Once upon a time, here in the mountains of North Idaho, real estate agents did no marketing.
This was before the days of email, Internet, and smart phones – back when newspaper advertising, yard signs, and well-located offices with large signs drew in clients and customers.
I don’t know if it was the same across the land, but I expect it might have been.
Advertising was left up to the agency. Agents might get some business from friends, family, and past client referrals, but new leads came from floor time. New clients either called or walked in the office door.
Those clients weren’t looking for a specific agent, although they might have chosen a specific agency based on its reputation.
Whether an agent landed a new buyer or seller depended upon the luck of the draw – being on floor duty at the right time.
Marketing homes was different too.
Newspaper ads were expensive, so words were pared down to the basics. Photos were also expensive, so in many cases there was only one shot of a home. Color printing was really expensive, so flyers were printed and copied in black and white.
I remember driving 30 miles to a town with a color printer so I could pay $2 each for fliers to send in response to long-distance inquiries.
Potential buyers would call or come in and tell us what they were looking for, then we’d search the MLS book. We got a new issue every 2 weeks, so we’d also call around to other offices to see what they had listed since the book went to press.
Our agency was first on the Internet… but nobody was looking!
When my son talked me into getting a good computer and putting the business on line, we were the first agency in town to do so. That must have been in ’94 or ’95. It got off to a rocky start because Internet access was AOL, and there were no local dial-up numbers. When the first $400 phone bill arrived we got back OFF line until more reasonable access came along.
Posting photos (one per listing) was awful. We had to give the photos to our computer gurus, who would scan and post them – maybe in a couple of weeks or so. Scanning was $5 per photo; then we paid for their time to post the photo and a short description at $65 per hour. Sometimes they got the photos and descriptions mixed up…
We were also first to use flyer boxes, send just listed cards, and prospect by mail.
We even had a monthly newsletter that went out in the postal mail. Back in the 90’s we didn’t have email addresses, nor did we know how to create a newsletter on line.
Other agencies were quick to follow with flyer boxes, but no one else sent just listed cards, newsletters, or prospecting letters. They thought it was too expensive.
Priest River is still far behind the times. The one agency left in town does have a website and does offer MLS search, but that’s about it. Agent “bios” offer little more than a name and phone number. Out of town agencies that list and sell here come up in search more often than local agents.
I no longer know the names of all the agents, but went looking for websites for some I do know. I found only 2 – and one of those has so many grammatical errors that it made me cringe. The other one is short, but not bad. The problem is, that one doesn’t come up in a search for Priest River real estate agents. He must need to learn about SEO.
It would be fun to see what would happen if one of those agents began marketing themselves the way my clients in other parts of the country do.
What if one had a personal website filled with reasons why they’re the right choice? What if they had a great bio and posted it on the company site, their own site, Active Rain, and all the other social media sites? What if they put their listings on those sites?
What if their website offered comprehensive area information, buyer and seller advice, and a well-tended blog? What if they stayed in touch with all of their past clients? What if they mailed just listed, under contract, and just sold cards? What if they used professional photos and wrote enticing descriptions of the homes they had for sale? What if they prospected for new listings?
My guess is that before long they’d have 90% of the buyers coming into the area – and if they did a bang-up job marketing listings on their sites, they’d also have 90% of the listings.
Meanwhile… it looks like most of them are still back there in “Once upon a time…”