Hello! It’s a really tough act to follow to come talk to you about consumer feedback after you’ve just heard from real, live buyers and sellers, but that’s what I’m going to try to do. While the consumers who joined us today were able to talk about their specific experiences, I’m going to bring you hard data. I’m betting that some of this will match up with exactly what these consumers just told you, because this is what consumers told NAR through our survey.
If you aren’t familiar with NAR Research, they are the group within the association that conducts research on a wide range of topics of interest to real estate practitioners, including market data, commercial, international, home buying and selling, NAR member information, and technology. They generate local market reports, the Realtor Confidence Index, Pending and Existing home sales reports, the Member Profile, the Generational Trends report, and more. Every year, they survey home buyers and sellers to gather detailed information about the home buying and selling process. The Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers provides information on demographics, housing characteristics and the experience of consumers in the housing market, including the role that real estate professionals play in home sales transactions. So let’s take a look at it. This is going to be a quick look at 10 charts that you can use as a jumping off point to guide the way that you interact with your consumers, based on feedback from real sellers and buyers and what their experiences were like. I don’t have a ton of time, so I’m going to roll through these, and then give you a wrapup at the end. I’ve also got this presentation on Slideshare, so you can get to these specific charts if you want them.
I’ve blown these charts up as big as I can so that you can see the detail on them. We are starting with the Value of Website Features. These responses were from buyers who indicated that they had used the internet as part of their home search and buying process. Across the bottom, you can see that the darker blue shows that they found a particular site feature to be “Very Useful”, the next lighter color is “somewhat useful”, and the next “not useful”. The lightest color meant they either didn’t use that feature, or it wasn’t available.
Overwhelmingly, buyers found photos to be useful. Statistically, almost no one thought they were not useful or didn’t use them. (That’s the “captain obvious” data point on this chart, right?) They love detailed information on listings, and most appreciate virtual video tours. What’s also interesting is that 29% of buyers thought real estate news or articles were “not useful”. I’m not sure who those 12% of people are that said neighborhood information was ‘not useful’. (But I guess we’ve all had clients like that at some point.)
If I wanted my website to appeal to buyers, I’d have those features listed as most useful front and center, and easy to find. So what is first and foremost? <pause>
Photos. Visuals. Video…and descriptions. Now, it could be that the 28% of people who listed videos as “didn’t use, not available” actually would have said video was useful if it was available to them. Over half of the respondents said that video was at least somewhat useful, and that wasn’t a question specific to listing video, it was all types of video. If you add a portion of that 28% to them, that’s a large segment of buyer audience that would appreciate video content on your site.
Okay, now let’s look at what buyers said they want most from their real estate agent. Overwhelmingly, it’s about the house and the negotiations. That accounts for three quarters of responses. I think it’s interesting that the terms of the sale edged out the price of the sale in importance. Maybe that is something you are seeing with your buyer clients? Are they more concerned about terms than price lately?
In any case, the financial piece, the affordability of the home and finding financing, those got miniscule response rates, comparatively. And teaching a buyer about the neighborhood or area is even less than that, which actually surprises me a bit.
I love this chart, because it really outlines what buyers value most in their agent. Take this and think about the conversations that you have with buyer clients. First and foremost, it’s about finding the house, and how you can help facilitate that. Of course, how that happens is going to be a little different for each buyer you work with. But if you approach your dialogue with buyers with this at the center, you’ll stay focused on their main goal.
From a marketing standpoint, how much time do you spend sharing information about home sales data and how that relates to the buying process? If only 8% of buyers see that as something they are looking for from their buyers agent, how much time and effort should you spend on that type of information?
Next up, along the same lines, this chart shows what buyers said the most important factors are when choosing an agent. There’s a little more parity here.
The largest slice of the pie is “agent is honest and trustworthy,” at 25%. The next largest is “reputation of agent”, at 21%. (I’m going to assume they mean that the agent has a favorable reputation.) And 16% said it was most important that the agent is a friend or family member.
Can you guess which response I’m drawn to here? “Agent seems 100% accessible because of the use of technology like a tablet or smartphone”. Just 4%. Looks like buyers don’t give a crap what kind of technology you use. So there’s no reason to brag about that in your marketing.
Now let’s dig into how important some of these skills and qualities are. This graphic shows you some skills that were ranked as “very important”. Again, this question was posed to recent home buyers.
Not a shock, that honesty, integrity, knowledge of the process and the market, and responsiveness all got responses above 90%. Negotiation, communication, and people skills were a little less important. Again, we see that knowledge of the local area is lower on the list than what I personally would have expected, at 79%.
And again, skills with technology? Not necessarily important to buyers. 8% even said it wasn’t at all important to them.
Unless it emphasizes honesty and trustworthiness, you better make some adjustments, right? How often do we fall back on messaging that isn’t the primary reason someone would work with us? Buyers clearly don’t care if you are tech savvy, so don’t use that in your dialogue (and by dialogue I mean both the conversations you have with them and the marketing that you put out, including your social media postings.)
These charts spelled out WHY they chose their buyers agent. You can’t help whether or not you are related to someone, so throw that 16% away and focus on the folks that are trying to find a trustworthy agent. How can you tell that story with your marketing?
One last buyer response slide…let’s take a look at what methods of communication buyers find important. The chart also breaks down the difference in responses from first time buyers versus repeat buyers.
Top of the list is a personal call to talk about activities, with nearly 80% of all buyers saying that is important. Almost as important is sending an update for new listings, price changes, or under contracts on properties that fit their search criteria. All of this makes good sense.
The interesting part is what buyers didn’t find important: advertising in newspapers, being active on Facebook, and having a blog. Even having a website isn’t of huge importance.
<back slide up if needed>
They are personalized and tailored to the client. The newsletters, the print advertisements, the mobile responsive website… all of that was trumped by the bread and butter communications that speak to exactly what that client needed.
Now we are moving on to responses from the home sellers that participated in the survey. Here, we are looking at how sellers found their agent, along with a breakdown of First time and repeat sellers. Does anything jump out at you when you look at this?
There are only two statistically significant answers to this question: Referred by (or is) a friend, neighbor, or relative. And “Used agent previously to buy or sell a home.” Those two combined account for 64% of all sellers. If you add in the ‘referred by another real estate agent or broker’ response and the ‘referred through employer or relocation company’ response, that puts the total at 71%.
<ask it, let it hang> Is that spend proportional to the amount of business that comes from it?
Another sellers slide. This shows the number of agents that a seller contacted before they decided who they were going to list with. This is another one of the data points that surprised me when I got this report. I would have thought that there would have been more folks at least in the ‘two’ response category.
So only 34% of listing calls are a competitive situation. And for most of those, you’re only competing against one other agent.
I wish the data could tell us that, wouldn’t that save a lot of time and energy?
If the seller didn’t completely make their mind up before they reached out, then the contact with the agent confirmed it. Were they just verifying that the agent was who they thought they were? (Either based on a recommendation or referral, or on the research they had done?)
Obviously, this makes me think about listing presentations. What do you think sellers are looking for?
Of course, we asked them what they want from their agent. This is broken down by service level, too, including full service, limited service, and primarily just listing it in the MLS. They most want help marketing the home, with 25% of all sellers saying they want that the most. (Personally, I find it interesting that the limited service options want that too.)
Selling within a specified timeframe and pricing competitively are also high on the list, at 20 and 19%.
Finding a buyer for the home is lower, at 15%.
I have to say I’m surprised that negotiations and the contractual part of the transaction rated so low. Overall what do sellers value most from their agent? Marketing. And getting it done in a specific timeframe.
And again, when I say dialogue, I’m talking both about the actual conversations you have with potential sellers, but also the way that you tailor your marketing. For starters, make sure that both of those points are well covered in your listing presentation. (There’s no a-ha moment there.) But also think about your marketing pieces, whether it’s blog posts, direct mail, email drip campaigns, or newsletters. When you send those to sellers, do you emphasize your expertise with marketing or getting home sold on time? Or do you talk about staging and fixing the home up? The data says the folks who sell want you for your marketing skills, so speak to that.
The data shows a few more items that you can include in your narrative.
This is the last chart. We also asked sellers to choose what the most important factor was to them when they picked their listing agent. Look familiar? These were the same choices that we saw given to the buyers in an earlier slide. Do you remember what the buyers said? Buyers: Reputation was 21%, Honest and trustworthy 25%, agent is friend or family member 16%.
Kind of similar, although reputation outweighs trust for sellers. What’s different is that sellers care way more about whether you know the neighborhood…14% of sellers vs. 8% of buyers. (And it looks like sellers don’t care if you have a caring personality. But that’s a totally different topic.)
The interesting data nugget on this? Commission was named as the most important factor by only 3% of sellers.
Time for your takeaways. <read slide>
Obviously, this varies from market to market. What I want you to see in the data are the patterns. If consumers don’t have an agent they trust, they are looking for a referral to an agent that someone they trust, trusted with a transaction. Your marketing, your dialogue with consumers, and your narrative about your business needs to speak directly to what the consumer is asking for. Each one of you has a different story to tell about why your clients trust you.
The 2014 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers will be available in November, around our annual conference, which will be in New Orleans this year. Hope I will see you there!
Takeaways: • Listen to your
consumer, however possible. Data patterns can help you tailor your dialogue. • Buyers want honesty, integrity, knowledge of the process. • Sellers want an agent with marketing skills, neighborhood knowledge, and a strong reputation, one that can sell their home on time. • YOU want your communications with consumers to showcase how you have those skills. Give them what they want!