Thursday, April 26, 2007

The 'Hybrid Realtor'...(revisited)

I wrote this in a snowstorm late last December and posted it just before my wife and I vacationed in Cabo so to be honest, I'm not sure it got read by anybody. My statcounter only showed a dozen or so viewers for that entire week so now that readership has soared, I'm re-posting the piece. Four months later and deep into the heart of the Spring Real Estate market in Chicago, it's as pertinent and timely as ever.

There has been a lot of discussion lately in our Brokerage about the evolution of the Real Estate Agent in Chicago (or across the nation for that matter) Hybrid Realtor. Eric Rojas alluded to this in a previous post and I'm pretty sure our Broker/Owner Joe Pinto came up with the monicker during one of his many sleepless nights planning the future. Our agency is as much 'think tank' as it is Real Estate sales I believe, and this is one of the great freedoms associated with working in a boutique environment

My first experience with the traditional Real Estate process was on an out-of-state 'house hunting trip' in 1984 when I submitted an offer on a Baltimore rowhome for $84,000. I called the listing agent out of the Sunday paper and she agreed to meet me that afternoon at the property. She was a 'veteran' Realtor to be sure, and as she pulled up in her big fat Cadillac, dressed for church, fifteen minutes late and talking a mile a minute, I knew at once that I had already lost any little control I might ever have over the entire situation.

An hour later, trapped in her office (she insisted we take her car) I signed a full price contract. Less than 24 hours later I participated in my second and third Real Estate experiences--killing a deal (I'm certain the Realtor had a mini-stroke before my eyes) and then promptly submitting an offer on a similar rowhome in the same neighborhood for $10,000 less from a F.S.B.O. down the street. I ultimately backed out of that deal, as well---and it really goes without saying but I'll say it anyway; there were more than a handful of people that were hating me pretty badly by the end of that weekend, including my wife at the time and even myself on several different levels.

The thing is, the Realtor wouldn't let me look through her MLS book. I "wasn't allowed to," she scolded, clutching it tightly to her chest as if it were a purse and we were walking through an unlit alley. It's very funny now as I think back on the whole scenario. I was attempting to make the biggest purchase of my life from someone I hated, who apparently thought little of me as well and didn't even represent me. And then I took my newly found negotiating knowledge immediately into another deal where no one was represented and it ended just as poorly, if not worse because the second guy didn't want to give me my earnest money check back.

I subconsiously blocked out the next seven years of my life I believe, so I'm not really sure how it all even ended except to say I did wind up buying and selling from an array of Realtors over the next 15 years until 'Corporate America' quit transferring me around the country and abandoned me in Chicago where I'm presently enjoying the best years of my life.

My point being, I learned exactly how I didn't want to be perceived as a Realtor. I've met a lot of them. Almost all of them are what my Broker would refer to as traditional agents. Traditional agents are fine...I just don't want to be one. They tend to approach the business the way it was shown to them and it's...well, traditional--mailers, reliance on print advertising and assistants, an unhealthy dependance on referrals, magnets at Christmas, a lot of 'in the box' sales talk, etc. I am fortunate to have entered the business at the same time Technology entered the business. So let me make a short list about how I view myself and aspire to be, a Hybrid Realtor. And again, this is just my take on the subject.

*I traded my big fat S500 Benz for a Mini-Cooper after it literally cost me $100 to fill the tank with fuel. (I't's the coolest car {the Mini} I've ever owned and I've pretty much owned them all). My wife, being the great supporter that she is, promptly traded her Jag convertible for an X3 BMW SAV a week later. The Jag was a hog as well.

*I cancelled my Brooks Brothers credit card as there is nothing in the store that suits my fancy these days and while I still dress daily for work. think Italian--sans neckwear.

*If I were informed tomorrow that I could never spend another cent on print advertising or 'mailers' I'd probably just smile.

*If my connection to the internet gets interrupted, my PDA crashes, or my GPS navigation goes screwy in the suburbs, I immediately lose my mind---just kidding about the suburbs because I never go there although I hear it's quite nice.

*I strive to have 80% of my business come from people I do not know and have never met because everyone I do know is either a Realtor, or becoming a Realtor, or dating/marrying into a family where someone (other than me) is a Realtor. Several of my past clients have even become Realtors. In other words, the future for me does not lie solely in referral business even though I still receive them on a monthly basis.

*I do not need a personal assistant because the 'back-end' of our website is so powerful and advanced (in conjunction with my handheld devices and real time virtual access), it serves as my assistant.

*No more clunky 'sales talk' or catch phrases will pass through these lips (not that they ever much did): "I want to earn your business," "Unbe-liev-able" and all those other Real Estate 101 sayings that went out with the 'double windsor.' The consumer is over all that gab. (besides, its so un-hybrid!)

Because of my Blog and Web Page I'm open 24 hours a day, every day of the year, every remaining year of my life.

And finally, I realize that the general public has as much access to the Real Estate world as they care to have. I do not need to 'clutch' my knowledge like a purse in a dark alley. (And yes, my sister bought me a 'man purse' and what of it? Anyway, it's not the purse but what's on the inside that counts!) 'Transparency' is the way of the future. It's a wave I choose to embrace. It's a wave only The Hybrid Realtor will be able to ride, the way I see it.

image by science.uwaterloo

Geno Petro

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