Flashback Friday: Charging Less, Making More

The ability to go into the marketplace with a financially attractive offer for consumers AND walk away from the transaction with more dollars than your more traditional counterparts is at the heart of Help-U-Sell’s appeal to brokers.

Think like an ordinary broker for a moment:

  • The success of the office is built on one thing:  your ability to attract and retain productive agents.
  • Your primary tool in accomplishing this is commission split — you know to be successful you need agents and to get them, you’ll need to pay well.
  • Unfortunately, the health of your bottom line is dependent on how many commission dollars you retain after splitting with your agents.

Put all of that in a hat and shake it up and you’ve got  . . . a mess!  Your formula for success is at war with itself! No wonder ordinary real estate offices suffer from embarrassingly low profitability if they make a profit at all (despite the fact that consumers think they’re paid way too much!).

Help-U-Sell takes dynamite to all of that nonsense.  First thing we do is demystify the listing process.  We toss out the notion that personality is what sellers buy when they list their property for sale.  Bunk! we say.  Listing is a logical thing.  If you present a system with a track record of success for a fee that is reasonable, most people jump at it.  Instead of two hour marathons where traditional agents warble on about how wonderful they are, listing presentations become simple, short and matter-of-fact:  here’s what we do, here’s what you do and this is what it costs.  Listing is so easy in Help-U-Sell that, well . . . even a Broker could do it.  That’s why we take the listing side of the business out of the agents’ hands.

We believe the listing side of the business belongs to the company, and the broker or an assistant (that’s different than an agent) takes all listings.  The agent’s role is on the buyer side, where we can afford to split commissions.  But, since we create all the leads for our buyer agents through our large number of listings and the power of our well-conceived marketing, we don’t have to give away the farm to get and keep salespeople.  We’re not asking them to call on FSBOS or Expireds, to knock doors or make cold calls to find listings.  We’re not asking them to master a slick listing presentation or memorize responses to two dozen common seller objections.  We just want them to take the prospects we’ve created and find them a property.   Good agents thrive at Help-U-Sell.

Back to the listing side;  here’s how the dollars break down:

Here’s where the ‘yeah-buts’ start to echo from the mouths of ordinary agents:

Yeah-but, with no listing agent the seller is getting less than full service!

Says who?  Full service is getting the property sold for the greatest walk-away dollars in the right time frame — and we do that every day.

Yeah-but, you get what you pay for!  When you list with me I’m going to actively market your property until it’s sold!

Um, let’s see . . . ‘actively market‘ . . . I guess that means put a sign in yard and a listing in the MLS, which then syndicates to a couple dozen Internet sites, right?  In my experience that’s what ordinary agents do when they get a listing.  In my Help-U-Sell office, we have a comprehensive marketing plan (that includes all of that and much more), orchestrated, monitored and constantly improved by . . . ME.  It’s not just a bunch of agents running around willy-nilly, making it up as they go along on every listing they take.

I could go on with the ‘yeah-buts,‘ but we try to keep these posts to a ten minute read or less.

We are a very proud group, and rightfully so.  We’ve taken the fluff and snake oil out of selling real estate and converted the process to logical systems that get results.  We’ve done it in a way that saves consumers thousands of dollars and makes our brokers a nice profit.  Who could ask for anything more?

Identity Crisis

(April, 2013 is turning out to be the biggest month we’ve ever had at The Set Fee Blog. With 7 full days left in the month, we have already had more visitors than in any month since our inception – which was September 2010. I think it’s mostly people getting ready for the BIG DEBATE coming up in a couple of days. Along that line, Good Luck, Dan! I know you’ll be great.)

I’ve been chatting with Michael Del Rosario, a real estate broker in Cerritos, CA, about a new agent directory website he is building, Agents For Less. He’s allowing agents and brokers who offer some kind of financial incentive to buyers and sellers – whether commission discounts, flat fee, fee-for-service, limited service, etc. – to be listed in a searchable, consumer friendly database. We were talking about categories today and it was a little un-nerving. I realized we have a bit of an identity crisis in real estate, and it all revolves around ‘Full Service.’

Consumers intuitively know what ‘Full Service’ in real estate means:

  • Expertise/Consultation (preparation for sale, pricing, planning, staging)
  • Marketing (which might include MLS, Internet, Open Houses, advertising, signs, flyers, etc)
  • Representation/Negotiation (weighing offers, avoiding mistakes, anticipating next steps)
  • Transaction Processing/Problem Resolution (making sure everything is done properly, handling problems as they arise)

The problem is that almost everyone in the business – traditional percentage-based brokers, discount brokers, flat fee brokers, fee for service brokers and so on – claims to do all of those things!  The only brokers who might admit to NOT doing some of it would be self-described ‘Limited Service’ brokers or ‘MLS Only’ brokers.  With so many different kinds of brokers laying claim to  ‘Full Service,’ the term becomes meaningless . . . except that consumers don’t realize this.  In the muddled mess of real estate company marketing, they have come to believe that  ‘Full Service’ must also mean ‘Full Commission.’  >>> (and therefore, less than full commission means less than full service)<<<

Let that sink in for a moment.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.  If your less-than-full-commission offering is based on a better, more efficient business model that enables you to be profitable while charging people LESS . . . then the debate is not about the level of service, it’s about how much the consumer wants to pay to sell a house.   And here’s a news flash:  s/he wants to pay as little as possible to get the job done quickly, efficiently and effectively.

If you aren’t charging a full percentage-based commission, you have to go the extra mile to make consumers understand that you actually ARE Full Service.  It’s a nagging bit of marketing that has to be undertaken if you are going to do anything different with your fee structure than what your ordinary competitors are doing.

At the same time, ‘Full Service’ will become the imaginary club your competitors will wield to beat you in the marketplace.  They will insist that you don’t provide ‘Full Service’ because you charge less . . . which taps into the consumers’ sub-conscious belief that ‘Full Service’ and ‘Full Commission’ are somehow intrinsically tied to one another.   When Suzy Sixpence from Acme Realty says, ‘Help-U-Sell?  Oh, they’re not Full Service . . . I know they’ll say they are, but they really don’t do anything for their sellers except put the sign in the yard.  Sometimes they won’t even put you in the MLS – and of course, without that, you’re not even on the market!  We all know you get what you pay for, and that’s really true when it comes to Help-U-Sell and the other discounters,’ . . . when she says that, she sometimes gets a head nodding Amen from her audience. But they are not nodding because what she’s saying about Help-U-Sell is true. They are nodding because they know there is a difference between Nordstrom and Wallmart . . . and she successfully uses that knowledge to twist perception in the real estate arena.

John Powell created the Help-U-Sell Service Comparison chart for use in Listing Consultations:Help-U-Sell Service Comparison Chart(Note: this is a generic version of the chart used only as an example in Help-U-Sell training. Don’t try to draw any conclusions from this example – it’s totally fictitious) John has used it effectively for years – in fact, it is the centerpiece of his Listing Consultation.  It graphically illustrates what his office does for sellers and compares it with what his four biggest competitors do.  And, of course, it shows that he does everything they do plus a lot more.  It neutralizes the ‘less than Full Service’ bomb quite effectively.  Trouble is:  you have to get face to face with a seller before you can use it – and if Suzy Sixpence has gotten to them first . . . .well, you may not get the opportunity.

Getting the opportunity is a function of marketing.  We spend major marketing resources getting information about what we do for sellers for a set fee out into the marketplace.  It usually takes a lot of mailbox marketing to install the message and, increasingly, a lot of SEO and Internet marketing.  Your marketing is successful when a consumer, sitting across from Suzy and hearing her spout her nonsense, experiences the natural discomfort that occurs when the crap-meter goes off!  When that happens, Suzy just looks . . . slimy.

Consumers:  when you talk to real estate brokers about level of service and fee structure, use the four bullets above to evaluate what they say.  If they don’t do something, ask why.  (There may be a good reason, i.e. newspaper advertising.  In many markets it does not produce results – defined as leads – and therefore is wasteful and ineffective.)  If the fee seems lower than what others are charging, ask how they are able to do that and still be profitable.  And ask what, if anything, you are giving up for the lower fee.

OR:  just put this all aside.  Remember that the shortest distance between point A and point B is a straight line . . . and call Help-U-Sell.  You’ll get ‘Full Service.’  You really will.  And you’ll pay much less because Help-U-Sell is a different, more efficient business model.  We can charge less and still make more because we don’t run our offices like . . . well, like Suzy runs hers.

**PS: Help-U-Sell Brokers, why not get listed on www.agentsforless.com?  It’s free and is just one more way consumers may be able to find you . . . and getting found is half the battle.