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Real Estate is, Indeed, a Relationship Business

The topic of real estate not being a relationship business has come up twice now in the past week — in the comments on Ines’ post about social objects and it was also the subject of Chris Smith’s post on Inman Next (and Rob Hahn’s rebuttal). I wanted to address it here in more detail since it’s a topic I feel strongly about.

Before we dive into this topic, the thing we all must absolutely understand is that it takes all types to make the world go round. Boy, would the world be a simple place from a sales perspective (though very boring overall) if everyone wanted exactly the same thing. But they don’t.

Some people want a friendly, meet in the morning for coffee, relationship with their agent. Some want to be BFF’s. And some want absolutely nothing to do with their agent beyond a smooth & quick transaction.

All mindsets, and everything in between, are out there and need to be served by someone. As many comments on Chris’ post alluded to, whether or not real estate is a relationship business comes down to your personal definition of what constitutes a “relationship.” However, regardless of what that definition does or does not include, there is a “relationship” between client and agent. As an agent, it’s up to you to figure out how to market to the specific type of client you relate to best — and blow away their expectations with the best experience or maximum profit/savings possible.

Use of Social Media to Build Business

One excerpt from Chris’ post that stood out to me was this:

When I leave the doctors office I certainly don’t expect to have him join me for a latte and follow me on Twitter.


Chris is right.

5 years from now?

Not so much. My hunch is doctors WILL be doing exactly that (at least the Twitter part) within a few years. At least the ones who understand the notion that they (largely) gain clients by attracting referrals and understand that if they remain top of mind with their clients on social media, those clients will be more likely to recommend their services to their own networks. Obviously there is a bit more to it, but it’s a fairly simple strategy of relationship building (just one of many).

Make no mistake about it — the real estate industry is ahead of the game when it comes to social media. Most industries were not blogging at all in 2006. I’d say, with the exception of the tech industry, real estate is leading the charge into the social media realm.


Because it IS a relationship business (which makes social media a natural fit since it’s built upon the notion of human-to-human interactions) and the margins are high per client (meaning there is a strong incentive to find new clients anyway possible).

My Personal Opinion

As a Gen Y, I ABSOLUTELY will want a friendly and deep relationship with my real estate agent whenever I end up being ready to buy property. As Matt Dollinger mentioned in his comment on Rob’s post, in addition to being a major financial transaction, a real estate transaction is also one of the most personal decisions you can make; it is influenced by just about every aspect of your life. In order for an agent to make the best possible decisions during the buying/selling process, they need to know just about everything about their client.

Maybe it’s just me, but I ‘m not comfortable telling just anyone exactly how much money I make, how much I have invested, what my debt is, where my best friends live, what exact bars I frequent regularly etc. I need to trust someone before they will ever get that information out of me. I lead a fairly public life, so maybe my hesitancy to share everything surprises you — but trust is absolutely the most critical component to deciding whom I work with. You may be the best darn lawyer or banker in the entire United States. But if I question your ethics or otherwise don’t trust you? I’m not going to work with you — even if I think you may save/make me money. Life is about more than money. It’s about people.

Where do you stand?

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • It seems to me the individuals that think Real Estate is NOT a relationship business tend to be individuals who are NOT Realtors. Which brings up the question, if the individuals is not actively working with buyers and sellers how can they make a statement saying it is or isn’t a Relationship Business? From my experience clients hire Agents based on the rapport they have with the Agent. 

    • I am not in the business of buying/selling real estate — but I do think real estate is a relationship business

      • project management

        great post very usefull to readers keep posting 🙂

    • Eric – if i were to guess (and I am one of those who agreed with Chris) – those people can say that because they are your customers.  I’d go so far as to say that I would love to see actual consumers of real estate polled pre-transaction, that is, and see where a statistically viable number of those stand on this issue.  Only the questionnaire should be a lot more meaningful than the standard NAR style, more honest, if you will.  Ask people if they want their realtors friending them on socials, adding them to drip campaigns or showing up at their kids’s ball games.  We may then all learn something.
      As it stands right now – I think a lot of what’s going on here is wishful thinking on the part of real estate agents.  It would be nice if your customers wanted a relationship with you, hence you believe that they do. My .02 .

  • Real Estate = Relationships.  Anyone that suggest otherwise has probably not practiced real estate.  People do business with people that they like and trust.

    There are many ways to define a relationship – professional, friendly, casual, serious, and of course romantic. A few of my Clients have become personal friends, most are professional relationships, and a few have been taken off the Christmas Card list. 

    Without some “trusting” relationship between the REALTOR® and the Client, we would be nothing more than an order taker.  In fact, our relationship is fiduciary in nature where the true development of a relationship comes before the sale.  

    One of the reasons that REALTORS® have gotten such a bad reputation is the Client will grab the closest real estate agent when they stumble on their dream home.  It is important to invest the time in developing a relationship of trust rather than buy a sales pitch from a listing agent.


    • “It is important to invest the time in developing a relationship of trust rather than buy a sales pitch from a listing agent.”

      Well said

      • Thank you Drew, not just a listing agent, but an agent on a open house, floor time, or sign call.  A relationship with a REALTOR® should start way before writing up a contract.

  • Definition of Relationship:
    – the way in which two or more concepts, objects, or people are connected
    – the way in which two or more people or organizations regard and behave toward each other
    -an emotional and sexual association between two people

    Any business relationship is a relationship and it does not infer friendship – has nothing to do with service oriented industries or having a professional skill set. 

  • Drew I think what this conversation has done is helped folks clearly define the word relationship in regards to business. 

    ” I ‘m not comfortable telling just anyone exactly how much money I make, how much I have invested, what my debt is, where my best friends live, what exact bars I frequent regularly etc.”

    It is interesting the reasons you listed as why you would want a relationship/friend above are the exact reasons I would not so truly to each their own!

  • I think that your best point is that while all real estate relationships require trust, not all buyers/sellers want a new friend.  I have clients who end up bringing their kids to playdates with my wife and kids, and others who “have enough friends already”.  In any case, there always needs to be a personal trust involved. 

  • Anonymous

    Clap clap clap clap. I’ve been meaning to get to this whole debate. Thanks for doing it for me.

    How can real estate NOT be about relationships when you meet your clients in their homes, and you know their families, pets, jobs, hobbies, and the hours they keep? How can it NOT be a little bit personal when you know they like to cook (big kitchen), entertain (big dining room), play the piano (need a music room) or are planning another child (and thus the need for that extra bedroom)? We get in the middle of marriages, divorces, births, deaths and life-style changes. Of course we don’t have to be friends, but having a relationship is essential — not to mention unavoidable.

    • Should I ever move to San Diego, you are already my agent — because the relationship and trust is already there.

    • All a question of semantics is it not?

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