Sep. 3rd, 2006

Remax may sell more homes than anyone. But does anyone care?

The last line in Remax’s truly atrocious TV commercial claims that the growing real estate chain now sells more real estate than anyone.

Casting aside the fact that "more real estate" could refer to lot size, number of homes, or some other sleight of hand that only a statistician could love, Mortarmark doubts that few of us care.

Y’see we have done quite of bit of work in real estate. Most of it based, I am happy to say, on extensive interviews with consumers and real estate agents.

And you know what? Homebuyers and sellers by and large don’t give two hoots who sells the most homes; or who has the most agents; or how big their agent’s sign is or whether–shock, horror–their agent will find their dream home.

The focus group work we conducted with buyers and sellers in San Francisco’s ritzy Marin and Sonoma counties suggested quite the contrary.

Buyers complained that they found their "dream" homes themselves–and rarely did an agent identify the home they purchased. And buyers and sellers proved very capable of reading between the fine print in broker ads.

Perhaps, then it is surprising that these claims so often make up the bulk of real estate advertising.

The problem seems to be that real estate salespeople are essentially free agents. Unlike employees, most are independent contractors. Which means they can move their book of business for a rival brokerage  anytime.   No wonder most of the advertising plays to agent’s egos–reminding them they have made a great choice in affiliating with the #1 and, simulataneously intimidating rivals with the marketing ferocity of their sharp cross-town competitors.

In other words, most agency marketing resolutely ignores the consumer. Umm. Isn’t that meant to be bad?

For an alternative approach, take a close look at the series of ads Mortar created for San Francisco realtors Frank Howard Allen. In particular you’ll notice two big differences.

1. Most of the action takes place inside the home, not curbside. We figured consumers care more about the potential of their new home rather than curb appeal. (Unlike agents who can trade bragging rights over addresses and lot size.)

2. We attempted to align our client with the emotional highs of of buying a home; with a firm nod towards the notion that buyers and sellers really don’t like their agent that much — they resent the sizable commissions for one thing — but nevertheless few would entertain selling their home themselves.


It is no wonder the traditional real estate companies are quaking in their boots over cut-price start-ups like Ziprealty. Like the US car-industry, the Real Estate industry has ignored its consumer for too long.

See more of the campaign here.


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