By Dottie Herman, president & CEO,
Douglas Elliman Real Estate
There is no denying that the face of the real estate industry is evolving at a rapid pace.
As president and CEO of New York’s largest residential brokerage, I recognized that the way we do business had to change to meet the needs of today’s consumer.
Real estate professionals are no longer chained to their desks and computers. Listing inventory is no longer kept in file cabinets, but can be accessible from anywhere through smart phones and iPads. Social media has created an entirely new medium to communicate with clients and prospects, replacing cold calls and letter campaigns. Moreover, our industry has become increasingly more visual with shelter magazine quality images that are shared through sites like Pinterest and Instagram. Luxury real estate has become a global phenomenon with clients accessing information 24/7 through a wide variety of platforms.
The Facebook era has made it easy for consumers to access information, but it has also created a lot of noise.
The emergence of blogs and cell phone cameras has created a new wave of citizen journalists and content publishers who can express their opinions through online forums and social media. While this is a wonderful way to spark a dialogue, it has become increasingly difficult to cut through the noise in a sea of information.
People are inundated with material that is not always accurate, and it can be hard to determine what’s fact and what’s fiction.
To assist our consumers, I came up with the AskElliman initiative — an online forum where consumers can ask questions about anything related to real estate. The questions are answered in a timely manner by a team of top industry experts that I assembled, with knowledge in fields including legal, credit, financing, market analysis, taxes, appraisal and much more. By sharing and interpreting the information, we create trusting relationships with our consumers whether they are looking to buy, rent or just need advice before making a decision.
According to the National Association of Realtors, 90 percent of homebuyers start their search online. With this in mind, my team has set out to completely revamp our website with beautiful full screen imagery, interactive content and ability to share listings via social media.
We have also added all of our available listings in the markets that we service to ensure that our customers receive a complete experience without having to visit multiple websites. Now you can search the entire market in New York City, Long Island, The Hamptons, Westchester and South Florida on elliman.com.
Beyond the company website, the way businesses and agents target their customers and prospects is changing thanks to social media.
For example, Facebook’s new Graph Search feature will map people’s connections, experiences, and social contacts to push people to your company page. Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey, Q3 2011, found that 92% of people trust recommendations from friends, while only 50% trusted other types of advertising or endorsements. Facebook is essentially drawing upon the interests of people’s online peers to influence their consumer needs. Therefore, companies must to go above and beyond to establish meaningful and engaging rapports with consumers to withstand the ever-changing attention spans generated by e-commerce.
Video is another must-have in today’s real estate world. Consumers are highly visual, and naturally real estate lends itself to this medium. Listings that offer a full-screen video tour of the home make for a more complete viewing experience, and can have a greater impact on someone looking at the property online from hundreds, if not thousands of miles away.
This business model of real-time direct consumer engagement is one that the real estate professionals of today must embrace in order to succeed. Being a successful agent is just as much about engagement via Facebook as it is closing deals.
The fact of the matter is, we aren’t just agents anymore, we’re information curators and lifestyle ambassadors.
Buying a home is one of life’s most emotional experiences. We are still here to help people achieve the age-old American dream, but now we must do so in a new, technology-driven way.