In today’s challenging economy where every market has differing characteristics, it is vitally important for REALTOR® Associations to have clear, accurate information to present to its members for guidance.
REALTORS® today contend not only with a complex sales process, they also have to adapt to the way they market their businesses as well. The rise of the internet and social media sites, as well as the changing demands of younger, first-time buyers make it vital for real estate professionals to have up-to-date data and training that is meaningful to their business.
In this follow-on study, we spoke with REALTORS® who are members of Local Board/Association of REALTORS® and the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® (MAR). We discussed their attitudes about the role of organized real estate in their businesses and the types of help they need to help grow their businesses.
To help MAR better understand its members, MEG Research spoke with a state wide, cross-section of members to answer the following questions:
1. Who are the members of MAR?
2. What does their business look like?
3. Are they aware of their local and state real estate associations?
4. Do they perceive the benefits of being a member?
5. What are the opportunities and challenges they face in the next year?
6. How can MAR help them succeed?
Overview of Members
Members of Local Board/Association of REALTORS® and M.A.R. share the following characteristics:
1. They are full-time real-estate professionals.
2. They are educated, with more than half holding college degrees.
3. They are seasoned professionals with brokers averaging more than 12-years in the business and sales associates averaging more than 8-years of experience.
4. There are more women than men in the real estate profession.
5. They are getting younger. More than 60% of members can be classified as Gen-X and Gen-Y (48-years and younger)
One point to consider: Seasoned agents are much more optimistic about their futures in the real estate industry. Ninety percent of REALTORS® with more than three years experience predict they will still be in the business within three years time. However, that number drops off dramatically when talking to less-experienced members. Only 50% of newer agents say they will still be in the real estate business within three-years, 29% say they will definitely be out, while 21% are unsure of their futures.
Member Awareness and Attitudes Toward Organized Real Estate
REALTORS® universally know about their local boards and about MAR and they are clearly able to explain why both are important. Without prompting, 98% of respondents identified their Local Board/Association of REALTORS® and 97% identified MAR as the statewide organization.
When asked to discuss why they should be members of the local board and MAR, REALTORS® identified their top reasons to be:
1. Legislative and lobbying efforts (83%)
2. Networking referrals (71%)
3. Keeping abreast of real estate trends (57%)
4. Learn best practices (56%)
5. Coordinate REALTOR® efforts at the local, state and national levels (42%)
However, as the next five bullet points will show, the help real estate professionals are looking for from their local boards and from MAR are tactical in nature and not strategic.
How Can Your Local Board and M.A.R. Help You? Top 5 Answers
• Strategies to get potential buyers off the fence and commit (51%)
• Help on how to take advantage of social media (46%)
• More information on first-time buyers (39%)
• More strategies for dealing with a slowing market (31%)
• More information on REO’s, short-sales, distressed sales (31%)
It is clear that while members feel they can identify potential customers, they are having a hard time getting buyers and sellers to commit in an uncertain economy and they would like guidance.
Is There a Product or Service That Your Local Board or MAR Could Provide That’s Not Currently Provided? Top 5 Answers
• Help with Social Media (45%)
• Programs to get listings, virtual tours, etc. on social media sites (36%)
• Better enforcement of Code of Ethics (34%)
• Help in integrating social media and Internet (29%)
• Help make my website more effective (28%)
REALTORS® face a new sales paradigm in today’s market. More potential customers, especially younger ones, are using social media and the internet to screen agents. REALTORS® are struggling to make the change and they are looking to their local boards and MAR for help.
With all the challenges real estate professionals face it is clear they still see value in belonging to their local associations and MAR. When asked, more than three-quarters of respondents (76%) say they believe their local boards and MAR help them sell more real estate.
Everyday local boards and MAR put together and send out communications on a variety of topics. From the inside it may look like you are flooding your members with information but your members do not see it that way.
When asked whether they get enough communications from their local boards and MAR, 61% of members say they do not get enough information.
What Are The Most Valuable Types of Information You Receive from Your Local Board and MAR? Top 5 Answers
• Real estate trends (56%)
• Economic trends (54%)
• Sales, new business strategies (49%)
• Strategies for handling a down market (48%)
• Success stories (47%)
When asked what changes they would like to see, REALTORS® identified several areas of importance.
What Types of Changes in Communications Would You Like to See? Top 5 Answers
• Strategies to get buyers off the fence (44%)
• Help on taking advantage of social media (43%)
• More information on first-time buyers (40%)
• More strategies in dealing with a slow market (36%)
• More information on REO’s, short sales and distressed sales (33%)
In discussions with Massachusetts REALTORS® it is clear that there is a disconnect between the public outreach of local boards and MAR and its members. This is especially apparent when it comes to younger, less experienced agents.
When asked whether they had seen a presentation by their local board in the last year, 69% of REALTORS® said they had. Only 50% said they had seen a presentation by MAR.
However, a closer examination of the numbers shows that responses were heavily weighted towards older, seasoned agents.
Seasoned Agents: 69%
Newer Agents: 42%
Yes Answers by Age Groups:
The numbers and trends are roughly the same for yes answers for presentations by MAR.
Overall Impressions of Local and State Organized Associations
Overall, Massachusetts REALTORS® have expressed a high level of satisfaction with the services and programs of both their local boards and the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®. When asked how they rate organized real estate on a scale of 1-10, REALTORS® assigned an average score of 7.6.
Legislative action topped the list of highly rated services.
Service Rated 8, 9, and 10. Top 5 Answers
• Legislative action (76%)
• Overall satisfaction (53%)
• Value of membership compared to what you pay (50%)
• Publications and communications (46%)
• Legal Services (37%)
Overall satisfaction is also reflected in the intent of REALTORS® to join local boards and MAR. When asked how likely they are to join their local board and MA virtually all respondents said they were likely or very likely to join. The numbers fall off dramatically when asked about membership in the National Association of REALTORS®.|
 In a number of cases, the data is grouped into a top three tier rating (a score of 8, 9, or 10). This is done because people typically take action or respond the strongest at the opposite ends of the continuum. Respondents, who give ratings of 4 to 7, usually do not hold strong enough beliefs or attitudes to take action.
How Likely Are You to Join Your Local Board?
• Very likely (84%)
• Likely (14%)
How Likely Are You to Join the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®?
• Very likely (82%)
• Likely (14%)
How Likely Are You to Join the National Association of REALTORS®?
• Very likely (37%)
• Likely (26%)
It is apparent that REALTORS® see the value of their local boards and M.A.R., but are far more ambivalent about N.A.R. and the value it offers to their local businesses.
While REALTORS® are familiar with the REALTOR® Political Action Fund (RPAC) and understand what it does; they are not convinced that they should make a donation.
When asked whether they had received information about RPAC, 76% of REALTORS® said they had.
Respondents can clearly outline what RPAC does.
What Does RPAC Do to Help REALTORS® Like Yourself?
• Influence legislation impacting REALTORS® (66%)
• Lobby on behalf of REALTORS® (64%)
• Support candidates favorable to REALTORS® (50%)
However, that knowledge is not translating into donations. When asked whether they had made a voluntary contribution to RPAC, 74% either said no or said they were unsure. When asked why they did not contribute to RPAC, economic conditions topped the list.
Why Have You Not Made A Voluntary Contribution to RPAC?
• Business, income down (78%)
• Don’t understand why I have to pay more (40%)
• Already pay in my dues (36%)
• Can’t afford it (23%)
• Not sure why I need to pay for this separately (11%)
Challenges and Oppurtunities
Despite the economic headwinds, REALTORS® remain optimistic about the future of their businesses and the potential for growth. They believe that with some help and guidance they can achieve their goals.
What Do You Believe Are the Greatest Challenges You Face in the Next Year? Top 5 Answers
• Mortgage financing is very difficult (43%)
• How to use and take advantage of social media (39%)
• Comps are difficult because of foreclosures, short-sales, etc (34%)
• Slow market (32%)
• Lack of buying urgency because prices unlikely to go up (27%)
What Activities Do You Anticipate Will Return the Greatest Opportunities in the Next Year? Top 5 Answers
• First-time buyers (42%)
• Incorporating social media (39%)
• Increased marketing to former clients (37%)
• Increased time spent on marketing (32%)
• More aggressively asking for referrals (26%)
Two areas stand out among the results of the survey.
1. Newer and younger REALTORS® are less optimistic about their futures and less engaged with organized real estate.
2. Members are asking for more help when it comes to understanding the changing sales landscape and how to better use the internet and social media to reach buyers and sellers.
Younger and Less Experienced Members
Newer member (three years or less of experience) are an especially fragile group and are possibly the member segment most in need of assistance from organized real estate. These newer members may represent the number one priority for Local Board/Association of REALTORS® and the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®. Particular attention should be paid to help mentor and support younger and less experienced members. Half of these less experienced REALTORS® are not sure whether they will be in the industry within three years, while 29% say they will definitely be out of the business in three years.
Additionally, only a minority of younger and less experienced agents have attended presentations by either their Local Board/Association of REALTORS® and/or M.A.R. This indicates a perceived lack of value.
Programs Targeting Less Experienced Agents
M.A.R. should consider setting up a program to mentor less-experienced agents to help them grow their businesses. Among the topics a program like this could encompass might be:
• Effectively marketing your services
• Using social media to gain new customers and prospects
• Effective use of advertising
• Harnessing the Internet for leads
• Path to becoming a broker
• Finding and Marketing distressed properties
It is important for both the agents’ futures and the future of M.A.R. membership that particular care is given to less-experienced and younger REALTORS® to reduce industry churn and create a stable membership base. It is much easier to help existing members than it is to constantly search for new ones to replace those who have left.
A structured program of workshops, communications and guidance through the internet can help solve that issue.
M.A.R. members are overwhelmingly looking for help and guidance to help them reach new buyers and sellers and close more transactions. They understand that the real estate market has changed and they need help understanding the new dynamics. In an age where social media and the Internet are starting to dominate the sales process and younger buyers expect instant communications, REALTORS® are struggling to adapt.
Suggestions to help REALTORS®
• More frequent communications in both print and electronic formats
• More “how-to” communications
• Sponsored workshops centered around social media
• On-line social media training
• More communications on mobile technologies
In addition to more frequent communications, M.A.R. members are asking for help in getting reluctant buyers off the fence and convincing people that now is the time to buy.
Suggestions for Helping REALTORS® Close More Transactions
• Targeted ad campaigns to increase urgency
• Help with use of social media to showcase properties
• Sales training*
*Many real estate professionals enter the business without proper sales training. A properly tailored training program sponsored by M.A.R. will help REALTORS® establish sales processes that can help them close more transactions and properly diagnose what is happening when transactions fail to close on time.
To reach its goals of successfully serving its members and to encourage non-members to join, it is apparent that M.A.R. will clearly need to take a two-pronged approach—staying strong on legislative activities but also becoming more attuned to the individual needs of members who need help growing their businesses – this is greatly accentuated with newer members.
By enhanced support of individual REALTOR® needs through programs to help them integrate the Internet and social media into their businesses and helping to encourage positive buyer behavior, M.A.R. will be able to better communicate the value of membership to current and future members.
Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®
2012 Member, Non-Member Research
COMPANY PROFILE AND METHODOLOGY
Research Conducted by Market Enhancement Group, Inc.
Market Enhancement Group, Inc. (MEG) is a leading supplier of market-based strategic analysis. Since 1977 the team has been collecting, analyzing, and reporting market research information to companies across the country and around the globe.
Barry Quarles, President, leads the MEG team. He earned his undergraduate and M.S. degrees from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Pamplin College of Business and he’s a graduate of the Virginia/Maryland Bankers School at the University of Virginia-Charlottesville.
Barry founded the company in 1977 and since then the company has grown to provide first class marketing research to over 120 companies worldwide. Their research is augmented by global telephone interviewing capabilities that are operated 24 hours a day and cover most major languages. By using telephone, in-person interviews, mail, Internet, convention, Delphi, and focus group interviews, they gather the information, interpret the data and then bring it in a useable form to help clients meet their objectives.
For over two decades MEG has done market research for organizations like the California Association of REALTORS®, Florida REALTORS®, Washington REALTORS®, statewide MLSs and many more local REALTOR® Associations.
Each year they interview tens of thousands of REALTORS®, home buyers, home sellers, and prospective home buyers which give their team a unique perspective on local, state and national real estate markets and housing trends. Examples of studies conducted for organized real estate include: REALTOR® branding studies; REALTOR® demographic studies; REALTOR® education studies; newer agent studies; home buyer motivation and home sellers studies.
Identify specific steps the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® can take to:
• Motivate the approximately 7,500 non-member brokers and their agents who are not members to join the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®.
• Recapture and stem the outflow of members who have chosen to leave the Association after years of membership.
• Develop a benchmark to measure progress in meeting members’ needs over time.
• Measure and determine how to improve member satisfaction.
• Find out if members plan to renew, including why and why not.
• Identify any new products, services, benefits that the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® can offer to improve member satisfaction, improve member retention, and attract new, non-members.
Two Phases of Research
Phase One: Qualitative – Using Delphi Methodology
Qualitative research was conducted for the Members and Non Members using the Delphi Interviewing Technique. Qualitative testing of 60 members and 60 non-member brokers of real estate includes development, testing, and analysis.
1. More information - a focus group includes about 90 minutes of real questioning, typically has 10 participants, and yields about nine minutes of information per respondent. In contrast the Delphi Interviewing Technique yields about 30-45 minutes of information per respondent.
2. Better information - many respondents who will not go to a focus group will do the interview if researcher goes to them. There are also many types of information that respondents will provide that they will not in a group setting.
3. More accurate information -researchers are more likely to get real reasons as opposed to rationalizations.
4. Less overhead -no facility costs, recruiting costs are less, no food and a lower honorarium.
5. No potential bandwagon effect - because respondents are interviewed one-on-one, in-person they do not have to be concerned about what others believe or arguing with them.
6. Sequential - because the process is sequential as opposed to happening all at one time, like a focus group, researchers reduce the risk of a one time study not getting the information and insights needed.
The MEG compiles the raw data and carefully analyzes it to provide specific, statistically accurate information. Because the responses of the non-member real estate agents are so heavily skewed, nearly all of the findings from Phase One with this target audience are statistically valid (i.e., projectable).
The sixty survey respondents provided a sampling error of +/-14.2% -- this means a difference between two numbers of at least 28.4% is needed for those numbers to be statistically significant at two standard deviations, a 95% confidence level which concludes that if the survey is done over and over again with the same number of survey respondents there is a 95% likelihood the results will fall in that range.
• Written report with specific conclusions, recommendations, and action strategies.
• Direct analytical comparisons between members and non-members.
• Strategies, communication tactics, and outreach recommendations.
Quantitative Research was conducted for members to include an evaluation of members encompassing development, testing, and analysis using Telephone Interviewing. Interview questions were developed based on the findings of the Qualitative Research on members.
1. Prior, successful experience using this methodology with identical survey respondents for the California Association of REALTORS®, the Washington REALTORS®, Florida REALTORS®, the National Association of REALTORS®, the Canadian Real Estate Association, the New Jersey Association of REALTORS®, and numerous other REALTOR® groups.
2. It will result in the highest level of completed interviews among eligible respondents due to its less intrusive format and lower time commitment on the respondents’ part. This will, also, improve the statistical accuracy of survey results by reducing the number of non-respondents.
3. Cost and time efficiencies.
4. The ability to “probe” to understand what responses really mean.
5. Statistical reliability- a sample of 800 of MAR’s membership total has a sampling error (a range of accuracy) of +/-3.8%.