Maybe I can offer a totally different perspective

Hurricane Fannie Freddie got me thinking about an email that I sent out to a Seattle real estate agent not too long ago.     The agent emailed me to say that she thought Rain City Guide’s negativity was only making the Seattle real estate market worse and that we should provide a more positive outlook.

This was not the first email I’ve received like this (far from it), and so I thought I’d share my response with 4realz readers since it may help you uncover a bit of what has worked on RCG over the past 3 1/2 years (note: I modified the email substantially to protect the innocent):

Dear Seattle real estate agent,

Maybe I can offer a totally different perspective.

As you seem to understand by your email, Rain City Guide is an awesome marketing tool that generates lots of interest among seattle real estate consumers and substantial business for many of the active participants.   However, I think the reason we are successful often gets lost on industry insiders.

There’s no doubt that the group of contributors to RCG often takes a slightly negative twist (some might argue “realistic”) on the market and that in general, the most active participants are extremely pro-consumers at the expense of the industry.   For industry-insiders like yourself, this can often seem completely inappropriate (as you mentioned!), but for those of us generating business by tapping into an honest dialog with consumers about the market, it can often seem odd that anyone would take any other position.

Truth is, I can’t think of one successful real estate blogger (i.e. one who is generating substantial business from blogging) who views their job to look out for the industry.

While it might be in the best interest of the industry for RCG to put a positive spin on today’s market, from my perspective, it’s in the best interest of each contributor to take a position that a vast majority of consumers can relate to.   For consumers, the market sucks… and that includes most of the people who are considering buying and/or selling right now.    And my experience has been that if you tell an internet consumer anything they don’t want to hear, they’ll simply do another google search and find an agent, website or blog that matches with their reality.

My recommendation? As you contribute comments (and maybe some day posts) to RCG, focus on consumers and (pretty much) ignore the other contributors.  And if you do decide to give industry-spin, then be prepared that RCG readers love to point out self-serving agents and RCG contributors are often more than happy to distance themselves from industry insiders because they’re looking to earn clients, not industry friends.

Essentially, don’t be the “example” that other contributors can focus on to differentiate themselves.  Instead, focus on relating directly to consumers with the most authentic dialog you can muster.  There’s plenty of business to be generated by all if you fight for the consumer’s heart and mind.

And just to be clear, this perspective has everything to do with the expectations of internet consumer and very little to do with RCG.  This honest dialog between agents and consumers goes on, and will continue to go on, with or without RCG.

I hope this helps! Best,

-Dustin

I’d be fascinated to hear your thoughts on my email.  Does this philosophy work outside of Seattle?  Or am I just totally missing the boat on what makes RCG tick?

24 thoughts on “Maybe I can offer a totally different perspective

  1. It’s hard to argue with success, Dustin.

    Unlike some other group blogs, the RCG contributors all know and work the Seattle market. It seems logical to me that it will therefore attract greater local market interest (and business for the contributors who write for those consumers). Who wants to hear from an agent doing business in NY. That may be OK for a group industry blog but IMO RCG is a great model for a group blog that is likely to get consumer business IF that’s who you’re talking to.

  2. Hi Dustin,

    If Realtors believe the media or a blog has the power to effect consumer behavior, Realtors are spending way too much time listening to their brokers and not enough time listening to consumers.

    Being an agent is like being middle management. On the one hand, you have upper management screaming at you to cut costs and produce more revenue. On the other side you have employees screaming about cost cuts and the challenges of making sales.

    Consumers are starving for data interpretation. They’re being blasted by the media about the mortgage crisis, foreclosures, bank failures and recesssion, and they’re also being told now is a great time to buy?

    Realtors have a brilliant opportunity to become that respected, educated pro who can help buyers and selllers make sense out of all this data. Seek out educators who can help you do this. We are out here ready to help you.

    I meet Realtors every day who come into the classroom looking for someone to help them be that person. It’s a shame their brokers are not doing this and instead, teaching their agents to blame the media and bloggers.

    Brokers who DO decide to help educate their agents will survive and thrive.

    Educate being defined as how to make sense out of what’s happening and how to help consumers make good decisions and NOT just teaching them more sales scripts to memorize.

    I can tell your readers (and brokers) from experience that consumers are out there, they like what they’re reading on RCG, they interact with me via email, & over the phone, I’ve met with many face-to-face and many have hired me.

    The business is out there.

    I’m glad you received that email because if it would have come to me, I’d tell them to stop whining, get off the butts and go out there and start LISTENING to consumers (not talking.)

  3. Hi Joe,

    Though RCG contributors are local and know the local market, it is read by consumers nationwide. I have regular readers from as far away as Florida, WA DC, and Virginia.

    People in foreclosure from all over the U.S. have found us and asked heartbreaking questions about their own homes.

    The national media has been contacting me for over a year now for interviews based on what they’ve found on RCG and tomorrow I’m meeting with a TV crew from Canada.

    We’re doing something good: We’re telling consumers the truth about what’s going on.

  4. Hi Dustin:

    I’m not sure if it works in other markets or not, but it sounds like really good advice. I think that it’s a wonderful idea.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Misty

  5. Completely agreed with your letter, Dustin.

    One small quibble is here:

    While it might be in the best interest of the industry for RCG to put a positive spin on today’s market, from my perspective, it’s in the best interest of each contributor to take a position that a vast majority of consumers can relate to. For consumers, the market sucks… and that includes most of the people who are considering buying and/or selling right now. And my experience has been that if you tell an internet consumer anything they don’t want to hear, they’ll simply do another google search and find an agent, website or blog that matches with their reality.

    Telling consumers what they want to hear is also a kind of spin. I know you don’t mean it that way — I know what you’re saying is to be honest and authentic. But I wanted to make this clear.

    Consumers can sniff out inauthenticity either way — whether it’s pro-industry spin or pro-consumer spin. Just be authentic, be honest, and give your professional opinion backed up with research, data, and experience and consumers will be able to distinguish trustworthy folks from the Slick Willie salesmen.

    -rsh

  6. What many agents don’t understand is that it is perfectly fine to say to a buyer client that it is a terrible time to buy. That is beyond fathomable to many agents.

    I have told many a client “you are paying $20,000 too much for this house”. I’ve told a buyer of one of my own homes he was paying $100,000 too much for it. His response: “will you sell it to me for less then?” My response: “No.” He bought it.

    Too many agents don’t understand that honesty is always OK.

  7. Now here’s a good idea for a blog article: What does a Realtor member do when his or her duties under the Realtor code (Honesty) conflict with his or her duties to earn a living?

    Honesty is always okay….except when you have to chose between honesty and feeding your family?

    Are there many different ways to be honest and still fulfill all your duties?

    What about all the possible consequences of being honest 100% of the time?

    Your thoughts? :)

  8. Jillayne,

    In the mid 90s the Realtor Organization removed the duty to be “fair” to all parties (which was a previous duty), but not the duty to be honest.

    I think that is why agents first convince themselves that things are better than they are, so that when they say things are better…they are being honest.

    It is why many companies arm their agents with proofs of positive points, so that they can all be honest.

    No one lies to their clients, Jillayne. But some people do lie to themselves.

  9. I talk with lots and lots of agents in the classroom. Hundreds each year.

    They are not convinced that things are going well. Yes, they’re armed with talking points but the agents as well as the home buyers and sellers are not convinced.

    Most people (not all) have a very difficult time lying to themselves. I do not believe that the majority of agents are buying the talking points.

  10. “…but the agents as well as the home buyers and sellers are not convinced.”

    It is always a good time to… You say buyers and sellers are not convinced. Buyers AND sellers never have to be convinced.

    When it is not a good time to buy, then it is a good time to sell. When it is not a good time to sell…then it is a good time to buy.

    When it is a good time to sell, I work very hard at getting listings. When it is a good time to buy, I work very hard at getting buyer clients.

    It’s very easy to be honest in this business, as long as you are never saying it is the best time to buy and the best time to sell at the same time. That is never the case in most anything that has a fluctuating market value.

    I wrote a post once about a “two faced agent” who had a meeting in the morning and said it was a great time to sell to a seller (because prices are going to go down maybe) and in the afternoon said the reverse to a buyer.

    I have even seen agents write two blog articles back to back like this. One to sellers and the next post to buyers.

    I challanged a group of agents to write two posts that day. One to sellers and one to buyers. As a blogger, you talk to each, both together and separately, in writing and in the public view. That is why bloggers often become better agents as a result of blogging.

  11. I get emails and comments from agents frequently “calling me out” — usually when I say something like “now may not be a good time to sell” (See You Can’t Handle the Truth! for one example).

    “What about all the possible consequences of being honest 100% of the time?”

    Consequences of being honest? Other than loyal clients, I can’t think of any.

    I can think of TONS of consequences of being dishonest, or even sugar-coating the truth.

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  13. Hi Jay, Being 100% honest, 100% of the time is not easy. What if your sweetie asked you, “honey, does this outfit make my butt look fat?”

    Answering that question with 100% honesty could have some dire consequences.

    That’s why we ask our very, very best friend for that answer. He/she will always tell us the truth: It’s not the outfit, it’s your butt; it’s fat.

    In business agents serve several masters. Your broker who needs you to be productive, your client who needs that 100% honesty, and your family who needs you to make a sale.

    Being 100% forthright and upfront with clients is not necessarily a black and white issue when it comes to the question, “Is now a good time to buy?” “Is now a good time to sell?”

    It might be in the client’s best interest to wait, for good, logical reasons. Likewise, it might be in the client’s best interest to act now, for good logical reasons. This means agents will have to re-learn the reasons for buying and selling in this market.

    If they haven’t re-learned all those reasons, just parroting a list of talking points is not going to cut it in today’s challenging market. Buyers and sellers are craving analysis, and they’re seeking out someone to listen to their concerns.

    Many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many agents never had the opportunity to learn those good reasons during the bubble run up.

  14. I love all the feedback from today! Thanks everyone… It’s a fascinating dialog.

    Rob Hahn: It’s an interesting point of view. My take is that a blog is just another version of marketing and any marketing involves a bit of spin. Of course, if it’s an authentic conversation, then it’s a hell of a lot easier to market, but I’m not against advising agents to pander if it can help differentiate themselves and lead to positive results. ;)

  15. I think if everyone dug their heels in and said I’m going to do business with only those that I agree with, not a whole lot of business would take place.

    Lynlee and I have probably the most unique position of all RCG contributers. We are in a position of discussion that could easily alienate both those that pay us, the consumers who are our clients (the consumers we try to reach) and those who are largely responsible for placing business with us, agents and loan officers.

    But the one thing Lynlee and I will never compromise regardless of outcome: our integrity and character.

    On the other hand, many times bloggers and contributors think of things that I neglect to think through and that’s a good thing. Sometimes I may disagree with a blogger or contributor but then they post a sweet video with some great licks and then it’s all good!

  16. Jillayne – the “do these pants make my ass look fat” question really should be off-limits. Always & forever ;) My wife however, would expect nothing but an honest answer to that question. (and I’m lucky, my wife IS my very very best friend)

    Fortunately, I don’t have to serve a broker as I am my broker (and one reason I became my own broker was for that very reason — not to have to abide by my old brokers arcane ways).

    I’ve “lost” many a listing by telling people, “you shouldn’t sell right now” and I’ve “lost” many dollars by not “upselling” buyers. And I’ll keep right on doing that. What I lose today, I think I’ll regain tomorrow. Or next year. Or five years from now. And that’s OK, as I suspect I’ll need commission checks in five years.

    And if I have to compromise the truth to feed my family, I’ll find another line of work.

    It’s *never* a good time to buy/sell for everyone. There are *always* “particulars” that must be considered.

    No, it’s not easy being 100% honest 100% of the time. But it’s actually easier than feeding people a line of BS. As Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything”

  17. Hi Jay,

    Excellent. You and I both realize that not everyone has the ability or willingness to quit and work for ourselves.

    Think about agents who entered the buz during the last 10 years who now need to learn a new set of skills.

    Who gets to say what “the truth” is?

    Brokers? Agents? Media? Bloggers? Economists? Government? Me, you, Dustin, Ardell? Is it subjective or objective?

    Both?

    I think it’s easy to fool oneself and justify a truth. It’s harder to be who Jay is…every day, 100% of the time.

    Ardell said it better up above:

    “I think that is why agents first convince themselves that things are better than they are, so that when they say things are better…they are being honest.

    It is why many companies arm their agents with proofs of positive points, so that they can all be honest.”

  18. Dustin, glad you share the e-mail. It always amazes me how people want a “spin” to help them. I truly see ourselves in a similar role to attorneys. We are here to advise and present our perceptions with recommendations and then we allow our clients to make a decision.

    Sometimes that decision is to purchase and sometimes that decision is to hold off on a purchase. Lawyers have the same battles with their clients. They often recommend avoiding court (even though they might make more money going to court) because it would not be in the best interest of their client.

    We have to take our role seriously and realize that we don’t have to be overly positive or negative, but we need to present the best possible information for our clients and empower them to make a decision.

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  20. Honesty is the key, as are numbers. Thanks for sharing the email and the great conversations that are there for me to read. I lose my balance there’s so much ‘spin’ going on here but the facts are the facts, and I post them.

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