The other day I received a flyer at home from a real estate agency. The visual impression was not the usual agent photo with an invitation to call, so I opened it. Inside, I discovered a property update report summarizing listings sold, as well as listings active and pending for my area. The information is based on the TReND MLS.
I kept reading as the properties listed as sold were not only the ones by this specific Realtor. Then I got to the part that made me pause:
Please note that For Sale By Owner properties are excluded because they often do not represent the full value of what they could sell for when properly priced and exposed to a greater number of qualified buyers through a professional real estate agent.
And I stopped reading. I’m a property owner who was so far willing to be part of the conversation with you, real estate agent, because you were apparently offering some information that would educate me about trends in my area. You just told me something obvious –- you have more experience selling homes than I do –- in a way that shows you have little respect for what I think.
If you’ve read Freakonomics, you learned that real estate agents aim to persuade homeowners to sell for less and buyers that your house can be bought for less. It’s a matter of language, as you can see in the excerpt from the book, and it’s a matter of incentive –- the agents’ incentive is to sell quickly, not to sell for more. Why? The agent makes marginally less off their commission when you sell for more.
As in the case of the flyer I received, real estate agents are careful to exercise every advantage of the information asymmetry they enjoy. Using language to frame the context and position yourself at an advantage is not new. What is new is that more and more consumers are trained to see through it.
Is the list in the property update I received a fair representation of reality? It might be. Since it excludes one piece of information that could weigh in the statistical data, I now question the information.
And there is one other message this flyer sends: I don’t respect you enough to be transparent with you. The other “R” in reputation is respect. See some other ideas on gaining respect and why that is important at The Blog Herald.