Real Estate Connect, Day 1: Your Customers Feel Empowered, So Should You

Empowerment was the name of the game for Day 1 of Inman News’ Real Estate Connect in San Francisco. Consumer empowerment; technological empowerment and access; and the broker and agent DIY ethos were all on full display.

Hear It Direct kicked off the day with a panel of buyers and sellers who talked about their buy/sell experience. The group, all California-based, consisted of a multi-state housing investor, a set of move-up buyers/sellers experiencing life-changes, and a couple of first-time buyers. The common threads: There’s an information gap during the search experience, and there’s a communications gap with agents and brokerages.

All these consumers were savvy and cynical in the ways of real estate marketing, and all were visually driven, citing their need for virtual tours and numerous listing photos. The iPhone was the top tool for all, using app geolocation to view listings and open houses within their targeted search area while physically in the area. Mobile targeting of specific homes was their segue way into local, detailed information searches about the home on smartphones, tablets, and laptops. The lack of features as simple as pictures on a listing signaled a problem property or a “lazy agent,” one panelist said.

These panelists performed searches for months, and in one case over a full year, before first contact with their agent. But when ready, they acted quickly to pick an agent and act upon the work they had done in the preceding months.

When it comes to communications, the panelists wanted it on their terms, quickly. They wanted to be prepared for their experience and the market and told upfront what would be expected of them. They wanted to be partners in the transaction process but said they seldom received the information they wanted or the experience they expected.

Real Estate Connect 2013, Industry Panel

None of this was a surprise to the brokers and agents in the industry panel that followed—but these insights should be a wake-up call to brokers who aren’t in sync with such expectations, the panelists said. The industry panel included practitioners Sue Adler, CEO of HearItDirect and leader of the Sue Adler Team, Keller Williams Realty in New Jersey; Dawn Thomas, broker-associate, Intero Real Estate Services (@SVandBeyond); Michael Williamson, executive vice president and partner, John Aaroe Group; and Joe DiRaffaele, owner, DiRaffaele Group, Coldwell Banker Premier Realty in Las Vegas. They were joined by industry consultants Michael McClure and Rob Hahn and real estate tech company reps Joelle Senter of dotloop and Nick Taylor of Zillow.

Getting in sync starts with enhanced training so agents better educate clients on the nuances of the transaction. “Don’t assume [buyers and sellers] know specifics about the transaction, because they don’t,” said Williamson, adding that client customization of broker services—having the ability “…to be all things to all people…”—will be an ongoing challenge for brokers.

Rob Hahn’s last words were poignant: “All of our industry politics and inside baseball doesn’t matter to those people [the panel].”

It all boils down to hardware, design, content, and entrepreneurship shifting into a “by the people, for the people” ideology in which consumers aren’t just the end user, they’re partners in the change, said InmanNews and Real Estate Connect Founder Brad Inman in his general session keynote.

Brad’s vision has always been on consumer-centrism and making the real estate transaction easier. At the conference this week he’s using the term “future proof” to describe the resources and tools that will take us to that vision.

Innovation is coming from all direction—and entrepreneurs don’t necessarily need venture capitalists and angel investors to acquire the capital to launch a company or product, Brad told the audience yesterday. These “misfits… rebels… and troublemakers…” as he calls them, can now crowdsource for funds by taking concepts directly to users for cash via and the like.

So, are you feeling empowered?

Brad Inman sometimes uses the term “Latte Vision” to describe his ideal future: a friction-free real estate transaction. But which came first: the Latte Vision or this clever marketing piece from Stewart Title that asks, “How would you like to access your transaction?”

Nobu Hata

I'm director of digital engagement for the National Association of REALTOR®. Former REALTOR® with Edina Realty in Minnesota. Geek. Alaska and Minnesota have been home. Now I'm in Chicago or on the road meeting with REALTORS® and association executives to talk about NAR, their business, and the integration of digital technologies in our industry.

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  1. Thanks for sharing valuable information

  2. Thanks Nobu for the informative article. For Realtors looking for a DIY option for virtual tours, check out Home2Market.

  3. Thank you Nobu for a wonderful article highlighting the poignant aspects of our panel. It was insightful and great fun to do!

  4. Isabel

    Please clarify this sentence in the article “The iPhone was the top tool for all, using app geolocation to view listings and open houses within their targeted search area while physically in the area.” When I searched for that app on my iphone it did not pull up an app that shows listings or open houses in the area. Is the name of the app incorrect in the article? What is the correct name for the app?

  5. Hi Isabel,
    The consumer panelists downloaded and used nearly all real estate apps local and national including Zillow, Trulia and Almost all modern apps have a geolocation feature like I mentioned. For you and all agents, I recommend asking your clients what they use, then download and get to know how they work.