Reader Question: Monty, we are preparing to sell our home and read your column about how to find a good real estate agent. We have gone through the steps and are now down to two candidates. They both present as knowledgeable, hard working and efficient. What differentiates them in our eyes is one is very tech savvy and the other is more traditional in their approach. Is a tech savvy agent a big advantage for us?
Monty’s Answer: Technology and innovation have affected the vast majority of people in the United States. The impact of technology on the different segments and industries varies, and real estate is no exception. While real estate agents that have embraced today’s bells and whistles would likely answer “yes,” the answer is “it depends.”
Not many years ago newspaper ads were one of the primary lead generators for agents to hook-up with homebuyers. Today most hook-ups start online with real estate sites websites because of the convenience of both mobile and home access. Both print and online medium are expensive for the agent to utilize in finding the buyer, but does the seller care which medium generated the buyer?
What is different today?
The speed and capacity of data transmission are the primary change agents that have allowed the cell phone and the Internet to drive innovation. While it is very clear that mobile devices, email, texting, software applications and other products have helped improve efficiency, it is less clear that technology helps sell individual homes. Here are some factors to consider:
One of the most common pitches a home seller will hear describes featuring your home on many websites in addition to the local MLS. Video tours online are another relatively recent example. Some agents claim this is an excellent way to buy a home in scorching markets where prices are rising, and inventory is low. Other agents are leery about the implications of a consumer buying a home without setting foot in it. Some agents may offer individual property websites devoted to only your home. The cost of production can be very pricey with these promotions, but are they actually useful?
Real estate agents may chose to embrace technology and be early adopters or be on the other end of the spectrum and still not own a smartphone. Technology is only one of many facets involved in being successful in real estate. John Naisbitt’s 1999 book, “HiTech/HighTouch,” reminds us that there is no substitute for human interaction and personal relations. Many customers have not succumbed to technology, so if you prefer to speak with your real estate agent as opposed to texting them, it would be an appropriate follow-up question to ask both agents. What good is having an agent with a smartphone if they do not return calls promptly?
Page 2 of 2 – What real estate agent is not interested in generating more revenue? A lot of agent training and software applications is about how to identify, convert and maintain customers. These tools focus on convincing customers to work with them. Two examples are workflow automation software to eliminate time-consuming tasks and customer relationship management (CRM) programs that rates and manages leads with the help of email, direct mail, and call centers. The direct consumer benefit of these products not easily defined. All the effort to master and maintain these products can go out the window if the agent shows up late for appointments.
The tale of the tape. Consider seeking the production numbers of each of the agents. The reluctance of one or both of them to furnish this data would send the wrong message. Watch for conditions that can skew raw numbers. An agent with repeat customers can throw a lot of productivity on the board with less effort. For example, if one builder accounted for 50 percent of one agent’s transactions this is not a fair comparison. The team approach can also affect production, but it does not necessarily translate to increasing your chances of a sale. If four agents are sharing the workload and pooling results, it is not an equal comparison.
Seek the street address and price of each listing they gathered in the past 12 months from MLS screenshots that demonstrate how many are still active, how many expired unsold and how many sold and closed. Real data may help answer your question in determining the effectiveness of technology in helping sell your home.
— Richard Montgomery gives no nonsense real estate advice to readers most pressing questions. He is a real estate industry veteran who has championed industry reform for over a quarter century. Send him questions at DearMonty.com.