A VOW of what,you may ask…well here’s a lil bit of background
In the last week or so there has been a lot of hubbub about VOWs and Manhattan real estate-for those wondering what all us crazy real estate people are talking about,a VOW is a virtual office website. VOWs aren’t new, they are just new to Manhattan-this is something that has existed in the rest of the country for a while, but also the rest of the country has MLS’s,and in Manhattan-well,we do…but at the same time we don’t…that’s a post unto itself !
Some firms either have recently announced plans for VOWs,or have launched versions of VOWs,and there are also many associated agents at various brokerages that are undertaking implementing this as well
I have actually been immersed in a lot of research about this as I’ve been in the middle of having a personal site,besides my brokerage profile page designed.
From the brokerage/agent side,there’s been a lot of confusion over a number of things,everything from audit fees,of course all the incredibly verbose language in the agreements,cost,whether to build their own or go with a provider (like RealPlus or OLR). A lot of the sites I’ve seen so far are powered by RealPlus,I believe the OLR version of their VOW has just launched in the last month or so.
This week I’ve read an article in The Real Deal about VOWs,as well as a few of Matt Daimler’s posts over on the Buyfolio Blog.Turns out we were actually at one of the same seminars a few weeks ago given by RealPlus,where they demonstrated their VOW.
At this session one of the things touted the new analytics feature.A feature,where pretty much everything the client does is visible to the broker. Another point, Matt also feels the user experience,is less than optimal.I’ve tinkered around,and I would say for a start,it has room to grow,it is workable and will hopefully evolve and improve
How do I feel about the analytics ?
Well,to me the more important question is how do you explain and disclose the analytics to you,our customer,and make you feel confident as to why and how this information will be used,while also offering other alternatives where you would still have access to the data you are expecting (i.e. reinforcing the fact that I can still directly submit listings to you based on your criteria- which honestly, VOW or no VOW,I still have to do my searching for the property that best suits you, so its not any “more” work to send out a thoughtful analytical email, just as I normally would as a matter of course.
So, if I make it clear how this analytics back end works some how, and also make it clear that the other alternative is of course still available, would that make my customers feel more comfortable ? I think, generally yes.Because,as with other things,I’ve explained and hopefully educated them about what something is,and how we are going to maximize this tool to help them achieve their goal.
If I didn’t disclose or explain this- I would think they have every right to feel uncomfortable (as I would feel uncomfortable if I didn’t adequately explain the what and why of it)-I don’t want to confuse or worse put off a current,past or potential client from the idea of working with me.
Touting it as a way to effectively and efficiently have access to a consumer version of the same database…could be one way to do it. Reinforcing that they would still get the detailed specifics about the property that I have access to and know from experience.Its all about adding value for the customer-how to make the process of finding their new home easier,more efficient,less stressful.
About your broker’s site providing a better search-so far to date,even from a brokers standpoint-we have to search multiple places for things,and so do clients.There’s always room for refinement ,and also different things work for different people,so most things are sort of aimed at the happy middle…so to speak.
Some people I’ve discussed VOW’s with,especially as I debate whether or not to take on the project of implementing it (time,effort and money) on my site-they are initially receptive-but again these are generally people who I already have an established relationship with,if they’re going to go looking,they would much rather be able to do so in one place,with me to begin with.
For a new potential client or referral,they may not be comfortable with that level of analytics information available to me,and I understand that-this is a case where I would want to build a relationship and that trust,clarifying the intentions and making a potential negative a positive are important. Clarifying and educating the client,as to the process and the tools used in said process.
On my site,I would make it clear that the VOW isn’t the end all,its an extra bonus of sorts.Why direct you to my site only to say well you can only see my listings,or my company listings-but I have access to all the exclusive listings in NYC ? I have many times heard,well why can’t I just search the MLS,or why can’t I just see everything that you see when I go to the brokerage site ? Well…VOWs do address some of these things
I also see this as a potentially efficient way for someone like a road warrior or a foreign buyer-where time zone changes always make it feel like you aren’t on the same page.With a VOW,a foreign client could do their searches while I slumber-and not worry about having to remember to email me,and I can communicate with them easily having seen what they looked for while I slept J This type of client might appreciate just going to one site,and being able to do everything there,instead of having to go to one site,then another and then remembering to email thoughts across.
Bottom line. Every client is unique, there is no one size fits all and we always have to provide the options that will best serve our particular clientele.
What do you think about VOWs ? Would you register to use one, knowing about the analytics portion ? Would you prefer to work with your broker in a different way, and if so, how ? Share your thoughts with us, we’d love to know.
‘til the next time. Always at your service.