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Is Your Customer More Knowledgeable Than You? Helping Consumers Grasp Real Estate Part II

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RISMEDIA, May 17, 2008-Continuing last week’s Viewpoints series on helping consumers better understand the real estate process, Sherry A. Chris, President & CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC, takes center stage and poses the question, “Is your customer more knowledgeable than you?”

Is Your Customer More Knowledgeable Than You?

chris_sherry_2008.jpgSherry A. Chris
President & CEO
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate LLC
www.bhgrealestate.com

In our business, we have always said, “the best customer is a well-informed customer.” Even back in the early 1980s, when I started in the business, we wanted to ensure that our customers had all of the information. Back then, we had to provide it to them ourselves.

All of that has changed, and now some agents might find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having their customers know more than they do. That begs the question: what is the value of a real estate agent? To make sure that this does not happen to you, follow these steps to Web 2.0-proof yourself:

-Familiarize yourself with real estate sites that consumers visit when looking to buy or sell a home. Realtor.com, Zillow, Trulia, Google, and Yahoo! are some of the most popular. You should know what consumers experience when they visit these sites. Anticipate their questions in advance. Find out how the valuation model actually works at Zillow. Study the neighborhood data available on Trulia. Experience search results on Realtor.com. If your brokerage or MLS has syndicated your listings to any of these sites, ensure that you know how your listing will appear.

-Know your competition and what they have to offer by way of technology enhancements. Buyers and sellers are not just finding their agents online, but they are also now beginning to choose a brokerage based on the level of online sophistication that the company and agent have to offer. Find and read local real estate blogs; your customers do, and you need to know what is being written about your local market. Regarding blogs: as an overall percentage, the successful and well-known bloggers in our industry amount to a small number. Some of them successfully obtain a very high percentage of their business from their blog. The truth is, they spend just as much time “prospecting” by writing blog posts as most agents spend prospecting for business the traditional way. Unless you are prepared to make that shift, my advice is to stick to what works best for you. Blogging is serious business.

-Transparency is expected in this day and age. Make sure that the listings on your own site have all of the addresses, open house information, neighborhood information, and lots of photos. Find proactive ways to send information to your customers before they find it themselves.

-Read the news…online, that is. Spend the time each day to read the latest real estate news on RISMedia.com and other sites. An easy way to do this is to set up an iGoogle home page and take advantage of RSS feeds. That way, the news comes to you, and you don’t have to travel from site to site. Popular blogs can also be fed into your iGoogle page. The bottom line: technology has made it so much easier for us that there are few excuses not to get smart on it.

With the vast information now available to consumers, are you worried about your “value” as a real estate agent in the future? Well, according to the National Association of Realtors, consumers continue to rank the relationship between the agent and the consumer as the most important element of the transaction. Your role as trusted advisor, negotiator, and provider of information remains key as long as you stay ahead of the technology curve.

Next week, Anne Sperling focuses in on the importance of authentic communication in today’s marketplace. She says, “Realtors can help consumers understand the sale process first by establishing an authentic dialog with their clients. In other words, clients who trust and respect their Realtor are more open to learning about the real estate process from their Realtor.”

To read Part I featuring Coldwell Banker’s CEO Charlie Young, click here.

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