The Price Estimator Epidemic: the WebMD of Real Estate
Too much of anything can be a bad thing (unless we’re talking about cookies, because clearly there is never a downside to a mouthful of deliciousness). As the ease and accessibility of the internet has given way to a flood of information, this notion has never been truer.
Sometimes it creates a false sense of authority and know-how. You have to look no further than the Youtube tutorials that have ushered in an age of Do-It-Yourself syndrome – leading to some wildly unsuccessful and especially hilarious results.
What’s worse is the false and misleading information that plagues us from all angles. From #FakeNews to Catfishing, it’s become increasingly impossible to distinguish what’s real, or even escape all of this data. Either way, this instantaneous access to (miss)information turns people into self-styled ‘experts’, without the experience or the context to back-up newly discovered info. Medical practitioners can attest to this epidemic. WebMD, while a valuable resource, can lead to heightened anxiety, egregious self-diagnosis, and most importantly – create false expectations that professionals have to constantly manage.
“Yes Tom, that is a symptom of Smallpox…. Or maybe you just have the sniffles.”
In the same way, online home evaluations provide the same headache for real estate agents. These tools are ofttimes plagued with conflicting (mis)information, thereby afflicting your clients with misplaced presumptions that you have to manage. While this can be a pain to deal with (as with any virus), you can handle it effectively and even make it work in your favor.
Contagion of false expectations
Whether it’s WebMD or your (client’s) favorite housing estimator tool, there isn’t anything inherently “evil” about these resources. In fact, they are incredibly useful, providing a steady stream of well-informed patients clients that can make your job easier (something we’ll cover later). Unfortunately, the information from differing tools can provide conflicting reports… on the same house!
Basically, if POTUS ever decided to relocate the Oval Office to sunny San Diego and pawn off the current location, the asking price would range anywhere from $30 Million to $413 Million – a nearly $400 million difference in client expectation! Furthermore, this monumental discrepancy was generated by the likes of Redfin and Zillow – premiere tools and trusted sources within the real estate marketplace. What’s worse, this doesn’t even include the dozens of other sources that pepper the interwebs. This effectively demonstrates the spreading misinformation that real estate agents have to combat. The reason, as you may know, is that these tools don’t account for all of the factors (human and otherwise) that go into home evaluations.
“Trying to price a home accurately… is challenging.” This is a simple fact known by all agents, and reiterated in this Inman article. While outlining 6 critical factors that influences a home’s value (historical sale prices, neighborhood, the market, etc.), the piece still acknowledges a myriad of considerations that go into a home’s value. As a result, it is still recommended to hire a formal appraiser to obtain a more authoritative opinion. Clearly, it’s a more involved process that requires more effort than a simple search on Trulia, Redfin, or Zillow.
The Brighter side of Home Evaluators
Fortunately, all is not doom and gloom. As mentioned earlier, a well-informed and engaged client can work in your favor, as long as you respond in the right way. Don’t feel threatened or annoyed – use it as an opportunity to demonstrate your attentiveness and expertise.
In a client management piece by RealtorMag, Cynthia Nakaya, of Tarbell, Realtors®, discusses the usefulness of such eager clients. “[These kind of clients] serve two purposes: One, they get their concerns off their chest and they know I care. Two, I find out if any of their concerns are legitimate. Many times the concerns have no ground, but if it’s important to the client, I need to give them a place to express those concerns. Then once they’re finished, I reassure them and get back to work!”
Additionally, somebody who went through the effort of arming themselves with the appropriate information won’t take kindly to being outright dismissed.
First and foremost, your client should always feel taken care of and know that you have their best interest at heart. You can stay in front of the issue by showcasing differing estimates from similar tools, and using the discrepancy to illustrate your point: these price estimators are not wholly reliably (again, see: White House), they won’t account for the myriad of factors that affect a house’s price, and they can’t get your client the price they deserve – like you can. So instead, use it as a chance to reassure and empower your client, while still positioning yourself as the trustworthy expert.
At the end of the day, these tools will never be able to account for the trust that is built from genuine interactions and human connection. That’s your bread and butter! So rather than letting these tools derail your business, use them as another opportunity to elevate it!