How buyers & sellers choose their real estate agents in a digital age

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We recently hired a third-party research company to interview anonymous buyers and sellers who bought or sold property, worth between $300,000 to $1.5 Million, within the past 12 months. The participants were asked a series of questions over an hour-long interview to help us better understand their habits, opinions, and decision-making processes.

We were particularly interested in finding out how buyers and sellers choose their real estate agents in this digital age. Here's what we found out:

People don't choose Realtors on portal sites

One of the most interesting observations in the market research results was that buyers and sellers are actively using portal websites to explore properties, but they don't use those same portals to find real estate agents. In fact, respondents saw no connection between portal sites and agent selection.

Instead, a significant majority of respondents found their agent through their network or by referral. Yet, it's noteworthy that the most investment-oriented of respondents shared a more location-focused, online approach to choosing their agents.

"Those sites (Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and Redfin) have no impact on my agent selection process. When I'm on those sites, I'm thinking of properties – not agents."

The criteria your potential clients care about

Once buyers and sellers have a real estate agent in mind, knowing whether they like an agent is the number one requirement for working together. Respondents were also highly interested in agent track records, which were often evaluated online—not in person. (Add those sales numbers to your site!) In addition, the size of an agent's brokerage or the quality of their website also factored into the equation for some people.

Other important decision-making criteria include:

  • Market knowledge
  • Engagement level
  • Honesty
  • Accessibility

And the deal-breakers?

  • Communication issues
  • Lack of care or urgency

Additional quotes from survey participants

One of our favourite things about the market research was hearing from real people. Here are a few of the things they had to say about choosing a real estate agent:

"When we moved to Atlanta, we used a Facebook group to tell my friends we were looking for an agent, and a sorority sister that happened to be a realtor reached out to me."

"I go online and search for agents in my area (of focus), check out the houses they're selling, and then I call the one who has the best houses – or – in this case, the specific listing I was interested in."

"I look at their website to see their track record of success after I've received a referral. Then I meet with them."

"Once I'm thinking of calling someone, I'll probably do a quick search before calling to make sure they're legitimate and reasonably sized. If they're from a small brokerage or don't have a website, I might not call them."

"I expect my agent to communicate with me in a reasonable amount of time – maximum one day after I make an inquiry or a request. They don't even have to answer my question. They can just acknowledge my request and share a timeline to come back to me with more information. That is totally acceptable."

 

MRR report

Comments

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Gary Lucido

If buyers aren't using Zillow and Reator.com to find agents then real estate agents are really stupid because they are spending billions to pay for leads from those sites. In fact, I'm pretty sure they do find realtors through those sites because they find a house they like and they want to see it. First agent to call them back for a showing gets to meet them.

It depends on how the question was phrased. If it asks do you go to those sites to find an agent of course the answer is no. However, ask how they found their last agent and see what the answer is.

Virginia

Hi Gary - these findings came from a 10 person in-depth interview study, so while it's a good representation, it's not a definitive answer. The discussion hit on a few different topics. When we asked how people found their agent, most said referral (asking family and friends), some looked online for best-performing agents in the area. When the discussion came around to portal sites, they all sited experience with the portal sites, but said it didn't play a role in agent selection.

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