Speaking of Real Estate
Wherever real estate falls in its transformation to a high-tech industry, it’s somewhere between Facebook and Snapchat. That analogy is meant to point out that Facebook, now so commonly used that it’s considered a basic element of modern life, represents the minimum technology standard consumers expect of real estate professionals. Snapchat, on the other hand, is a bit newer, with its applications still evolving, and represents a higher bar that more tech-savvy agents are rising to.
But we’ve moved beyond the point where practitioners can cite Facebook and Twitter as examples of how they stay relevant with technology — because there’s nothing new about either platforms, Anne Jones, a sales associate with Windermere Real Estate in Tacoma, Wash., suggested during a tech forum at Inman Connect in New York. “Stop talking about tweeting and Facebooking,” she said. “We’re passed the Facebook and Twitter moment.”
Does that mean Snapchat now represents a new standard for where pros should be with their technology skills? Not quite yet. We’re in a period now where practitioners need to delve deeper into the technology they’ve become comfortable with to understand how it’s actually working for them before adopting more ambitious advancements, said Seth Dailey, co-founder of Keller Williams Gateway in Baltimore.
That starts with understanding the analytics generated by the tech you use. The analytics on Facebook ads, for example, are misunderstood by way too many professionals who use the the tool, Jones said.
“You can only improve what you measure,” Dailey said. “Everyone here is about getting homes bought and sold, and if you want to improve that, you have to measure your success.”
The whole room started chuckling when Linda O’Koniewski, CEO of RE/MAX Leading Edge in Melrose, Mass., made a peculiar suggestion for improving agent-client relationships during the broker segment at Inman Connect in New York. She said agents who use emojis — hearts, smiley faces, animals, if it’s fitting — sometimes have stronger communication with clients.
Go ahead and laugh; get it out of your system. But I’m telling you: Once I let it sink in a little deeper, it kind of made sense to me.
“When my agents put hearts on their texts and e-mails, it’s like they’re sending a little bit of love,” O’Koniewski said. It sounds silly at first, I know. But think about how you communicate with your friends and loved ones. When you have something particularly exciting to share, don’t you sometimes send a happy face with your message? Or if you want to show you understand that a friend is down, don’t you send a “frowny” face?
It’s in the little details where we show people that we are connected to them and empathize. That’s what real relationships are all about. So if you’ve spent time getting to know your clients, building trust, and forming a real bond, then they’d probably receive an emoji from you in the same manner they would a trusted friend. And isn’t it your goal to be seen as a trusted friend to your clients?
I know that I share dumb little smiley faces with REALTOR® sources I’ve developed for my stories over the years. We have a business relationship, but there’s nothing I view as unprofessional about fun emoji expressions in our communications. It makes me feel more like I can be myself with them. I think that’s what O’Koniewski was getting at.
Of course, the notion of communicating with emojis may not suit everyone, and at least it’s good for a little laugh. As session moderator Sherry Chris, president and CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, said: “I usually put skulls and martini glasses in my texts. I don’t know what that would say to a client.”
Brokers and team leaders are putting their focus on recruiting new agents at the Inman Connect conference in New York, and the theme emerging on opening day is that they’re ready to infuse the industry with some younger blood. Making the business attractive and relevant to younger people is a familiar problem, but brokers came to morning sessions on Tuesday ready to share why the inexperienced have often made better hires for them.
“I love hiring someone right out of college,” said Mark Spain, CEO of Mark Spain Real Estate — a company with 85 agents — in Atlanta. “It’s nice to have someone who hasn’t been in the business and who learns it the right way. I’m really looking for talent — the Lebron James-type people. And talent is about much more than knowing the job.”
Gwen Daubenmeyer, CEO and associate broker of The Integrity Team at RE/MAX Defined in Rochester, Mich., said she has focused on recruiting inexperienced agents for her 13-agent team and immediately sent them to cutting-edge education and training courses. “We run a 90 percent referral business,” she said, “so I’m after longevity. Young people with talent are looking for something to belong to — not just a job.”
None of this is to say that experienced agents don’t play a vital role, particularly when it comes to helping the next generation of real estate practitioners develop into their own. When speaking about how to form rock-solid real estate teams, team leaders spoke of the need to have a core group of experienced agents in the office to hold newer agents accountable for their progress and education. But let’s be honest: With 57 being the median age of all REALTORS®, it’s incumbent on leaders in the business to build a pipeline of fresh professionals.
Brokers could get in that mind frame by beginning to recognize the value of younger agents to their individual business. “I like new agents because they haven’t developed bad habits,” said Linda O’Koniewski, CEO of RE/MAX Leading Edge in Melrose, Mass. “I’ve created a litmus test to test them before I hire them. Make sure they drive by 100 properties and get a feel for the day-to-day business. Those who can’t hack it won’t go further than that point. But if they’re still hungry, we hire them.”
Home sales in November 2015 saw a big drop and although it’s too soon to know definitively what’s behind the slowdown, it’s possible the new closing rules that went into effect October 3 had something to do with it.
NAR researchers say closings on average are taking five days longer than they did before the change. If that’s the case, then some transactions that would have closed in November would have been delayed until December, and that could account for some of the drop, which NAR says was about 10.5 percentage points, from a 5.3-million unit sales pace to a 4.8-million pace.
NAR will be releasing its December existing-home sales numbers later this week and that will give a good indication if the November slowdown was a one-month blip, perhaps caused by the new closing rules, or something else.
The November sales drop was a top story in the latest NAR news video, The Voice for Real Estate. The video also looks at the bright prospects for foreign investment in U.S. commercial real estate. At the heart of foreign investors’ interest in retail, industrial, office, and other commercial property types in the U.S. is its relatively stable markets, especially when looked at in comparison with other parts of the world, including Europe, where geopolitical and economic issues are contributing to investor caution.
But Congress also helped boost prospects for foreign investment by passing end-of-the-year legislation that includes provisions easing 35-year-old restrictions on foreign property investment. One provision allows foreign pension funds to own U.S. real property interests without triggering a withholding tax, and another allows overseas investors to own up to 10 percent of a publicly traded REIT, an increase from 5 percent.
All told, some $30 billion more in U.S. commercial property investment is expected this year from foreign buyers. More on this and other issues is in the latest Voice for Real Estate video, above.