When I think about the real estate industry I tend to think of one thing - boring hucksters. Over the last few years, there has been a concerted effort by firms like Zillow, Realtor.com, Zoopla, and Trulia to act as digital middlemen in the real estate market. In my view, while they've served a useful purpose in providing a quick way for potential buyers to search local listings, they rely on a homogenous approach in the sense that all the listings follow a familiar pattern.
In the real world, buyers want their realtor to be someone with whom they have confidence and trust. For the realtor, they'd like the relationship they build with buyers to be one to which they will return time and again. But it's not easy. Many of the real estate websites you'll come across are dull, boring and lack the kind of content that demonstrates the degree of local knowledge you'd really like to see demonstrated.
That's where Richard Hartian's side hustle, WinningAgent Pro comes in. Hartian has more than four decades in the real estate business, starting out when he was 10 years old, fixing a neighbor's garage roof.
You could say that real estate is in my bones. My dad had shown me how to fix ours and I saw this person was doing it all wrong. He said that if I could do a better job he'd pay me. A few years later and while other college kids were flipping burgers, I was upgrading and remodeling houses for flipping.
Hartian claims that he has originated over 400 FHA 203K loans, bought and sold more than 300 properties, and today runs a mortgage banking business alongside an active and wide-ranging real estate blog.
The website thing came about almost by accident. A good friend of mine Brian Gardner of StudioPress (recently sold to WP Engine) approached me one day to say that with all my years of experience in real estate, I should think about building themes for that market. I have always been a believer that a website is your 24x7 calling card but most realtor sites are about the brokerage and not the realtor. I wanted to give realtors a voice and WInningAgent became that vehicle.
WinningAgent was designed to be a combination of listings and blog so that realtors could engage with the neighborhoods in which they operate, demonstrating their knowledge, expertise, and commitment to the communities they serve. But a blog only goes so far. It allows the savvy agent to 'talk' but it doesn't really allow the agent to build a relationship with a potential buyer. Hartian believes that with the extensive paperwork involved in many transactions. the ability to communicate well is of paramount importance. But equally, it requires a relationship, often with people they have only met recently.
Potential buyers and sellers may start off their property journey by searching the aggregator sites but when it comes to doing a deal, they want to work with people. That’s because it’s the realtor’s job to listen to what you say. Every buyer and seller has a wish list. But the savvy realtor will also read between the lines and know the difference between “have to have” and “nice to have.” He or she will not waste your time showing you homes that are out of your price range or preferred area. If you’re a seller, the realtor will not bring you a buyer who’s unqualified or otherwise unsuitable for your property.
In the US, one of the ways realtors start those relationships is through form filling or collecting cards at open houses. Hartian says these are a great opportunity to meet and greet but when you may have 10-15 people coming through a house in a single day then it's difficult to get close to any particular individual unless it is clear from the get-go that they've fallen in love with the house. At the same time, even if none of those people are interested in that property, they may be interested in other properties on the realtor's books. But how do you start those trust relationships?
Hartian was looking for a way to capture information about potential buyers that could be incorporated into what WinningAgent Pro offers and came across Nimble, a CRM that uses what it dubs as 'conversational selling' as its main selling point.
What does everyone have? First name, last name, email address, and a phone number. With those pieces of information, Nimble can find your social profile in places like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, then auto-populate and enrich that contact information with social profile data. Now - let's take that one step further. I'm a 53-year old LEGO fan. I recently discovered that someone I'd met is also in one of the Facebook LEGO group's I'm in. Imagine how valuable that is as a conversation starter? That's what I mean when I talk about a sense of connectedness as the start of a relationship.
I can imagine that while attractive, not everyone will view the automatic ingestion of another person's social data as part of a profile in the same light. There is always the risk of misuse. But then if you think about this data as a way of building up a profile to which you can relate then there is a clear value from the perspective of saving a lot of time developing a picture of what a person wants and then engaging in the conversational topics that matter most to them.