Download a copy of the latest survey of REALTORS by the Center for REALTOR Technology and you’re certain to be fascinated – startled, perhaps – at what’s happening on the Bat-belts of modern agents trying to make buying and selling homes a twenty-first century experience. While the report is no page-turner – in fact, it looks a bit like it was produced on a Commodore 64 with dot-matrix fonts – a few facts stand out, highlighting just how easy it should be for serious salespeople to scoop up market share in the months to come. And all they really need would be a Blackberry and a thousand bucks.
Speaking of Blackberry, while a whopping 32% said they used one as their primary mobile phone, the report barely breaks 50% of REALTORS using any smartphone, even including Palm or iPhone devices. So that means consumers have a 50/50 shot of their agent having mobile access to email, MLS data or social networking. I wonder just how many Gen Y buyers can do that kind of stuff? But I digress…
Of course, who needs a smartphone when the top three methods for keeping in contact with past clients was (in ranking order) email, phone calls and postal mail. Surely you can always boot up your Windows 95 machine and log on to AOL to send that email, and crank out some ALL CAPS LABELS to send your holiday cards, right? No hope for active clients, either: same tools in the same order. A quarter ranked social networking for “business purposes” while an equal 25% were “not sure” what they were supposed to do with it – joining the 16% who didn’t use it at all. Now, where did I put my envelope sealer? Damned paper cut again….
No surprise, then, when you get to page 10 and learn that 54% of the respondents did only 1-10 deals in the previous year. Too bad the survey didn’t break that down to further, because I’m betting a lot closer to 1 than to 10.
Ironically, 73% of respondents said they used the internet to shop online for both business and personal reasons; yet a third of them had never used YouTube. Almost six in ten did not download podcasts; iTunes, YouTube, it’s all for kids… And one in five never sent text messages either. Well, it’s hard on their Ernestine-era bag-phones, right?
For those REALTORS trying to avoid the government’s 1-penny per email message fees (didn’t you get that email, too?), their strategy of hiding behind tin-can-era systems seems to be working. About 1 in 3 REALTORS were using some form of free web-mail, like Yahoo or Google, while 14% were still using Outlook Express (stop giggling) and some 6% were keeping AOL on life support. The rest were making a few blips on the flat-liners like Earthlink, Comcast or AT&T mail. Only a third of REALTORS were using Outlook – and the survey didn’t mention if that was downloaded or on corporate Exchange servers. Still, two out of three messages potentially related to the largest financial transaction a consumer can make is likely to be transacted on a public, un-accountable, can’t-reach-tech-support and is-it-really-confidential email system. No worries there.
In the “you don’t say” category, 33% of respondents ranked their MLS system’s value as “neutral to poor.” That’s an amazing number for something someone pays for monthly; of course, most MLS systems are monopolies, so it’s not like the local REALTOR really has any choice. Agents usually have little choice but to pay for data locked into one vendor platform; even if they pay twice to use third-party software, that doesn’t rebate their MLS fees. Even gerrymandering the Association lines with “board of choice” didn’t offer relief: too many MLS systems are statewide. Still, the MLS industry’s 1 in 3 customer unhappy-ranking is higher than a car salesman, right?
Deeper data on social networking usage shows some optimism: About half of respondents said they used Facebook daily-to-weekly; 25% said the same for LinkedIn. About 6 in 10 REALTORS did not have a Twitter account – about the same that didn’t have a mobile smartphone, so that makes sense, since most tweets are mobile and only 62% of REALTORS sent regular text messages on their phone. And less than 1 in 5 used ActiveRain daily or weekly.
More than half of REALTORS said they used social networking to communicate with other REALTORS, but only 7% to communicate with family and friends. Good news, at least, came from data showing 73% of social networking efforts were toward consumers. That’s good, because most REALTORS also indicated that the “very important” sources of their business were repeat clients and referrals – nearly 30 points higher than plain-old “internet” advertising. Pretty cool.
Somewhere amongst the bank transfers from Nigeria, it seems that 1 in 4 REALTORS didn’t get the memo that making consumers register for listing information isn’t a good idea. It’s likely they made up a higher proportion of the 73% of REALTORS who said they were not satisfied with the number of leads their website generated. And said they didn’t receive “enough” email from their former clients. Connections, anyone?
Amongst the weirder questions asked by the survey was, “If you use mapping on your MLS, which elements do you find useful?” Huh? Shouldn’t this be asked of consumers? Who really cares if 13% of REALTORS use maps to find places of worship or 23% used a map to find house numbers (???). Of course, the 71% who said they used mapping to create driving directions does make a little sense – considering they didn’t have a fancy-schmancy smartphone with GPS to help them get there. Now I get it….
In the end, it always comes down to money, so let’s run the numbers. Looks like 49% of REALTORS spent $1-100 per month on productivity technology. About 11% spent $250 or more per month on technology. About 52% of agents spent less than $500 annually on their websites, with 11% spending nothing (yes, zero was a choice). 5% of agents spent more than $2000, and 7% of brokers spent more than $5,000.
At least there seems to be a trend: half of agents do less than ten deals annually, don’t have a smartphone and don’t invest that “savings” into their websites. The only question the survey doesn’t answer is: the chicken or the egg?