, unless you redefine your value proposition.
A truly successful agent’s value proposition has nothing to do with access to data, and everything to do with wisdom, emotional intelligence and confidence. At ICNY, Jed Carlson of AdWerx appropriately likened agents to Sherpas. Despite the advent of GoreTex, oxygen tanks and numerous other technologies that ease the struggle of climing Everest, Sherpas are still in high demand. Why? Because they have a clear and well articulated value beyond simply carrying gear or pointing out the right trail.
Successful agents, similarly, do more than give guided tours of houses, look up comps and enter property data on the MLS. They use their in-depth – and often intuitive – knowledge of the local market and the real estate process to help buyers and sellers make wise decisions and feel confident about those decisions.
Dolly Lenz, one of the nation’s most productive real estate professionals, spoke at ICNY of fiduciary responsibility to her clients. Instead of limiting herself to acting as a buyer or seller’s factotum, she gives well considered opinions on whether certain transactions or choices might be in their best interests. Those opinions come from her unique experience closing thousands of transactions, dealing with particular kinds of properties, and are something no piece of software or point of data can replicate.
Think like Dolly: what unique wisdom or abilities do you have as a result of your real estate experience? Or as Seth Godin put it, what’s your point of view? What would buyers and sellers miss about you if you weren’t here? Certainly not your ability to look up property information.
Successful agents also provide priceless service: the warmth of a caring human being to support the buyer or seller through an emotionally and financially fraught transaction.
The last time my husband and I moved, this kind of stellar service was our agent’s value proposition. With the exception of two five-day reprieves, my husband was traveling from the time we prepped our home for sale until the day after we moved. I was left behind to manage everything while caring for our chronically ill 3-year-old. Our agent stepped into the breach, helping to paint our living room and load our storage container, sitting by me through a grueling 4-hour closing and helping to move our furniture on a humid, 98-degree day.
He brought plenty of expertise to the table, too. Having owned and renovated older homes, he helped me evaluate the condition of the historic listings we visited. And when the sellers of our chosen property stonewalled on negotiations, he handled the situation so beautifully that they not only came back to the table, they volunteered to reduce the selling price to keep us engaged.
These are the kinds of qualities no tech can replace. But to be better than AI, you’ve got to know what your irreplaceable qualities are and how to articulate them to buyers and sellers. Otherwise, you’re going to be on the wrong side of the gate.