September 08, 2022
Realtor Relations: Show Them Some Love
The Covid-19 pandemic changed how we interact with one another and how home builders and developers conduct business. It served as a force magnifier to propel trends forward. Technology moved to the forefront with homebuyers touring homes online via videos, Zoom or similar platforms, 3D tours, or in person via unassisted access platforms like NterNow or UTour. Because prospective buyer traffic was heavy, home builders had long interest lists, and homes were selling fast, many home builders and developers changed their sales and marketing strategies. Some replaced Online Sales Counselors with autobots, some slowed down their marketing spend, and others stopped marketing to coop Realtors.
With the rise of technology, some industry leaders once again predicted the demise of the buyer’s agent or Realtor®. If buyers can tour homes alone, surely agents aren’t here to last? Once again, there is no replacement for a trusted advisor and human interaction when you make the largest purchase of your life – a home.
Just the Stats
In a survey, buyers said they worked with an agent to help them find the right home. According to the National Association of Realtors, 87% of buyers work with a real estate agent or broker when purchasing a home. Another 7% work directly with a home builder or the home builder’s agent.
Home seekers work with Realtors because they are knowledgeable about the process from starting a home search to closing day. They are experts in real estate sales who understand market conditions and have knowledge of specific real estate markets. They can effectively assist their home buyers in their search for the place their family will call home, as well as help them sell their current home if needed. Most Realtors are well versed in working with both sellers and home buyers providing peace of mind to their clients.
Ongoing Realtor Relations
Because so many homebuyers work with Realtors and coop agents, it is essential for home builders and developers to have an ongoing plan of outreach, no matter the market conditions. Whether the market is phenomenal or slow, home buyers hire Realtors, and builders and developers need to be top-of-mind because new homes are outnumbered 8 or 9 to 1 by resale homes.
Unfortunately, lots of builders cut Realtor commissions during the last couple of years. While this saved home builders fighting inflation and skyrocketing materials costs a percent or two, it also alienated many Realtors. Cutting Realtor commission was debated on the Sales & Marketing Power Hour industry webinar, concluding that the relationship is symbiotic and needs careful maintenance.
Having a plan to work and grow a Realtor base continuously is imperative. Realtors can make or break a home sale. They bring prospects to new communities in good and bad times. We’d say it is never wise to cut realtor commissions just because it is a hot seller’s market. If you did cut commissions, it is time to reinstate them and start working on building sound relationships with this vital group. You need raving Realtor fans. Let’s talk about how to create them.
Realtor Events, Realtor CE Classes
Events create opportunities to invite agents into model homes, corporate offices or sales offices. Meeting in small groups allows for more one-to-one interaction and relationship building. Coop agents get to know the onsite agents and are immersed in your brand when they arrive onsite. Make sure to share the builder’s story and unique selling points in addition to showcasing the model and all the features and benefits of the home plan.
There are many possible events, including open houses, continuing education (CE) classes, year-end parties and annual appreciation events, VIP realtor events for new communities, wine tastings and amenity previews.
CE classes for Realtors are popular because they are a win-win for the home builder, developer and the participating agent. Some popular courses include social media, personal safety, business planning, marketing, new home construction topics, selling to your sphere of influence, the senior market, taxes and more.
See our 5 Best Practices for Home Builder Events Post-Covid for more event ideas.
Building a professional relationship with Realtors who can bring additional buyers is just as important as the relationship with every home buyer. Once an agent has been onsite for an event or class, it is easier for the builder’s onsite agents to take this relationship to the next level. This can start as simply as sending a thank you card to the Realtor for attending the event.
Building relationships with these key contacts is important! This is something that benefits the home builder heavily vested in contacts and connections. Onsite agents need to invest in Realtors in the local market, keep them updated on their community, visit their offices for presentations, take them goodie bags and offer the model home for a broker sales meeting or special luncheon for an office. The home builder’s online sales counselor (OSC) can help build realtor relationships during the ramp of a community and the VIP presale events.
All these efforts will cultivate a relationship with knowledgeable agents in your market who trust you to take care of not just their home buyer during the home buying process, but of them as well.
Technology with a Human Touch
Hire a Realtor friendly OSC. It is vital to make sure the OSC treats Realtors as they would prospects in terms of being responsive, helping them set appointments for their clients, and adding their clients to a VIP list while protecting them for future commissions.
Many builder OSCs aren't willing to work closely with Realtors since a commission (for them) isn't involved with coop. This is shortsighted and not a good reason not to be helpful and provide good customer service. Once you have worked with an OSC that gets it, you'll appreciate the special touch this adds to Realtor relationships.
Home builder Realtor rewards programs are popular with agents. These programs typically provide an incentive for each home closed with increased commissions based on the number of homes sold for the builder in a calendar year. Some Realtor rewards programs have year-end events to recognize and thank agents who have sold a home during the year. And some programs have a drawing at the end of the year for a prize, cruise or other trip.
Realtor rewards don’t have to be grandiose; they can start small with preferred access to information like making sure they are on a Realtor VIP list to notify of new communities, new home buyer incentives and new home sites.
True Homes Strategy
Milesbrand worked with True Homes, a privately owned homebuilder based in the Carolinas, to create a proprietary Realtor strategy that requires each of their sales professionals to build relationships with a pre-qualified list of Realtors who have demonstrated a track record of sales in comparable price ranges to the homes and communities offered by the home builder.
The strategy included a Direct Mail campaign that is 100% focused on supporting their sales counselors in their efforts to connect with and build ongoing relationships with local Realtors. A series of unique, interactive direct mail pieces stopped Realtors in their tracks and encouraged interaction with each piece to learn how the builder is committed to their success.
The results speak volumes. Of True Homes sales contracts, 72% include a Realtor during this realtor outreach initiative. More importantly, 56% of all sales are tracked back to Realtor’s who have sold at least one home per year for this builder for two or more years.
The success of this outreach by True Homes is an important example of the importance of building and maintaining strong Realtor relationships and the positive effects to your bottom line.
Social Media forms solid connections. Try connecting with the Realtors who attended your CE class on social. Savvy home builders can consider setting up a social media content and engagement strategy that includes targeting Realtors on specific social media channels. LinkedIn and Twitter offer opportunities to connect directly to coop agents. Consider using these social sites for business-to-business outreach exclusively and Facebook and Instagram for consumers.
If closing gifts for home buyers are in the budget, double the budget to include Realtors. It is nice to present a special thank you to the Realtor who helped make it happen after each closing. If it’s within your budget, it is a special touch. Realtors look forward to thank you gifts and also feel appreciated.
Realtor relations is one component of building a marketing budget for a master planned community or home building company. If you are interested in building your Realtor relations through Realtor outreach or learning more about marketing for home builders, contact Milesbrand today. We’re here to take your community from land to brand.