Friday, March 28, 2008

REALTOR Commercials Reek of Desperation

For the past year or so I've seen a few different commercials for REALTORS (henceforth referred to as just "realtors", lower case, here... sorry, I just want it to seem like I'm SCREAMING at readers). To me, these commercials just reek of desperation.

Maybe it's the stiff, overly business-like actors that have no real personality other than trying to professionalize an industry that is largely wide-open in terms of personalities. Let's face it, real estate agents are often real characters, and that's probably because they have to be in order to sell homes through think and through thin. But I definitely don't associate a realtor as being a corporate suit, which is the image that these commercials are going for.

Add to that, these realtor commercials remind me of what the gasoline industry is trying to do... pounding the airwaves with ads that are really veiled attempts at public relations. All of a sudden, gas companies are the Earth's best friends: researching new "clean" energy, giving tips on how to improve gas mileage, and showing what the "green" future holds in the world of energy production. All so friendly and glistening. And all too phony for me to believe it's really happening.

In my humble opinion, I think that the real estate industry is trying to cling to an outdated, dying industry. Or if it's not dying, it will soon be changing.

Having recently purchased a home for the first time, I found the process rather daunting, from soup to nuts. A good realtor, to his/her credit, guides a homebuyer (as my realtor did) through all of these obstacles and answsers a lot of questions along the way and gives worthwhile advice. To get paid, the real estate agent simply has to sell houses for high values (that increase over time) in order to absorb high commissions.

But as I see it, and as Seth Godin talked about in this great post, this formula will be changing in due time. As housing prices rise higher (okay, maybe not at the moment, but over the long run), commissions will also be rising for agents, while their amount of work performed, in theory, won't. So either an hourly rate or a flat selling fee will eventually come in to play, I would theorize. Or more people will take things in their own hands and buy/sell on their own.

On that note, with the advent of the internet and with the pressure that has now come on homeowners to do more thorough research, the average homebuyer will be able to easily obtain important information that otherwise would have come from the realtor. In other words, information is becoming more readily accessible via the internet and other sources, meaning the realtor's competitive advantage will likely gradually decline.

So getting back to the commercials, the National Association of REALTORS has it in its best interest to try and preserve that image of the realtor being the all-knowing confidant that you absolutely need to buy or sell your home. Maybe that's the case today. But in the long run, that sounds like an uphill battle to me. And desperation is no place to be in the world of advertising...

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