Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher

Realty Meat

It’s hard to imagine, but there’s still a bunch of real estate agents who can’t stop advertising in the diner magazines and newspapers. What’s it going to take to push the housing industry hold-outs into the 21st century?

Yesterday, I engaged in a great American passtime: Sunday brunch at the local diner. It’s tradition at its finest. Fast service, eggs over easy, crispy bacon and greasy potato fries, washed down by scalding hot coffee. Some things never change.

The same can be said for large swaths of the real estate industry who insist, insist that print advertising deserves their client’s money. Now, I don’t mean the Robb Report or even a subscriber-expanding Wall Street Journal: let’s agree that there’s possibly a tiny slice of effectiveness if you’re running a full-color page in a luxury magazine. But really, that’s not what we mean, and most agents know it. Rather, I’m concerned that it’s 2012, and some real estate professionals (shall we use that term loosely?) think today’s buyers find homes by reading the latest edition of:

Realty Meat.

Oh, I’m sorry; I meant Realty Mart. But I think the first name makes more sense, even though it’s just my smartphone-weary eyes playing tricks on me. Too much staring at my iPad can do that, I suppose; all those web pages, GPS-map-driven apps and social media updates can make reading the papyrus harder.

There’s no use going through the arguments. We’ve noted how today’s first-time Gen Y buyer (under the age of 30) finds his next home here, here, here and here (with videos). We’ve offered ideas on how to practice real estate with an iPad ,videos, not with bad videos, and even gas pump advertising. We’ve pointed out how the new competition is Lady Gaga, the Pope uses Skype, and the listing sheet is pathetic. And more than two years ago, we argued that letting sellers control the process, rather than the agent, why newspapers violate Sam Walton’s growth rules, and praised ShoreWest Realtors in Wisconsin for running their last newspaper ad in 2008.

All of which is pretty common knowledge these days. It’s not like Twitter isn’t five years old, YouTube hasn’t reached 2 billion views a day, or the fastest growing segment of social media users isn’t Grammy and Grampy.

So what is it about Realty Meat, er, Mart, and all the rest of them, that can induce “marketing professionals” to spend their client’s money in their pages? Could it be the tissue-texture quality of the pages? Perhaps it’s the fine inky residue left on fingers about to pick up the toast that does it? The appreciation of impressionist-like images of homes, lovingly portrayed in low-resolution pixels, as if carefully placed on the page by Claude or Edouard? No, wait, I’ve got it! It’s the combination of palettes – the use of something called color – especially for the pictures featuring snow in August – that must make sellers giddy with excitement when Realty Meat is presented to them at the listing appointment.

Otherwise, I’m at a loss to explain it.

Just last week, a shocking scene played out in the entranceway to my office. There, piled in a heap, left in the corner, unopened and upside down, were a bunch of “Yellow Page” directories. They lay, ignored, as person after person hurried into the elevator, eyes locked on their smartphones, as if to avoid having to watch the dying directories in the corner. We can only imagine there were some real estate agents listed on those jaundiced pages as well.

So it was, yesterday, at the diner, where families young and old packed themselves into booths and perched on counter stools, happily munching their breakfasts. A constant stream of them passed by the magazine racks; none reached down to take one. Our waitress told me that I texted almost as much as she did. Imagine, waitresses and their customers use text! It seems the consumer has spoken, yet again: When it comes to eating at the local restaurant, the only Meat they care about is the crispy bacon.


  • Okay, you had me at “Crispy Bacon.” I guess that newsprint is the dying battle among those agents who bemoaned the loss of the MLS books saying their business wouldn’t survive without it. As you’ve suggested before, simply ask the Sellers who are “demanding” advertising (as many agents claim so as to protect their decision making skills) to show you the newspapers they have been using to search for their new home in their new cities.

    There are still some good uses for newspapers…such as potty training your puppy. Hmmm, maybe Apple should come out with a lower end tablet for the tech savvy dog owner for that, huh? Perhaps the iPeed? 🙂

  • David Rollins

    Sean, Just make sure is doesn’t electrocute the dog!

  • Sean,
    These kinds of comments explain why you are one of the smartest people I know in this industry! Fantastic! Thanks!

    – Matthew

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    t. 978.291.1250
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  • Robert Byrne

    Unfortunately for many agents the only time a seller knows that the agent is working on the listing is when it shows up in an ad on the front steps Sunday morning.  Sean’s point is a good one many agent use the newspaper as a pacifier to keep the seller quiet during the marketing of the property.  Educating the seller is difficult for many agents but as the housing recovery takes longer to emerge, many of those agents will be back slinging hash and scalding hot coffee.

  • Andrew Adams

    I am curious if it’s the only time the seller knows or is it the agent thinking it’s the only way the seller knows.  I am pretty sure a good number of sellers aren’t still in the dark ages and know and can watch an agent promote a property via social networking.

  • Yellow Pages ?  You can donate them to the local quitling group we use them for paper piecing ( a quilting technique – google it there are tutorials on the net !)