The internet age has made real estate agents’ jobs easier in many ways, but also much more difficult in others. Along with the expectation that we’re always reachable, there has been an increasing discourse about “transparency” and the need for more of it.
Many of the tech firms that are bringing new niche software to market often cite transparency as one of the reasons everyone should be on board with their product. But anyone who has been in this business for as many decades as I have knows this can be problematic when you need to protect the confidentiality of your clients—or you have clients unfamiliar with the process and throwing more information at them is just going to overwhelm them and slow down the transaction while they wring their hands over it (especially when the information isn’t going to make any difference in the outcome).
Here are a few ways I have found to embrace transparency without having to waste everyone’s time.
Take Transparency to Its Full Extent
When there are multiple options for transparency—or what appears to be transparency—use all of them when interacting with your clients. This shows up most frequently with all the automated price estimates that abound online. As many of you are surely familiar, clients will put a lot of faith in these numbers, but will put an extra level of confidence in the one that values their property for the highest amount.
Leaving aside the debate about whether these valuations are accurate, the best way to maintain a sense of transparency is to present clients with all the possible valuations that are out there. By showing up with a dozen (or more) different numbers from different sources, you convey to clients the sense of inaccuracy behind one individual number while also demonstrating that you aren’t trying to hide behind a bunch of smoke and mirrors when you come up with your advice on the asking price.
Use Trusted Platforms
Real estate is following a pattern similar to how financial transactions have changed over time. Before bank-based checks, we had handshakes and IOUs. Then we had charge plates, which became credit and debit cards, as the more trusted way to make purchases from a store. We’ve reached the phase of two-factor authentication, and the next phase is going to be platforms, such as blockchain, as the place where people put their trust.
With all the stories out there about wire fraud and clients sending their money to imposter escrow accounts, the need for an even more secure method of transmitting information is going to become even greater. Both blockchain and the concept of “Know Your Customer” (KYC) are things we’re going to start hearing about much more over the next year. By simply operating on a system that has built-in trust, you automatically confer a sense of transparency to clients without having to go out of your way to prove that you’re trustworthy.
Transparency has become a buzzword as more software companies use it for their marketing efforts. But at first glance, it scares away people who work in the industry, since we’ve seen times when it can cause a deal to go awry. We aren’t going to move away from the trend toward transparency, but we can embrace it by using very specific tech tools fully, rather than as an afterthought in our business.