Real estate products have lost focus
There is certainly not a shortage of inspirational messages fed to the consumer by real estate product companies about how they can attain the house of their dreams, and it appears that even product companies that directly market to brokers and agents are losing their focus.
As a company gets bigger, so do their numbers and targets, so relying solely on agents and brokers as their primary source of revenue becomes a lot less viable. As I watch this unfold, I have some reservation about those that are hedging and straddling both camps and think we don’t notice.
This has become increasingly clear as a variety of companies have begun making clear direct-to-consumer plays in subtle, albeit obvious ways. While I might be accused of being a little sensitive to the messaging in the following campaigns, I do know that some lights went off when I saw both, and I’m curious to see if I’m not the only one.
“A better way of buying and selling real estate”
Dotloop recently launched a video titled “A better way of buying and selling real estate” where they catalogue the journey of a young woman as she goes about her day from a simple transaction at a coffee house, to purchasing a haircut at her local salon, and then to her apartment, where she seamlessly picks up packages from the concierge in her building through a highly technology-enabled solution.
When she finally arrives at her apartment, we hear her voice for the first time as she calls her real estate agent to inquire about submitting an offer on a property that she has been coveting (all from the comfort of her couch). During her phone conversation, we sense she is becoming more and more frustrated with her agent as he is indicating that she needs to physically come to the office to complete the paperwork on the purchase offer. She insists in a dramatic tone – “there has got to be a better way” and the shot fades to the agent sitting behind a desk full of stacks of paperwork. Not a bad premise overall, and you’re probably thinking “what’s the deal?”
As a broker, that message did not inspire action in me. It reminded me of the antiquated way of doing business that hasn’t happened in MY office for years. And so instead of being motivated to do something innovative, new, or useful after watching this video, I left with a bad taste in my mouth about how agents haven’t significantly progressed from the days of MLS books, faxes, and stacks of paperwork on a desk. And why was it so dark in that office anyway? The only similarity I could find was that the agent probably had the same flask of whiskey in his desk that I have in mine.
So instead of being inspired by how this “agent focused” product could make my life better, I was uninspired, demotivated, and definitely not running to my computer to press “go” on Dotloop.
“Know the status of that for sale sign on the lawn”
Realtor.com just released an update to their mobile app where most listings are updated every 15 minutes. AGBeat reported, “If you are searching for a home, you don’t want to fall in love only to find out that home was sold months ago.” Clearly this was a dig by Realtor.com operator Move Inc. at their competitors, Zillow and Trulia who have been widely criticized for their overall data accuracy. I thought this was a brave action by Move (and it was the statement that caught my attention in the first place).
As the article continues, Move goes on to state that “Sometimes the listing data is more accurate than real life” and by using the app as a consumer “you can now figure out what the latest status is on that For Sale sign on the lawn.”
Their information is more accurate than that of broker yard signs? Listing information is updated in real time by brokers and agents who make decisions with sellers about what they are going to do with the listing status before even changing it in the MLS, so how could Realtor.com possibly have more accurate information? Additionally, any licensed user of the MLS has real-time access to the MLS, which is absolutely the most accurate source of property information advertised by brokers. The assertion by Move is misleading.
Again, I think this is a case where a company like Move is torn. Clearly they are faced with an interesting conundrum, though it feels like they took a shot at their customers’ (Realtors’) business practices (how we use yard signs and market property) in exchange for goodwill among home shoppers. Now I’m not saying that yard signs are always kept in line with current property status, let alone kept in good shape – but Move had already taken a jab at its competitors’ accuracy issues, what purpose did it serve to take a stab at their own customers?
Where do we go from here?
The moral of this story? I am a player in this housing system these products are supposedly trying to fix (and market to), so inspire me to use what could be great products rather than distract me with generalizations about people in my line of work. Use the messaging in your marketing to show me how my role evolves as the process evolves. Show me something I could not see for myself, given how close I am to this work. Don’t show me an old version of myself and my peers – show us something new and better.
Industries (and even us, as people) evolve when we highlight what people are doing that is right, not what people are doing that is wrong. Show me what’s possible, and I’ll show you someone who will make it happen.