We are currently in the process of selling our house, and my friend Patrick’s post prompted me to write about the irony of the sense-of-control in real estate. Any agent will tell you when selling your house to focus on the factors for which you can control: Price, condition, marketing, and so forth. It is a waste of energy, time, and mental stability to worry about things outside your control. We had a family who apparently loved our home, but wanted a garage. Our home does not have a garage and no amount of paint, new carpet, or lowering of the price was going to make one appear.
Unfortunately, when it comes to the online world of real estate, many agents struggle to follow their own advice. As Patrick wrote so well, the world of real estate is no longer controlled strictly by the brokerage houses. Sites like Zillow, Trulia, and so forth work outside the traditional market as commercial entities looking to make a profit. These are tools agents can learn to leverage, but they are fooling themselves if they think they will control them. As with any industry, unmet needs will be filled by someone and that is precisely what these sites are doing. It is actually remarkable that it has taken as long as it has for these sites to appear. Real estate has, for a number of reasons, been able to resist outside influence longer than most industries.
Agents should take a little of their own advice. Instead of complaining about another agent paying Zillow for placement, control what you can. As I mentioned, we are in the process of selling our house, which also means we are buying. I cannot tell you how bad some of the pictures and descriptions are of the houses we are looking at. What agent thinks it is appropriate to put a two line description and 5-6 dark and cramped photos on a 2,500 square foot house in a lovely neighborhood? Also, if your first line is ‘looks great inside’, the first thing I ask is ‘what’s wrong outside?’ nor is ‘Don’t trust a book by its cover’ an inviting first line. This still baffles me as there are literally thousands of houses for sale in any area, so there are scores of examples of good descriptions and photos.
There is a concept in change resiliency called “shared reality” which is key for a group of people (agents) to comfortably go through a cultural change. This means that the majority of the members of the group must have an honest and realistic appraisal of the current situation as well as the changes that are coming. The information age is clearly changing real estate as much as any industry there is, yet the majority of real estate agents resist the changes that are out of their control. These agents are happy to have a search lead to their property, or to have an easier method of managing their listings, but anything that is outside their traditional control is met with distrust and resistance. Unfortunately for most agents, these sites they claim to hate are no different than the power lines near my house. So take some of your own advice and stop worrying about what you can’t control and put all your energy into what you can.