As a real estate agent, you provide a valuable service to your customers. Your understanding of your local market and ability to negotiate on behalf of your clients is priceless. Yet, in recent years, other companies have entered our industry and rolled out technologies that allow homeowners to sidestep real estate agents, and go through the home-buying process on their own.
Instead of a threat, Keller Williams sees this as an opportunity for you to communicate your unique value in new ways and differentiate yourself as the agent of choice in your area; as a trusted adviser that they just can’t do without. Before you can accomplish that, however, you need to have a firm grasp on exactly who your consumer is.
This will of course depend a lot on where you’re based and the properties you specialize in. However, understanding general home buyer and seller trends will give you crucial context that can help you shape your marketing strategy for the year to come.
A Snapshot of Today's Consumers
If this year is anything like the last, here’s what the typical home buyer will look like: married, searching for a single-family home in the suburbs or in a small town, and earning a household salary of around $88,800 a year.
That’s according to data from the National Association of REALTORS®' 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, which found that 85 percent of buyers choose a home in a suburb, small town or rural area; 83 percent bought a single-family home; and 65 percent were married couples. Overall, buyers expect to live in their homes for a while, for a median of 15 years.
The survey also revealed first-time buyers made up 34 percent of all home buyers. With more than a third of your potential clients new to the process, it’s more important than ever that you’re ready to help educate and guide them through their home-buying journey.
Nearly half of buyers start their search by jumping online, 42 percent – even more reason to polish your professional website and increase your team’s presence on social media. For buyers who go online, 89 percent found photos and detailed information about properties to be crucial.
Highlighting the power of keeping up with your clients and nurturing those relationships, 42 percent of buyers and 64 percent of sellers used an agent referred to them by a friend or neighbor
Don’t be surprised if your buyer is feeling a little frustrated. Mounting student debt has left more and more first-time buyers in the United States cash-strapped, delaying their home purchase. Forty-one percent of first-time home buyers are grappling with student debt; more than half owe at least $25,000.
Recently, single female buyers have made up a larger share of home sales, 18 percent, as the marriage rate in the United States has dropped and those who marry are doing so later. Single women bought slightly more expensive homes than single men, despite earning less.
For home sales, the typical home seller was 55 years old, with a median household income of $103,300. They live in their home for about 10 years before selling, and once they sell, they usually recommend their agent at least twice to a friend or family member.
Strategies for Success
Now that you have a view of today’s consumer, here are several tools – one exclusive to KW agents – and strategies for your success!
From creating a high-end, custom publication for your community to providing access to a superior lending option, your colleagues across the country are building moats around their businesses with unique, value-added services. At the same time, they’re positioning Keller Williams as the brokerage of choice. Consider adding some of their techniques – or all – to your toolbox to wow consumers.
In a 2017 study by the Keller Williams research team, consumers who sold their home a year ago reported higher satisfaction ratings and were 17 percent more likely to recommend their agent than those who sold five years ago.
“We believe that this is an indication of consumer perception of service quality: consumers feel more strongly about experiences as they remain fresh in their minds,” says Madiha Ashour, consumer researcher at KWRI. “As time passes, those positive or negative experiences are no longer considered strong emotional triggers. Because loyalty and satisfaction are tied in the mind of a consumer, it is important for real estate agents to stay in touch with their database and community at large.
Drive Value Through Direct Mail
KW agent Steven Cohen of Boston’s Steven Cohen Team does this in a unique way.
Three years ago, Cohen decided that the open house mailers and holiday postcards he was sending out to his clients just weren’t cutting it. He wanted his marketing strategy to stand out from competitors, to leave a more lasting impression. So, he created something special for consumers.
“We decided to go big,” Cohen says, “to do something our competitors wouldn’t do.” Cohen assembled a team of creative consultants – a cover artist, a graphic designer, a writer and a printer – to help him launch a high-end publication that he could mail to residents in his areas: Boston’s South End and Back Bay neighborhoods.
His team’s unique, 26-page Stakeholders’ Report combines what Cohen calls “right brain” content, such as features on local residents, nonprofits and businesses, with “left brain” content like market analyses and relevant metrics pooled from sources such as government groups and think tanks. The report positions Cohen’s team as the economist of choice for their market, and it has helped to build relationships.
“We wanted clients to recognize the distinction between what we send out and what other agents are sending out,” Cohen says. And, so far, he’s accomplished his goal.
Stakeholders’ Report’s original, clever covers stand out. One is a take on a 1976 New Yorker magazine cover, “View of the World from 9th Avenue.” Another cover pits the stroller set against empty nesters outside an open house. Amusing thought bubbles such as “retirement plan” and “stroller storage” float over their heads.
The 15 pieces of content in each issue zoom in on the local market, but also focus on how Boston fits into the national and global real estate picture. Stories have included how Boston has prepared for the effects of climate change, an image-heavy piece on notable sales in the area, and a thorough review of smart home products. “We engage emotions, and then we position ourselves as the experts,” Cohen says.
Cohen mails out 140,000 pieces a year for around $2 a copy. At that cost, the publications need to pay for themselves, he says, and they have. He also wanted content to meet four criteria: be high quality, add value, support the team’s position as the economist of choice, and prompt clients to contact them for business. It’s achieved all four.
As for advice for his fellow agents...
Cohen recommends finding your niche and not being afraid to micro-market to that niche. Even with all his success, he’s still fine-tuning his strategy. He’s looking into electronic distribution, monetizing his publications and perhaps eventually making it membership-based. “Direct mail is just the venue for delivery,” he said. “The production of superior content is what we’ll never stop doing.”
Cohen envisions a future in which “we’re eliciting a response, we’re a staple in the community, and by extension, we’re the resource they look to when they want to do business.”
Stay tuned for part two of this series or read ahead in OutFront Magazine!
Written by: Deborah Blumberg