Can Your Services Be Digitized?

From: Ameen Kamadia

One of the best ways to stay on top of the industry is to read, a lot. Not only do I recommend reading the mortgage news, but I suggest you read Realtor magazines as well. The Realtor Associations are much more on the ball than our Mortgage Associations when it comes to research, trend awareness, and service issues.

The following is an article by Toni C. Nelson, elected leader of the board of directors for the Houston Association of Realtors. Toni is also Vice-President for Coldwell Banker United Realtors. You can contact her at toni@har.com. Thank you Toni for your permission to use your article.

There is a lot of gold in this article. And many of the same things I teach myself. Wherever she uses the word Realtor just substitute the words Loan Officer in your head. And where she uses real estate just substitute mortgage.

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Can Your Services Be Digitized?

by Toni C. Nelson

What a pleasure it has been to meet and converse with so many REALTORS® across the Houston area! I have been able to hear, firsthand, the concerns of members about our industry these days. Many conversations have revolved around the changing real estate climate and how one competes in real estate when competitors are not playing by the same rule book.

When I began my real estate career, essentially everyone practiced under the same rules and had the same business model. Today, more than a decade after the onslaught of the Internet, we see a far more diverse group of REALTOR members, varying Internet real estate models, online lead generators and more than enough advertising and media which downplays our value or worth in the transaction.


Our response at HAR has been to:
1. Research and bring technologies to market that make REALTORS more effective, efficient and profitable,
2. Expand our educational offerings to meet the current skill sets needed,
3. Raise the bar in the quality of our MLS so that consumers continue to view us as the ultimate source of information on homes on your Web site and www.har.com and;
4. Constantly and consistently communicate the value of a REALTOR in the news media.

While these sound simple, the steps taken and the future steps we continue to take are far more complex than could be communicated in this one article.

Most important to me is the individual agent who is out there practicing in an environment that has changed, dramatically. You may learn many things and see the industry shifting, however, it is still difficult to see if your actions will generate your desired results.

First, I think we all have to "get over" expecting others to practice real estate in the same way that we do.Variety has entered the stage in which we play and we have to adapt to its various nuances. It is much more important to focus on how you can retain your value and sustain your career.

Secondly, the operators and originators of new business models will get louder and louder about their value proposition. Those of us who have been in the business for awhile need to market our value proposition just as loudly! New competitors enter the market everyday and we cannot rest on our laurels. Nothing wilts faster!

To get a broader perspective, and understand where we need to go, let's look outside of our business and see how the same paradigms have changed other professions.

Enter the stock broker.
The stock broker who merely executes transactions is history. Online trading services do this far more efficiently. Those who have survived understand that they are not just stock brokers, but are providers of financial services and solutions. They understand a client's broader financial objectives and know their dreams, aspirations and where they want to go at each phase of their life. They deliver results that help to move a client where the client wants to go.

How About Lawyers?
If you go to www.completecase.com, you can get an uncontested divorce for $249. If you visit www.USLegalForms.com, you can download for a small fee, fill-in-the-blank wills, contracts and articles of incorporation. Lawyers were also like us, gatekeepers of the information, but not any more. Their value now lies in abilities that cannot be digitized - understanding the law and art of negotiation and convincing a jury to see the case in favor of their client. These are very valuable and well remunerated skills.

Accountants?
Ever heard of TurboTax? How about a $500 a month accountant in India? It would be best for the accountant to broaden his skills to deliver services that cannot be digitized.

If your business model is to merely execute transactions, you may be at the lower-end of the value service chain and should charge accordingly. Suppose your business model is real estate services and solutions. You give advice and counsel, based on the knowledge of your client's home buying or home selling objectives. You work hard on the client's behalf insuring they get the best price, and your communication and negotiating skills make a big difference in the value one derives from working with you. In other words, your worth goes far beyond crafting a transaction. You are building relationships and delivering skills that no computer can emulate. This is the high-end, high-value end of the real estate value chain.

Each of us has to decide at what point on the value chain we want our business model to scale and then develop a method to attract prospects desiring those values. My experience has always shown me that consumers demand much more than ever, and yet, they are willing to pay more if they perceive the value is higher. And the key word is perceive.

Many of us are still marketing the same and making the same presentations, and yet the consumer has changed. So, when consumers hear the same thing from everybody and one charges less; guess who wins? Consumers want to know "What's in it for me if I use you and are you worth what you charge and why?" Vanity marketing and espousing your success doesn't resonate with the new consumer. They want what they want (their terms, their perspectives) and they have alternatives to your business, just a mouse click away if you cannot answer those simple basic questions about your value.

According to Dan Pink, author of "Revenge of the Right-Brain," to flourish, we need to supplement our high-tech abilities with aptitudes that are "high concept" and "high touch." High concept involves the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty, [like featuring pictures of our listings that evoke emotion and charge the soul], to detect patterns and opportunities, to craft a satisfying communication and to come up with solutions the world didn't know it was missing. High touch is being empathetic, understanding human interaction, and finding joy and eliciting it in others. We have always been well known for this attribute.

What I have most admired in REALTORS is their ability to adapt. During the short-lived "dot-com" era, we all got better because the competition was forcing us to do so. Today is no different. No matter what competition is thrown our way, I believe the best REALTORS out there that will change for good, for better and forever. And I am sure you are one of them!

Happy Originating!


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