Consider this: Cable companies, the gatekeepers of home entertainment (with the worst customer service records of most industries) have seen their business model turned on its head.
“Streaming this” and “downloading that” has changed the way people access their entertainment choices and the once-powerful (and single product) cable companies are being forcefully shifted to a new model of not only delivering content but also being the delivery pipeline of content they do not control.
Now consider this: Realtors, once the gatekeepers of home listing and pricing information through their publications and closely held MLS data, (with consumer opinions that hover around that of a stereotypical used-car salesman) are being confronted by the same winds of change.
“Googling this” and “social sharing that” is replacing the exclusive sales information that was once the cornerstone of a real estate agent’s business. The similarities of the forced changes to business models are astounding when put under this light.
Cable companies have embraced the role of the “entertainment delivery supplier”. They have evolved along with their delivery systems to maintain their evolving business model, raising their customer service standards in an effort to not be pushed out of relevance.
Real estate professionals, in the same way, must change their business model to embrace much more than listing and sales data. They need to evolve into a model that is more readily accessible and is more relevant to the consumer than simply processing the home purchase transaction. By becoming a larger part of the home ownership lifespan of the consumer and providing excellent customer service throughout that lifespan, a real estate professional’s future relevance may not be an issue.
In order to find the value of a real estate agent, as seen in the eyes of the consumer, we must first identify the aspects of being an agent that tarnishes the profession:
- Real estate agents make an exorbitant commission for a minimum of work.
- Real estate agents force consumers to pay more by causing bidding wars and inferring competing offers.
- Real estate agents have a minimum education, which casts the profession as a “last choice” career option for those other-wise unemployable or not motivated to find “real work”.
These issues (among others) must be confronted and discussed in public, and the conclusions need to show that the professionals who call themselves Realtors do work hard, always put the interest of their clients first and are educated and experienced within the real estate industry standards so they are capable of providing the expertise and excellent customer service consumers demand.
Should the pay structure shift away from the commission model to a “pay-per-service” model that accountants use? Would a menu board offering “a la carte” service options shine a light on the value of real estate professional’s services to be ordered?
The competition would certainly heat up for listings as consumers shop around for prices and services to compare. The number of people in the industry would decline as many would not survive the scrutiny that a standardized and competitive pricing structure would create.
Should the real estate sales profession have additional certifications to help set the “better professional” apart from the part-timer or new salespeople?
When professionalism and experience are easier to identify in a real estate person’s title, it will allow for a greater understanding of a person’s capabilities in the industry that goes beyond the usual “No. 1” or “Highest selling” marketing testaments many real estate brokers use to set themselves above the larger pool of licensed agents.
Is it possible to open up the home seller/buyer processes so the general public has a better understanding of the complexities involved with each transaction?
The average homeowner will purchase five houses in their lifetime and their experience will vary with each transaction. How can they possibly understand about the intricacies of the transaction when they do not deal with it more often? It is precisely this reason why great auto mechanics and lawyers earn a good living: the average person just expects it to work and for the professional to get them the outcome they desire. We can draw a straight line within these comparisons that anyone can understand.
Real estate professionals must work as a cohesive group to elevate the stature of the profession in the eyes of the consumer, not only in the practice of real estate but in the ways the information is held, to which the consumer now expects greater access.
We can no longer be regarded as gatekeepers but as advocates who work for the better interest of our clients at all times.
Professionalism and dedication to customer service is what will rebuild confidence in the profession, but only if it becomes an industry-wide standard.