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  • Writer's pictureDon Stocker

Connections Not Commodities

Our clients are true connections, not commodities.

Throughout my professional career, customer service has been the cornerstone of my success. At a young age, my parents instilled in me how important it is to treat other people the way I want to be treated. It’s always amazing to me how some people lose sight of that simple principle as they try to build a business or a career. Every client I work with has a motivation and a desire whether they know it or not. My job is to help define both of those and shape them into a tangible outcome. As a realtor, that outcome manifests itself into the form of a home. That’s a fancy way of saying I listen to what my buyers or sellers want and help them find it.

At Stocker and Watts, we have been very fortunate to build a customer base in a very organic way. We haven’t relied on heavy advertising or paying real estate websites large sums of money to get leads. One of the great benefits of building our business the way we have is the connections we have made. We have met several of our clients at open houses or through referrals from friends or past clients. Many of those clients have become good friends.

I recently read an article that really spelled out what online advertising for real estate has done to our industry. Many agents pay online tech companies like Zillow for leads. The only thing an agent needs to do to be a “specialist” in a certain market is to pay Zillow and other companies like them. The large influx of leads (people that click on a property and want to know more) have led to real estate agents treating those leads like commodities rather than clients. I say that because at that point it becomes a numbers game for the agents. The more leads they get, the higher the odds they can convert some of them into actual clients or customers. I see ads from large online tech companies that state their agents are the best in the business. Please don’t be fooled. Those agents have paid them to be on their site.

I would compare the commodity model to a used car lot. When you walk on the lot, you get the next salesperson that is in queue. The same thing happens when you click on an agent in a real estate app. They are next in queue to get a lead because they paid to be there. Buying a house is much more complicated than purchasing a car – no offense to car salesmen. You can usually buy a car in a matter of hours. Purchasing a home takes weeks and a lot happens in those few weeks.

Several of the real estate applications that have become popular over the past few years identify themselves as tech companies. They have created slick websites that draw eager home buyers to them. Most people start their home search online. That is understandable. Everything is available online. We have become a society that is obsessed with getting things as quick as possible. It’s great to be able to open an app and find a house that on paper, meets all your needs. Occasionally that may translate into being the perfect home but more often than not, it takes looking and really honing in on what truly matters. Very seldom does the home a buyer purchase match the list of wants or needs that they start out with. That’s were listening and figuring out motivation and desire really come into play.

At Stocker and Watts, we prefer to do business the old-fashioned way. Connection is so much more important to us than getting a ton of leads from a website that we must pay to get access to. Our business plan is not based on quantity, it is based on quality. We want clients that we connect with and buy from us because they trust us.

I have been truly disheartened lately seeing how impersonal some agents want to make this process. Agents put confidential agent remarks that only other agents can see in the multiple listing service. Some agents say TEXT only with any questions you have. Others go a step further and want all buyer information emailed to them before they will even schedule an appointment. At a time when our existence is already being questioned, to have agents that don’t work for discount brokers or tech companies offer such bad service is astounding to me.

At Stocker and Watts, our philosophy is different. We know how difficult it already is to schedule showings for buyers, so we make it as easy as possible for agents to show our listings to clients. We believe that building relationships is the most important part of our business. Those relationships are what put food on our tables. Our process is very fluid, but it is also reliant on the relationships that we build. We have been lucky enough to build a successful business by connecting with people and building solid, strong relationships.

When a person thinks about the relationships that are involved in a real estate transaction, the one that gets overlooked the most is the one between agents. That relationship is as important to the success of the transaction as any other. All agents have horror stories about other agents we worked with that were difficult. I can tell you, putting statements in the confidential agent remarks that limit contact with that agent throws up red flags about how that agent will be to work with. There are so many things that go on during the home buying process. Being able to communicate with the agent on the other side if very important. It makes me not even want to show their listings. If we are going to continue to bring value to our clients, it needs to be in an all-encompassing way. If you are limiting the ability to show your client’s listing or contact with another agent, you are not doing yourself or your clients any favors.

I would encourage sellers to really think about what an agent says they will do for you. If they want to put up hurdles to limit access to your home, know that they aren’t helping you. In this market, the more eyes that see your home, the better. Values are driven up by multiple offers. No house is so special that it will garner the most from being seen the least. Hurdles don’t help you sell a home, they hinder it. If you look at the average days on market for a listing agent who puts those hurdles in place, you will be shocked to see how high they are. I’m always amazed that those agents even get business.

You may be wondering, “How do I find and agent if I don’t find one online?” I would encourage you to find one the way people found them before the internet. Here are some examples.

Go to open houses in areas that you are interested in. Agents that work these open houses could become a great resource for you. Ask them questions. See how well they know the neighborhood and the market. Think of it as a job interview. You are interviewing them. This has been a great lead source for us. I can think of only a few times when we actually sold the home we were holding open to the buyers we met, but have met several potential buyers that purchased from us. I love the connections that we make when meeting people at open houses. There is something very organic and energizing about it.

Another way to find an agent is to ask your friends or family members that have purchased homes if they would recommend their agent. Agents live for and truly appreciate referrals. They are the best thank you we can get. Because the agent has a relationship with your friend or family member, they are going to do everything they can to help you. It’s a relationship once removed that can build into another great relationship.

Working in real estate has been very fulfilling. When I first got into the business, I was excited because I love looking at homes. What I quickly learned was the best part of what I do is helping people find a home. Through that process, I have made some great connections and built several amazing friendships.

As our business continues to grow, I look forward to finding other agents who want to grow with us. If you are an agent reading this and it speaks to you, please feel free to reach out. Stocker and Watts will always be about giving the best service possible no matter how big we get.

Real Estate ReInvented |



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