The Volume Myth

The real estate industry has always used volume as a barometer of success. As in, “agent Mike sells a lot of properties, agent Mike must be a great realtor”. And, that could be true, but it’s not a given. What’s probably more factual is; agent Mike is a good marketer. 

People don’t realize just how much time a real estate agent spends on things totally unrelated to real estate. And, as in all services-orientated businesses, featuring a 100% commission sales force, these unrelated activities often translate to the success or failure of an agent. Not being successful in customer acquisition says nothing about a person’s ability to conduct and orchestrate a sales transaction.

Any agent can buy lists of “leads” and hire other agents to call and prospect those leads. Its money and math. Buy enough, hire enough, and results will fall out the other end. It works for real estate, insurance sales, retirement planning and gym memberships. But does running a call-center, “boiler room”, mean you are a good real estate agent or an Alec Baldwin, “Glengarry Ross” wanna-be? Does buying a billboard advertisement mean anything more than the ability to pay to for it?

Make no mistake, being a full-time, 100% commission anything, is one of the hardest things a person can do. And, it is particularly difficult for those in real estate. Often described as one of life’s major decisions, buying or selling a home is not something people do very often. It’s not uncommon for people to have a decade between transactions. Finding enough people ready to make that, once every decade, life-altering decision, is considerably more difficult than finding someone open to changing their auto insurance. 

The idea of the traditional franchise, volume-producer, being the best real estate agent is certainly open to debate. Some are. But, some are so damn busy they couldn’t possibly be providing the same level of service a more subtle approach can offer. The franchise movement, so critical to the industry prior to the Internet, seems wildly out of touch with a consumer base who increasingly prefers the more hand-crafted, customized approach.

The best real estate agents, are part-time real estate agents! Defining, “part-time”, is a bit of a challenge as it covers such a wide swath. We define part-time, as someone who works in the craft, while not depending on the craft as their sole source of income.

Over the years, some of our best agents have been, for the lack of a better term, “real estate hobbyists”. We use this term endearingly as it implies passion. Who has a hobby they hate–aside from golfers? And, it’s the hobbyist’s passion that differentiates them from the mass-produced, one-size-fits-all, theme agent.

Who are real estate hobbyists? Again, hard to define, but many share the same characteristics. They mostly work from a small circle of clients. Meaning, they aren’t necessarily active with outbound messaging. They often have personal knowledge or history with their client. They usually work one client at a time. Many are highly specialized focusing on; neighborhoods, subdivisions, land or buildings. Some are lifestyle focused; homes with stables, homes with garage bays, homes on golf courses. (Yeah–they not only hate their hobby, but they love to live near it)

There is little doubt, an avid real estate hobbyist does offer the consumer a better experience. If a buyer is looking for a 4/2.5 standard issue, somewhere in Cobb County, their choice of agent is almost endless. But, if a buyer is requiring a more specialized feature, say a lighted tennis court; they would be much better served by finding a hobbyist that specializes in that niche.

Today, everything is a brand, everything is a niche. The churn-n-burn volume sales model is yesterday’s real estate sales model. Going forward, as more and more part-time agents enter the field, look for specialization to dominate.

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