The Real Estate company Redfin recently announced the release of its Agent Scouting Report in its various markets around the US. This allows Redfin “clients” (term in quotes because anyone can sign up at Redfin.com and instantly be a “client”, whereas most agents think of a client as someone who has signed an actual Listing or Buyer Representation Agreement).
What is the Scouting Report? It allows consumers to view some stats on the current and past activities of Austin real estate agents. Here is a screen shot of Sylvia’s below, so you can see what we’re talking about, then I’ll elaborate further.
It would be a good idea to click on the screen shot to view an enlarged version. If you have a Redfin account, you can click here to view the actual live version.
The Scouting Report allows anyone, in seconds, to type in the name of an Austin Realtor and see what the past 36-month production stats are for that agent. If this becomes a widely adopted and accepted way for consumers to evaluate agents before hiring, it could be a game changer for our industry. I’m all for it, with some reservations. But overall, I think it’s a good thing.
For example, Sylvia’s Scouting Report will reveal that, in the past 36 months, she’s closed 107 sales (53 Buyers, 54 Sellers), which is about 3 per month over a 36 month period, through the Austin MLS. It doesn’t include builder sales or non-MLS sales. The report will show a map of the location of each home and a link to the photos, sold price and full details of each sold home. The easy-glance maps helps a consumer see the geographic areas of operation of an agent, and where the concentration of business is for that agent.
One word keeps appearing in most of the articles and Blogs I’ve read about this – “Disruptive”. As one who thinks the term “disruptive is thrown around too often by the media, especially in the past 5 years about the real estate industry, I think this could actually be disruptive to the real estate industry and its agents.
Let’s start with one well known fact. Real Estate Consumers do a very poor job of selecting agents. The Scouting Report might change that and start weeding out the dead wood agents from the industry.
Most (over 70%) of real estate consumers hiring an agent from scratch hire the first agent to return their call, according to NAR surveys. More than half only interview one agent. So, as an agent, you don’t have to have a record of success, you just have to return calls fast.
This is why so many real estate Lead Conversion workshops and courses focus on agents becoming “hyper-responders”. There are all sort of products that enable this hyper-responder mode. Software that instantly texts you the phone number of a sign caller. Call Capture products that route sign callers to live agents who collect the lead info and text and email it to you. Caller-ID capture systems that even email to you public data info on callers based on Caller-ID (creepy). Email auto-responders that reply to inquiries with multiple automated follow-ups.
Sylvia and I have never bought or used any of these “instant response” or “lead capture” products. We just try to answer the phone and return calls reasonably quickly. During business hours, our phones ring simultaneously at our desks and cells, so we’re pretty easy to reach. And, for sure, I’ve returned a lot of calls the next business day to be told “we already hired an agent”. So, I know it costs us business, not being hyper-responders, but I don’t want to live life as a tweeked out hyper-responder, ready to jump and jerk into action at every ding or tweet that my iPhone emits. If I’m at my daughter’s volleyball game, I’m at the game and I’ll return calls later. If we’re out for dinner, we’re out for dinner, not talking on the phone in the restaurant. I don’t believe in the 24/7 access that some agents try to provide.
Maybe the Scouting Report, or the inevitable copycat industry clones that will follow, will raise awareness with consumers and ultimately help with the public perception of real estate agents as professionals with records of success, or lack thereof. If you’re going to hire a listing agent who has closed 2 sales in the past 36 months instead of the one who has closed over 100, do it for reasons other than the immediate return call. If that consumer behavior doesn’t change, the Scouting Report will be a nice tool for a small few only, and the wider general real estate consumer population will continue to reward instead call-backs instead of evidence of success.
Problems with the Scouting Report
There is some data the Scouting Report doesn’t convey well. For example, my own Scouting Report makes me look lame. Sylvia and I are a team, and we’ve always run most of our deals through her Agent ID in the MLS. Almost every listing and buyer sale is run through her MLS ID, so a Scouting Report on me doesn’t show my level of production. This is true of other husbnad/wife teams, and the larger Mega Teams.
For example, I know and agent with over 500 closed sales in the past 36 months. Most of those were handled by “listing specialists” or “buyer specialists”, but the deal was credited to the primary agent. Therefore, there may be a listing agent under that team scenario who has successfully transacted dozens or 100+ transactions but for whom a Scouting Report will show a big Goose Egg. That’s going to be a problem for some.
There are other shortcomings in the data that was chosen for display, and the data NOT displayed (for example, Expired/Withdrawn Ratio for listing agents, Sold Price to Original List Price ratio, etc), but overall, I’m in the camp that this is a good thing for consumers, if they will take advantage of the data and use it wisely.