I spend quite a bit of my time digging through various groups and forums that deal with real estate in my efforts to keep abreast of current goings on, sentiments, et al. It’s my way of staying on top of my game as a marketer with a lot of real estate agent and brokerage clients. As is to be expected, some discussions get rather heated, and our egos and tempers occasionally get the better of us. I’m as guilty of this as the next guy or gal, or likely more so than most, but… even in the midst of a really heated debate, I can’t imagine winning an argument by telling someone who disagrees with my point of view to take a hike, for any reason, or that they need to meet some professional or educational requirements in order to be entitled to an opinion.
For years now I’ve been fighting the prevailing sentiments that all vendors suck, or slightly more nuanced interpretations of the same. For years we are being told that unless we make our living by transacting real estate, we should refrain from voicing our opinions on the state of the industry on a whole or on any specifics, less maybe those that pertain to what we do. I’m sick to death of hearing that we are not qualified to judge or opine because we don’t know what it’s like to sell real estate day in and day out. The latest blowup revolved around a rather eloquent post by Marc Davison of 1000Watt Consulting>> where Marc provided an account of one of his friends’ real estate experience gone wrong as a segue into a plea to help make the industry better.
I am not surprised to see that some people got offended at what they perceived as some broad brush strokes, but I am surprised and offended at the anger directed at what amounts to as a messenger in this case. Without quoting everyone from the thread in question>>, which you can click through easily enough, the overwhelming sentiment among the shallow readers seemed to be that one, especially an outsider, should not criticize the industry. We should all instead engage in collective peace pipe smoking or some other kumbuya alternative.
And of course the oft voiced refrain that as vendors who are “fed” by the real estate industry, we should all tuck our tails between our legs or risk losing our shirts.
I am one of those vendors. I am also a consumer and a marketer. Part of my job is to try to see the world from as many different perspectives as I can get my virtual hands on. I spend the majority of my time predicting people’s future reactions to the messages and collateral that we create. This applies to any responsible marketer (or should). That’s just what we do. That’s what Marc does. That, in fact, should be the reason that people hire an ad agency or a marketing company in the first place. In all the other industries we’ve ever worked with, it seemed to be understood that consumer opinion was not only important but imperative to the success of their campaigns, and to the success and reputation of their business. When Dominos chose to face the criticisms head on, they earned a ton of fans in the process. They created media assets around how horrendous their old pizza was. They (humbly) but publicly apologized, and, from what I’m told, made their product better.
I would love nothing more than for this industry that we work in daily to come to terms with those consumer and outsider opinions, no matter how unpleasant. It’s easier to bury a crappy real estate transaction than a lousy pizza, of course, if only because real estate transactions for most people simply don’t occur often enough to generate consistent expectations and consequent feedback. But I’d venture a theory that precisely because real estate purchases are so rare over the course of our lives, every single transaction gone wrong has a tremendous impact on the overall reputation of the industry.
I would posit that for every lazy or incompetent agent, good agents are losing money every time the former butchers the deal.
I’m told that all a consumer has to do is make sure they choose the best agents, and that should they have a bad experience, simply realize that it is their fault for not having chosen more wisely. I’d like to challenge my real estate agent and broker friends to create a list of criteria that a consumer should use in order to determine competency level of any given real estate agent. I’d like for that list to include actual resources where consumers could verify any transaction numbers, should those be part of the criteria. As it stands right now, I don’t think anything like that exists. I also know from a few previous attempts to bring such transparency to the consumers that agents were the first and loudest to fight such efforts (successfully, I might add).
Until that happens, I will loudly and publicly fight the status quo. I will stick up for people and businesses who have something important to say and for their right to say it. And I will keep staking our very reputation on the idea that if we are not passionate about the space we operate in, we have no business being in it. And that anyone who is passionate about any industry will never stop trying to improve it, which requires being willing to state the negatives wherever they exist. Anything short of that would indeed be a disservice to the industry, to our clients and most importantly – to those very consumers that we all serve.