Do consumers think Real Estate is a Relationship business? - one consumer's perspective...

Real Estate Assistant with ha media group

Fireworks broke out these last few weeks with Chris Smith (Inman News Evangelist) publishing his Real Estate is no longer a relationship business piece.  As expected, not only did it start a conversation, but resulted in a few rebuttal posts, (which are linked to at the end of this blog), and a few comments that were downright nasty.  I was paying attention to the conversation as it developed, from the sidelines, mostly, and here are my takeaways, as a consumer of any good or service, not just real estate.

What Chris was saying, in essence, was that he, as a consumer, doesn’t care to follow his real estate pro on FB or Twitter, or to be taken out to lunch or be invited to your wedding.  He wants you, the professional, to handle his transaction brilliantly.  I am over-simplifying here, of course, so I suggest you read the postand the comments, and the rebuttal posts as well – all worthy of a read.

What struck me as odd in some of the comments on the many threads where this conversation progressed was the offense some took to the very idea that someone might look at their business as a ‘transaction’, and not a relationship.  Which leads me to these thoughts.

I think too many practitioners are still motivated by fear of being forgotten by those they serve and are willing to jump through all kinds of hoops so that they can keep their name “top of mind” of their past clients, so that, of course, they get referrals.  I don’t so much have an issue with the desire to remain top of mind, or even the cheesy signatures of “I appreciate your referrals” as much as I resent the idea that the folks who market that way are confusing staying in touch for the sake of future business with “relationships”.

honest realtor's manifesto
honest realtor's manifesto

Without going into the rather dull definitions battle, to me, receiving a series of postcards from my service provider is not having a relationship with them any more than getting a coupon book from Target is.  Strangely, as a consumer, I’d pay more attention to the coupon book from Target (if there is something I need to purchase in the nearest future) than I would to those SOI/touch marketing campaigns.  I don’t care how pretty and non-salesy you color it, I still view those things as a marketing tool, not a relationship building tool.  Frankly, I don’t think there is such a thing as a relationship building tool, and that includes the social media.  Relationships, while should not be confused with friendships, still involve obligations and liabilities on both sides.  And people, by and large, are rather protective of whom they’d like to obligate themselves to.

I think that as a consumer, I’d want the same thing from my real estate agent as Chris – save me the headaches of dealing with paperwork, listen to my needs, make the process as painless (for me) as possible and be there when I need you.  In short – handle my transaction seamlessly, brilliantly.  I don’t flip houses, so statistically, you probably won’t sell me another home, but if you handle my transaction brilliantly and I don’t hear from you again unless I have a problem with the home – I will recommend you to my friends and family.  I will even dig for your name if I’d forgotten it, even if I have to resurrect my HUD statement to do that.  What I know for a fact is that I will never refer business to someone just because they keep sending me cards or gifts or because they are my FB friends or twitter followers.  I will NEVER risk my reputation with people I actually do have a relationship with because of convenience.

All that said, it doesn’t mean that I can’t or won’t become a friend or develop a deep(er) relationship with any of my service providers, be they attorneys, accountants or real estate practitioners.  But these will (and do) happen as any other friendships.  We click on a human level.  We connect and enjoy each other’s company long past any transaction.  None of it is dependent on the practitioner staying in touch.

There is supposedly room in each of us for 150 or so meaningful connections over the course of our lives.  I don’t know if that number is accurate or even meaningful.  Suffice it to say that if our capacity for connecting with other human beings is finite, we are probably all somewhat protective of this finite space and whom we choose to share it with.  Let’s be honest and stop confusing customer follow up via any means with building or maintaining meaningful connections or relationships.  Your customers aren’t going to confuse the two, and there is nothing that turns off a consumer more nowadays than a fake friendship attempt.

Wouldn’t it be easier to provide remarkable service to all our clients and have enough trust in the fact that if you do a remarkable job, they will remember you, and will recommend you to their friends and family based on that, instead of 33 irrelevant likes/postcards/sets of cookies?

For any of my friends reading this, please DON”T recommend me to anyone based on our friendship.  Recommend my company based on the work we do if you genuinely believe we’re the best people to handle the needs of those you care about.  Anything less would be an insult to how we do business.

And finally, by way of a disclaimer, my business is currently almost entirely by referrals and recommendations.

Here are all the posts on the theme, in order, all worth reading.

Chris’s original post:

It Is No Longer A Relationship Business – Here’s Why


From Rob Hahn

If Real Estate Is Not In The Relationship Business, What Business Is It In?

From Bill Lublin

Being Without Relationships is Being Without Business

Your thoughts?

Originally published on my blog at hamedia group.


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  1. Jon Zolsky 09/17/2011 12:19 AM
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Sharon Alters
Your Fleming Island Relocation Agents.
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty

Inna, was it EVER a relationship business? Maybe in small towns with the good old boys, people are referred business because of who they know, but my clients chose me because of the job I do, not because they wanted to be a friend.

Most of them want to go about their life like it was before we met; we are not joined at the hip just because we had a business deal. Imagine if you connected with every vendor you used, became their new BFF. You would be overrun with 'friends.'

Now don't get me wrong, I am friendly and some people do become friends, but we have our own lives to lead; we don't become each other's new BFF.


September 18, 2011 05:41 PM
Brad Jenkins
Charles Rutenberg Realty

What do I think, hmmmmm,

Well my first thought is that from my research I could find and I may be wrong, but neither you nor Mr. Smith has ever been in the business of selling real estate?  There seems to me to be a proliferation of such folks superficially involved as a stealthily means of self promotion.

My next thought is that Smith's post was designed to gain exposure and lacked facts and/or research, as much of the so called expert real estate information that is disseminated as factual these days does.  Did he do a scientific survey to draw conclusions as to what real estate agents view a relationship to be versus consumers and how many times agents do contact previous clients?  I did not see that.

My last thought is that not many understand the definition of a relationship. Here is one that I feel applies: A particular type of connection existing between people related to or having dealings with each other

Obviously in this business real estate is the connection.  What sets good agents apart from mediocre ones is how they handle the second part of the definition, ". . . dealings with each other, (clients)."

Those dealings should be individualized based on the parameters and needs of a particular client.  It is up to me to find out what those are.  I do that by establishing relationships.

I had the privilege of working with a couple in their 80s.  We grew very close and even though they will never buy another home from me and have relocated to another state 1500 miles away, I still email and call them once a month.  Not to remind them I am an agent, but because I care deeply for them and their well being.  The feeling is reciprocal in nature.

In stark contrast, I also have another client that is from a different background culturally then myself, we will call them the Jones.  They are private people who do not socialize outside of their culture and family.  My approach to them is polar opposite to my elderly clients.  I will call them once a month for the first three months because when I first met them, part of what they liked about me was that I promised them I would be with them all the way, before, during and after the sale.  I will check in with them to make sure all is well with the new home I helped them buy.  After the three months, I will then check with them once every six months.

By staying in touch with previous clients I have helped them or their relative (s) find a job, a plumber, a roofer, a mechanic, solved an issue at their child's school (I taught for 16yrs.) and many other problem solving resolutions.

In conclusion, do I think real estate is about relationships?  For the way I approach it, ABSOLUTELY 100%!

September 18, 2011 08:31 PM
Inna Hardison
Wordpress for Real Estate & Design, Print HaMedia Group
ha media group

Doug @2 - bingo.

Andrea @3 - The number was something i grabbed off of a tweet.  I am not told it's part of a KW system, but in all honesty, it doesn't matter. It doesn't have to be 33 times, it could be 12 or 6, and still be wrong, as far as the larger picture is concerned.  It's the intent that matters, at least to me.:-)

Chris @4 - I wasn't really referencing AR in my post, and I suppose there is somethign to be said for inner-industry referrals grazing by virtue of becoming friends.  The friendship lines here get blurred a lot as well.  On the larger sentiment in your comment - agreed.  Do you job well, or better than well, and none of the other stuff will be nearly as important for generating business.

Ruthmarie @5 - well, I tend to disagree with "gurus" an awful lot, it seems.  Nothing wrong with staying in touch, again, so long as we call it that, and not something it's not.  :-)

Dale @8 - thanks for the comment and yep, i think quite a few agents are delluding themselves when it comes to those all important 'relationships'.

Charles@ 9 - Good to see you, and thank you:-)

HJS @10 - I've no issue with anything that develops naturally, it's the pretense that gets me.

Marge@11 - supposedly, every one has a limit on friends.  Not sure which Inman Report you are referring to here.

September 19, 2011 12:38 PM
Inna Hardison
Wordpress for Real Estate & Design, Print HaMedia Group
ha media group

Tim @12 - and that goal is a worthy one:-)

Anna @13 - thank you for the well thought-out comment.  Much appreciated.

Kathy @14 - I don't think anyone can truly fake a frienship.  Although so many do try.

Debbie @15 - as mentioned earlier, that number is meaningless, just the intent that matters.

September 19, 2011 01:02 PM
Miriam Bernstein, CRS
New Orleans and Surrounding Suburbs Real Estate
RE/MAX N.O. Properties

Great post, I read Chris's post and totally agree with it.  We are hired to do a job, do it well and move on.  A house sale is a transaction.  I have over the years made friends with a few buyers that I had a long term relationship with while finding the right property for them and if they think of me to refer that's great.  I have never done the postcard, email solicitiations.  Don't have "refer to me" in my emai signature.  Do a good job and you will be referred. Your dad had the best view - we have the wrong perspective and expectations.

September 19, 2011 08:26 PM
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