Most professionals could benefit from borrowing or modifying practices common in other industries — and real estate agents and managers are no exception. Yet in my experience, the majority fail to look beyond the real estate bubble for ideas that could catapult them into new levels of success and service.
It’s not for lack of enthusiasm — but rather lack of understanding. Very few real estate leaders actively promote this type of knowledge sharing. They simply don’t recognize how amazingly advantageous (or easy) taking a peek across the fence can be. Investigating careers other than real estate has never been simpler than it is today. With a few finger swipes and clicks, any real estate agent can open a window into another field and scamper down the rabbit hole. Let’s examine two: legal and customer service.
Learning From Lawyers
I see a lot of commonalities between lawyers and real estate agents. So I recommend agents begin their journey by heading straight to informational sites about the legal profession. Namely, they need to become acquainted with the notion of conflict of interest — a situation in which one party has a competing interest or loyalty.
Lawyers take conflicts of interest very seriously; to do otherwise would land them in hot water. For instance, one attorney cannot represent both parties in a divorce. Real estate agents aren’t under the same obligation, mostly due to an attitude of scarcity. Agents may represent both buyer and seller in a dual agency concept. In fact, some agents see nothing wrong with wooing buyers from fellow agents with the promise of reduced commission. But while these actions are legally acceptable in the world of real estate, they sow bad seeds in the long run.
How could the field of real estate reflect the field of law when it comes to preventing conflicts of interest? First, buyers’ contracts could list the real estate agent’s duties while also allowing the buyer to terminate with just cause. This would hold agents more accountable and help eliminate conflicts of interest. Next, we could put legal teeth into the National Association of Realtor’s Code of Ethics by implementing fines and license suspensions for violations. Those measures would go a long way toward closing some serious gaps.
Furthermore, while I believe conducting your own research on legal best practices is a good jumping-off point, I also think the entire real estate industry could benefit from a heightened emphasis on higher education. You wouldn’t hire a lawyer who hadn’t gone to law school, yet many real estate agents are filling out contracts, writing addendums, and interpreting contractual language with only a high school education.
This type of responsibility requires higher-level thinking. In my opinion, agents should have, at minimum, an associate degree. Agents who’ve earned one or more associate degrees are better-equipped to make smart, informed decisions. Plus, they are well-versed in other studies, which could only benefit both them and their clients.
Cultivating the Client
Real estate agents eager to expand upon their skills should also take a look at the sales, marketing, and customer service marketplaces. I always train my agents to stay on top of client management best practices, which includes remaining in contact with clients long after the sale has closed. Though many agents seem to have lost sight of the importance of following up, it remains a critical component for excellent service.
Research shows that 74 percent of buyers say they would use their agent again or recommend their agent to friends and family. But you won’t gain that business if you ghost former clients. Keeping up can be as simple as sending holiday cards or passing along valuable vendor recommendations. Building genuine human connections used to be the backbone of the real estate industry, and it’s time personal commitment made a comeback. That doesn’t mean technology doesn’t have its place in the client experience, though.
The tech world’s desire to push the envelope ought to appeal to modern real estate agents who are eager to provide the best service possible. Consider how agents are injecting artificial intelligence, drone photography, augmented reality, and virtual reality into the homebuying and selling process.
Matterport, for instance, allows clients to envision themselves in homes before they even step foot on the property. Additionally, using drone technology, agents can give clients a bird’s-eye view of the property, which can be particularly appealing for estate properties with outdoor features like farmland or mountain views. Of course, technology will never eliminate the need for in-person showings, but it can offer heightened experiences for potential buyers. It’s about using the tools you have to deliver better customer service.
Becoming a Pioneer
Whether you’ve been in the real estate hustle for decades or weeks, I encourage you to incorporate innovative approaches into your methods. Studying what makes other industries successful and implementing those best practices in your own work can put you far ahead of the competition. Being well-rounded not only increases your chances of hitting your target commission goals, but it also improves your effectiveness for clients.
Jeff Thompson is managing partner at Windermere Group One. WGO is a member of Windermere Real Estate, a real estate network comprised of 300 offices and more than 6,000 agents throughout the western United States. Jeff is truly passionate about helping build companies by building their people. He leverages his 25-plus years of experience in real estate to coach other managers and brokers. Jeff credits much of his success to hard work and a willingness to partner with good people.