What makes a consumer choose their real estate agent?
In an industry largely driven by personal connections, the top two factors when selecting an agent, as identified by both the homebuyers and sellers we surveyed, are local expertise and, as expected, recommendations and referrals. And when differentiating between a good and an excellent agent a client would use again or recommend to a friend, it comes down to the personalization of the experience.
The Importance Of A Differentiated Agent Brand
Having a differentiated agent brand, or specialization, has always been important, whether that’s a certain geography, neighborhood, client base or expertise in a related field, such as renovations or beach homes. However, as technology has empowered consumers to be more self-sufficient in the homebuying and selling process than ever before, this has become absolutely critical for agents looking to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Consumers can browse listings on their desired search portal of choice without even connecting to another human being. They can easily access a wealth of knowledge through online forums and websites dedicated to all things house and home. Consumers today simply will not pay for an agent to do the same things they feel they can accomplish on their own, and as such, agents must invest time and energy within a specific specialization in order to provide a value their competitors cannot replicate.
What can technology not replace? Search engines, devices, digital assistants and the like will never be able to replace the uniquely valuable expertise and knowledge that an agent can provide about a certain neighborhood, block, building, street or home, or grasp the emotional significance of buying or selling a home.
As technology becomes more sophisticated at handling the “back-end” or “nuts and bolts” aspects of homebuying and selling, it is these softer, yet still critical, traits that will help agents stand out and add value to clients.
Building Your Brand Through Local Expertise And Personalized Client Service
What does this look like in practice? Here are suggestions for building an individual agent brand using these critical factors as guideposts.
Depending on your market, you may choose to specialize in a certain town or even a certain block. Make it your business to know inside and out everything about this area — the schools, the local restaurants and coffee shops, commutability, which areas or buildings are pet-friendly and, most importantly, the people.
Know what local events are going on where it may make sense to sponsor or otherwise have a presence (i.e., parades, festivals, fundraisers). Are there committees, boards or other volunteer groups to join? Or simply walk the streets, shop the places your clients shop and dine where your clients would dine. To further showcase your neighborhood intel, creating a branded neighborhood guide may be of great value to local and out-of-town clients alike.
Get to know your clients beyond the specs they’re looking for in a house. Yes, it’s important to know their desired number of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, etc. But it’s equally important to know their hobbies, passions and motivations. Perhaps that’s a chef’s kitchen or wine cellar for a self-fashioned gourmand, or a basketball court for a child going out for the school team, or a dream dog run for an owner’s four-legged companion. Search for shared interests as well. This will not only build trust, but also create a shared experience and personal interest that won’t be easily forgotten.
Consider the ways in which you as an agent can guide clients through one of the biggest and most emotionally fueled decisions of their life: buying and selling a house. An algorithm can certainly spit out the best home on the market for a client given certain hard criteria, but only another human can understand the nuances of a “feeling” a client gets when they walk in the house that will become their home.
Agents can also ease the often stressful process of moving into a new home or saying goodbye to an old home. Perhaps preserving a piece of a childhood home for a client, or leaving fresh bagels on the counter of a new home when moving day rolls around. Understanding your clients and leaving personalized little touches can go a long way.
There is no question that technology will continue to shape the future of our industry. To stand out and remain competitive, agents must consider the added value they bring to clients that technology simply cannot — whether that’s knowing where a new cafe is being built, acting as a sounding board when clients are weighing the intangible differences between two prospective homes, surprising a client with a personal closing gift based on information they shared with you or connecting them with ancillary service providers, such as contractors, landscapers or interior designers to help make their home unique to them.
Where strategy meets detail is where an agent will succeed. As real estate will continue to remain a largely referral-based business, providing local expertise and personalized service to each client will drive word of mouth for your brand, and that’s difficult to do without a true passion for helping others.