Since I introduced this series earlier this week, I’ve had the most heartfelt reactions, mostly from friends outside the profession. But there was also a direct, personal response from real estate peers who matter most to me. Being this honest and transparent, for me takes pushing past many fears. I feel so much grace and gratitude for your support in speaking my mind. THANK YOU.
Everyone goes through reflective processes - or at least they should. Almost no one in real estate talks about the inside. Maybe some don't think about it. Me? I have to say it openly. Otherwise, I'm not being 100% true to myself, and not exactly transparent with you.
That's my conscience. I call things out, especially if it’s happening around me. If we ignore our opportunities to do better for people, they mushroom into prolific problems. Real Estate, at its core, is supposed to be about people, service, and ethics.
When you see an agent on social media, how often does it evoke those traits?
More More More
Those qualities are not the topic. That’s because of the overwhelming trend of popularity & celebrity in our industry - or Real Estate Stars. It’s fueled by the need to get the most clients, make the most money, have the greatest share of the market, and/or be the dominant, pre-eminent brand / person in a given area.
None of those goals benefit people. Quantity is not quality, and simply increasing production cannot ever actually improve our service. But it’s a competition, which is what drives the misplaced, manic focus on MORE and TOP PRODUCERS. If their marketing were to use an old-school McDonald’s sign, there’d surely be X-Billion Burgers Served boasted at the bottom.
Along with many of my more client-focused peers, I think there’s a place for all of us at the table - and we’d be of higher quality service to our customers, and a better industry overall. But many others strongly disagree with that notion.
Read this piece of work here from a real estate coach: https://www.thelistingslab.com/should-you-quit-real-estate/. This is a common theme spread across our genre: If you’re not able to gobble up the whole screen like PacMan, then get out of our way.
The message of more is extremely effective in regards to self-marketing, so agents use it. They even pay money to learn how to master it. Like that real estate coach I just referenced, there is a whole spin-off industry of real estate influencers / masterminds / programs that train agents to self-market.
People's fascination with interior design and real estate "reality" shows certainly opened doorways for our fame obsession, but the reasons run deeper. They’ve taken cue from many well-publicized studies like this one - https://people.com/human-interest/young-americans-want-to-be-social-media-influencers-study-says/ - which says 86% of our younger people simply want to be famous.
It’s supposed to be disturbing, and we’re supposed to see that as a cultural misstep we need to correct. But people are constantly looking to exploit such social vulnerabilities to their advantage.
Looks are important to a brand, too - probably no surprise to anyone reading. I’m sharing my own personal experience with being judged, so you get a first-hand idea of what it’s like. I once considered joining a high-profile brokerage, and I reached out. We texted, talked on the phone, and they expressed interest in return.
Then came what I’d call in hindsight, an audition process. A number of zoom meetings where I’d often hear about how important it was that I “fit the role.” I also kept hearing about wanting agents who are hungry - an awful analogy to place upon us as professionals. If you’re hungry, you eat a sandwich, not a client. (Maybe this is where the X-Billion Burgers Served comes in.)
Finally, I got called for the screen test meeting in person. It wasn’t with the broker, or any manager. It was with a modelesque, camera-ready agent, at a public hangout. Not prepared with any questions for me, or any particular info to deliver, they were there simply to size me up.
So feeling a bizarre blind date vibe, I took over and asked the questions. I found that this agent had no active or recent transactions of their own. I found that they never had a listing in their career up to that moment. The more questions I asked, the more they looked at their watch. I started talking about my life, my home, husband, cats…
Ok, yes, I admit I was amusing myself by this point. But I knew my time had been wasted. The positive is that it wasn’t a fit for me, and I ended up where I should be with my current broker.
Why does this setup even exist? How many other well-meaning agents have wasted their valuable time in similar vacant circumstances? And what makes people do business with organizations like that?
Money and fame.
Service, people, ethics, and values - those don’t have the kind of power to attract a snowball of attention like celebrity and money do. So it’s especially important for you as consumers, friends, as people, to look beyond the surface - to get past all those smoke & mirrors, so you clearly see what matters.
A very high profile example of social media’s power to obscure, happened recently in my own neighborhood. Followers of our local real estate market have surely heard of a certain Bungalow. It was co-owned by a self-proclaimed influencer, who chronicled the changes made to the house over their 3 years of ownership. Opting to move last year, they listed the home with an LA area agent highly regarded for social media marketing.
It’s a natural fit that could only reap the best outcomes for them. That doesn’t necessarily mean great outcomes for anyone else, including our local market, nor the industry as a whole. I’ll explain.
Ambitious pricing (several hundred thousands above any comparitive homes) and leveraging the owner’s social media following, deliberately screamed for broader media attention - which it promptly got. It’s absolutely right for an agent to use every possible avenue to promote & expose their client’s home, and to seek out the highest & best value.
But we’re not supposed to become so distracted by hype, or image, that we take our eyes off facts or lose focus on doing our due diligence on behalf of all parties - including the interest of buyers.
The most valuable room in a home is arguably the kitchen, and social media - broader media along with it - raved at the bungalow’s kitchen design. However, the construction of this kitchen was questionable, and very few openly questioned it.
Long story short, the concrete “open cabinets” were formed simply by stacking rectangular paver stones vertically on their sides, troweling cement in between, and coating a layer of cement around them. They were not formed with rebar as one would expect. No reinforcement external or internal was used. This is of course easier and way less expensive than the proper method.
It looked amazing. It also wasn't safe nor usable long term.
My conscience: I couldn’t possibly list this home without knowing the construction method and openly addressing it. I’d even put a buyer advisory in the listing. It’s that bright of a red flag. No, I wouldn’t just assume it’s safely built.
As Realtors, we’re supposed to pay attention and do what’s right. We’re also supposed to dive deep into the home, and have enough competence, confidence, and integrity to openly address issues - for the protection of buyers and sellers both.
In the bungalow’s case, they only talked about the vanity of it all. Because if they got real about what it was, it might have become a social media disaster instead of a social media darling.
Hopefully the build quality was discovered internally through inspection or disclosure during the sale process. Nevertheless, it’s a supreme example of how hype and star-power is a double-edged sword, and can obscure and distract consumers from what truly matters.
What Matters Most
It’s also why we need to be more focused on the character, values, and transactional / contractual expertise of the real estate professionals we work with.
In real estate, what is most important is how you are being represented, how thorough & knowledgeable your agent is. And when it’s a listing, how well they understand and market your home - which, by the way, has zero relation to how agents market themselves. For all the countless photos and video clips you see of their faces, remember: Your home is the only image that counts.
As an industry, we must re-examine our priorities. The noble goal isn’t getting the most. It’s being our best possible selves in our service to people.
I’m examining my own priorities right now. With this, I’m one step closer to seeing my own value at this table - and truly hope that I’m still a worthy voice in the real estate profession.
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