The Housing Scene

Some realty professionals speak out of both sides of their mouths, according to new research. A recent study found that some agents, teams and brokers profess to being highly knowledgeable about their local markets, but cast a far wider net when marketing themselves.

“The headline for the survey could very well read, ‘Agents, teams and brokers say one thing, do another,’” says the WAV Group, a consulting firm, in a release. WAV Group conducted the study for zavvie, a Colorado-based technology firm.

In that zavvie sells an online marketing platform that allows agents to dominate their local areas, the study’s results could be considered self-serving. But Kevin Hawkins, president of WAV’s communications affiliate, says the data was not manipulated in any way by, or for, zavvie.

“They sponsored the survey and paid for it, but they did not have anything to do with” the results, he says.

Besides, Hawkins adds, numerous companies offer hyperlocal marketing programs, not just zavvie. The survey serves them all, not just WAV’s client.

As Hawkins sees it, the hyperlocal movement has taken over a number of businesses already -- the farm-to-table crusade in the restaurant field, for example -- and many consumers are enthusiastic about the trend. Yet real estate is lagging.

“Real estate has always been about ‘local, local, local,’ but agents tend to cast a wider net,” Hawkins says. “You can’t be an ‘expert’ that far and wide. The ideal market in the real estate world is about 3,000 houses. That’s what’s needed to create a sustainable, ongoing business.”

In what is said to be the first-ever survey of its kind, researchers found that a nearly unanimous 95 percent of agents, teams, broker-owners and realty executives say local market knowledge is either “very important” or “extremely important” to their clients. But the poll found a “great disconnect” between that sentiment and what realty pros are actually practicing in their marketing activities.

Says zavvie CEO and co-founder Lane Hornung: “The survey clearly shows their marketing efforts are not consistent with hyperlocal being an actual priority.”

When asked how many respondents actually specialize in neighborhoods, just 12 percent -- about 1 in 8 -- raised their hands.

Hornung suggested that agents and teams who want to go local should focus their marketing activities specifically on a neighborhood or group of neighborhoods, which the zavvie exec defined as about 10,000 people -- or roughly, as Hawkins mentioned, 3,000 houses.

“In fact, the study found that most real estate professionals are doing the exact opposite,” says Hornung. “They are casting the largest net, trying to draw their marketing circle as broad as possible.”

The survey was returned by some 425 respondents, including 350 practicing professionals. Agents accounted for more than half the responses, while broker-owners and company executives made up about a third.

More than 3 in 5 agents and teams reported specializing in a large regional or metro area, a finding that Stefan Peterson, zavvie’s COO and other co-founder, called an “oxymoron.”

“You can’t specialize in a city or a town. It’s just too big of an area geographically (for one person) to be a ‘go-to expert’ that knows every single home in that size of a market,” he said. “Yet that’s what folks are claiming.”

More evidence of this behavioral disconnect between what agents say and what they actually do: Few agents and teams reported using marketing tools that let them share their local expertise -- tools such as a blog (7 percent used one), a neighborhood website (15 percent) or Nextdoor, a private social network serving local communities (15 percent).

“All of these are core tools of a typical hyperlocal agent’s marketing system,” said Peterson.

At the same time, 38 percent said they were “extremely knowledgeable” and 42 percent more were “very knowledgeable” about local goings-on and changes that impact the real estate market.

Peterson says that this finding begs the question: “If all of these agents, teams and brokerages have all this local knowledge, how is anyone going to know it if they are not sharing it?”

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