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Why consumers deserve more than a virtual agent

Nov 2, 2017 | Inman

Being impersonal doesn’t make the connection that leads to successful relationships

Photo Courtesy of Jesus Kiteque on Unsplash

Photo Courtesy of Jesus Kiteque on Unsplash

Key Takeaways

  • Technology should be used to increase efficiency and effectiveness, but instead it often hinders the personal attention and one-on-one service clients deserve.

Imagine this very common scenario: Potential buyers see a house they like on one of those big real estate portals. They click a link, and a message is automatically sent to a random agent who paid for an ad on that site.

The agent exchanges a few emails with the buyers, agrees to represent them, and sends a buyer’s agreement for electronic signatures. The buyers aren’t sure exactly what they are signing, but they sign the agreement anyway, as that’s a requirement for seeing the house.

A showing assistant meets the buyers for a viewing, or perhaps they stop in during an open house. They love the place and excitedly text their agent to prepare an offer.

Details are discussed by text or email, and once again, the buyers sign electronically, this time for the offer package.

The offer is accepted, and they move forward with the process, receiving the home inspection electronically and communicating exclusively through email and text, all the way to the closing table where a rep from the real estate brokerage attends as a formality, just to give “that personal touch.”

This is not just the reality at many brokerages today; it’s the goal.

Take the time

Many agents choose to leverage technology to allow them to handle more clients and transactions, thus creating more income for themselves.

In some cases, clients can proceed from beginning to end without ever even hearing the agent’s voice, much less seeing his or her face.

I often wonder, where oh where has the personal touch gone in real estate?

As a broker, I understand the impetus to leverage all of the technological tools in our arsenal to allow us to spend more time on lead generation and follow-up.

After all, the more clients, the more commissions. But the service we provide is too important to allow it to become so impersonal.

Technology should be used to increase efficiency and effectiveness, but instead it often hinders the personal attention and one-on-one service clients deserve.

Build relationships

At my brokerage, we believe in relationships first. We meet with clients personally to sign the buyer’s agreement, and explain every step of what’s involved.

It does clients a disservice to send them an agreement and ask them to “let us know if they have questions.” They need to be walked through the papers they’re signing, the process, the details and the transaction. That allows them to be empowered and informed.

When we make an offer on our client’s behalf, our personal service continues. We hand-deliver all offers, which gives us the opportunity to discuss price and comps with the agent representing the home and get to know who we’re going to be working with for the next month or two.

It also allows us to discuss the reasoning behind the offer and put a personal face on the offer, which can sometimes make a difference.

I personally have received offers from agents who didn’t even bother to change the name on the offer documents, sending them straight from a scanner without even a return email address.

An offer that is so impersonal does not make the impression and connection that leads to successful negotiations.

Make the lasting connection

Put simply, relationships rule.

When technology for the sake of efficiency gets in the way of genuine service and true communication, we say it’s time for a different way. Our priority should be the clients and their real estate purchase or sale. This requires listening, discussion, and, yes, face time.

In our office, we have a coffee bar where we encourage current and potential clients to come in and sit down for a meet-and-greet. We prepare a hand-made cup of coffee or kombucha and talk about their real estate goals.

We want to be in the relationship business and really understand our clients, so we can help them in the most meaningful way.

Sometimes low-tech is the only way to go. An app is no substitute for a trusted friend or adviser. Let’s get back to basics, get to know each other, then work together to create win-wins for our clients.

Troy Palmquist is the founder and broker of The Address in Southern California. Follow him on Facebook, or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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