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From Kodak to 3D: What is the Future of Selling Homes?

A Conversation with Kevin Greene and Creig Northrop

The past 10, 20, even 30 years have been momentous in changing the ways we live, and real estate agents have been tasked to stay nimble to these changes. From the old days of pay-per-minute phone calls to today’s free social internet, the way agents interact with clients and sell homes has undergone a great transformation.

To share their insights on this revolution, host Maiclaire Bolton Smith welcomes Creig Northrop, founder and CEO of Northrop Realty, and Kevin Greene, Senior Leader, Property Marketing Solutions at CoreLogic. They discuss the fundamentals of being an excellent agent and consider what the future has in store for the industry.

From Kodak to 3D: What is the Future of Selling Homes? Core Conversations

The past 10, 20, even 30 years have been momentous in changing the ways we live, and real estate agents have been tasked to stay nimble to these changes. From the old days of pay-per-minute phone calls to today's free social internet, the way agents interact with clients and sell homes has undergone a great transformation. To share their insights on this revolution, host Maiclaire Bolton Smith welcomes Creig Northrop, founder and CEO of Northrop Realty, and Kevin Greene, senior leader of Property Marketing Solutions at CoreLogic. They discuss the fundamentals of being an excellent agent and consider what the future has in store for the industry.

MAICLAIRE BOLTON SMITH: Welcome back to Core Conversations, a CoreLogic Podcast. I am your host, Maiclaire Bolton Smith, and I’m the Senior Leader of Research and Content Strategy with CoreLogic. In this podcast we’ll have conversations with industry experts about key topics, from housing affordability, to the impacts of natural disasters on property.

It’s June. Amidst, the grilling, watermelon and shaved ice, the home buying season has arrived. As we enter the busiest and most exciting and most stressful time in real estate, there’s a lot of competing factors influencing the direction of the housing market, but the biggest one is sitting in the driver’s seat: Millennials. With this new digitized home buying environment, vis-a-vis the pandemic, and these young tech savvy buyers flooding the market looking to buy homes and starting families, the fundamentals of finding the dream home are vastly different today than they have ever been before. So to talk about this evolution today, we’re excited to have Kevin Greene, senior leader of HomeVisit by CoreLogic and Creig Northrop, founder and CEO of Northrop Realty today to talk about this, so Kevin and Creig, welcome to Core Conversations.

CREIG NORTHROP: Fantastic, glad to be here.

KEVIN GREENE: Thank you for including me.

MBS: Awesome, so to get us started today, why don’t each of you tell our listeners a little bit about your background. Creig, why don’t we start with you?

CN: Certainly, well, I’ve been doing this business for 35 years. I started as an individual agent, one of the youngest to actually do a billion dollars in a career, and then I moved into opening a team with my wife called the Creig Northrop Team and our goal was to ultimately be number one in the nation. If you’re going to do it anyway, why not be the best? So we started a team and grew to number one in the nation three times, and I call it, “reach one, teach one.” Once you get to the level of where you want to go, then you want to start teaching and giving back to the business that gave you so much. So we started a brokerage called Northrop Realty, which is a hybrid brokerage, because it’s a full service brokerage, which is run Seminole like a team, but you B-Y-O-B, bringing your own brand. You are your own agents, but we have all the systems and everything that got us to number one in the nation. We kept all the systems, including HomeVisit, which we’ll talk about there, and some of these other systems that we put in place so that we can actually streamline the systems and the, our agents who are relationship oriented agents can just focus on the clients. So we can do, I think we’re doing this week almost 70 listings, but that client only feels like they’re the only one. And that was really one of the key processes for us was to be able to scale it so that you’re able to scale it and still service it and we are, and have been number one in the nation for Zillow, 5 star Zillow reviews, because we’re passionate about our clients and their experience with Northrop Realty.

MBS: Wow, that’s fantastic and your passion definitely shows, Creig, so we’re thrilled to have you be here as part of our conversation. So Kevin, why don’t you jump in and tell us a little bit about yourself as well?

KG: Yeah, I’ve been in the real estate industry for about 17 years, I started off as an agent/broker of a discount brokerage in Jacksonville, Florida, and then got onto the technology side with Fidelity National Financial and the national portal that they were doing of Cyber Homes, went into a management buyout with Real Estate Digital, really focusing on the MLS side of things, a multiple listing service side of things, and then came over here to CoreLogic about five years ago – originally as the strategic partnership in new business initiatives for the Real Estate Solutions Group, and now I’m a heading the business unit that is HomeVisit.

MBS: Fantastic, you said cyber homes. What’s a cyber home? You got my attention.

KG: Cyber Home was a national portal that was going to compete with Zillow about 12 years ago, offering AVMs and direct leads back to agents and brokers. But the original crash changed things and changed a lot of directions for a number of people as now a new change with the pandemic is going to cause some more changes as far as how people buy and sell homes.

MBS: That sounds so great, it’s exciting stuff. I am also going to catch you guys on some acronyms. You did say AVM, let’s just define that quickly before we jump in.

KG: Automated valuation model.

MBS: Perfect. Thank you, okay, so let’s dive into things. I think most people are familiar with the general home buying and selling process, whether they’ve bought a home or not, but we’ve alluded to this a couple of times in this podcast, but the home buying process can definitely be cumbersome, but we’re currently in this digital age and so much has changed…. When we look at the digitization of real estate, how would we compare where we are now versus 10, 20 or even 30 years ago for both real estate agents and from the buyer’s perspective?

CN: Well, I mean, I think from the digital world of growth, I’m going to turn that over to Kevin, but from the real estate side of it, you know, one of the things that we got introduced to about seven years ago through HomeVisit, actually, was called Matterport. Matterport is a 3D model where you can actually feel like you’re walking through someone’s home. We’ve actually this year sold 52 homes, cash, as-is, and the buyer never even walked in the home with the technology that is provided through HomeVisit of Matterport. And Matterport is, they said it, you can do all kinds of amazing things. And then you add the floor plans and all of that. And it’s so interactive and that really has helped us to not only get through COVID, which was huge because people didn’t have to leave their couches, and ultimately that’s a big game changer.

I mean, my mother, when you talk about real estate agents in general, first of all, my mother had to use a payphone to close a client, now it costs like 10 cents back then. So you had to close faster and shut up sales agents, you know, and listen more, right? That’s the joke then, right? But you know, it’s evolution dies over to, you know, we didn’t have the internet, we didn’t have all these great new systems and social medias and all of that. And you know, all of them, we really just had to be good customer service, you had to market, my mother had to use print to get our word out. Cause that was pretty much it. And you had to write incredible descriptions of houses so people would engage in them. They actually would pick up real estate books just to read what you would say next. That was really her motto. And then really, to be honest, Facebook’s a new version of what you do way back if you think about it, you know, everything is a storyboard for it. So you got into the Facebook and that was a new era of real estate, then you get into the Matterports and all the technology that connects the consumer with, you know, with the product, right? They’re much more engaged and that’s why 90% of the other consumers start on the internet now, before they even start their search with a real estate agent, because there’s so much of that done so well. Photography is so important because that’s the first impression. That fusion photography, that 3D, that has changed way over time, and we’ve been blessed to grow that with HomeVisit, and I’ll let Kevin kind of take it from that stand point.

KG: Yeah, it’s been very interesting Creig, because you know, 30 years ago, as you mentioned what’s changed, I mean, back then it was right with the beginning of a digitized MLS. You still had to have a book to find out what was on the marketplace and now, you know that, as Creig mentioned, it’s, they’re being promoted and put up into realtor.com, Zillow, broker portals, et cetera, where agents can have the ability to connect with consumers. But as Creig mentioned, consumers are going there first. And so they’re getting an opportunity to walk through a home through a 3D plan, or see a floor plan where they’re wanting more photos to see if they want to go physically see that home. Homes that they don’t get a lot of pictures or don’t get a lot of feel for, they might cross that off that list and they never got a shot. And so more visuals, more video or aerial — we’ve seen video up 125% in the last 18 months. And the interesting thing with video is that typically people will only stay on for 26 seconds. They want to get that real quick and see what’s going on there. Is this a home I want to go see? I’m going call Creig and ask him to go see this home because I’ve gotten to see the features and functionality of it. We’ve seen the 3D, as Creig mentioned with Matterport that we have as our partner, we’ve seen 3D up 83% in the last 18 months. And we’ve also seen agents do some really creative things with that, where being able to do something like, while your listeners can’t see us, we can see each other actually physically walking somebody through a home, through a Zoom utilizing 3D. And so they can still interact with the consumer, still show them the features of the house, the crown molding, the great appliances, et cetera, without ever leaving their office and the consumer never leaving their couch. So it’s really, really neat to see how things are going.

CN: It’s amazing and just reflecting, when I first started, we were using Kodak and putting the picture on the front of the brochure with tape. That was our brochure way back, imagine that. It’s just amazing how digitized everything and the process is. Working with HomeVisit, we actually have photographers coming out, literally on like a Monday or Tuesday, and we have everything through to consumers by Friday, with all the Matterports and everything done. We have streamlined the system so beautifully. Like I said earlier, every client feels like they’re the only one because they’re getting that incredible customer service.

KG: And if I can add one more thing, Creig, I read earlier this week, from Inman News, they’re talking about the ability for this digital is also reducing the carbon footprint. So I mean, there is no more, as far as getting in a car and driving somebody around for four hours, as far as showing you that you’re narrowing that search down. Eventually a lot of people do want to go see the home they’re going to spend thousands of dollars on, their biggest purchase, but we’re narrowing the process down. We’re reducing carbon footprint, reducing people’s time and effort that is out there and making things a little bit easier.

MBS: It’s so great and I think, you know, I think of this concept, it was only a few years ago that we bought our first home and I would have loved to have bought my home from the couch and not have to… we must have gone out and looked at 150 homes.

CN: So how did you find your agent?

MBS: We found our agent at an open house. We would go around every weekend looking at open houses and we met this agent that we really loved and we connected with him and he lived in the neighborhood and he became our agent and we trusted him and he was fantastic, he found us our home, so.

CN: So I assume this audience is some agents. And I say this: open houses work.

MBS: Yeah.

CN: You know, the people that say open houses don’t work, don’t want to work on Sundays.

MBS: It definitely did work! It worked for him, it worked for us. So, but I, I think of, you know, going from Kodak photography to 3D tours, we’ve come a long way and that’s especially important for a younger generation. And that’s kind of where I want to turn now. I know that Dr. Frank Nothaft and the Office of the Chief Economist here at CoreLogic, have done a lot of research about general differences in home buying behavior and patterns. And one really interesting little nugget is that the peak home buying age is 33 years old. And the largest cohort of a millennials is now approaching this peak. So when we think of the millennial generation and the expectations that this younger generation has, how has the millennial generation impacted the way people are buying homes?

CN: Well it’s interesting, you know, we’re all catered to instant gratification, right? So they want it now. They say that, and it is actually very relevant because what happens is when they want to buy something, they first of all want to be able to go the internet and find what they want, right? They don’t want to go through a lot of hassle. They don’t want to give their information, but they know they’re going to get solicited. So by the way, they just want streamlined. They want streamlined, and when they call that agent, they want response. They want response because their call is important, they want to feel important, they’re buying the biggest purchase in their life important. They want to feel it and they want that experience from start to finish, to be seamless. And I tell you, they’re probably more picky than the other generations. I tell you, they are because they’re so digitized in their processes, that everything coming to them so fast and so precise that they want their system and buying the same way. And then, and they really are and have been, and they’re exciting, it’s fun to watch the excitement of somebody getting their first house. I just did it yesterday to somebody, and the excitement of just buying that house and just loving their first house. And you just can’t replace that feeling, you really can’t. And they loved it because they wanted professionalism, they wanted somebody that knew the area because all our agents live in the areas they service, they wanted a Realtor resource because they wanted to know what everything was, doctors, dinners, you know, they want all that. And so they want a friend, not an agent. And I think that’s what millennials are really looking for now. They want a friend and they want somebody to not sell them, they don’t want salesy. And I think you’re seeing that a lot more with millennials. And I think we’ve found that niche and we love it because they start the home buying process, the biggest investment that you’re ever going to make, you make the most money in real estate, it’s a great way to start and a lot of millennials have made a lot of money with buying their first home. One of the philosophies we have at Northrop Realty is this, we want a client for life, not a client for one home, and so our goal is to go through every generation you are in with, right? So each part of the section, we want to be part and be relevant in each part. And so I think it’s interesting to now analyze that because so many people stay focus a one group where I think it’s important to be able to associate and help every group.

MBS: Kevin, anything you would like to add to that one?

KG: No, I mean, the biggest thing that I would like to add is Creig is right, I’ve always thought that, you know, having a friend and consumers are looking for someone to hold their hand as they get through this biggest purchase that they do. And the process is very cumbersome from mortgage to title and understanding all the differences, remembering all of that and then seven years down the road with the average time, they’re going to be looking for a larger home where there’s life changes that happen. You know, they’re wanting to go back to that person to do that, and so being able to do that and having the tools to help them through that is very important and you know, we here at HomeVisit try to help facilitate that and provide those tools to help them get through it.

CN: And they’re big on brand and big on brand. I got to say that brand is big for, you know, the, the millennials.

MBS: So I’m glad you went there, Kevin, cause I, want to dive in a little bit more into how the pandemic really expedited this move towards digital, and I think if we look towards the present and the future, what things do you think will persist? What will go away? And do we think, you know, these digital trends that we’ve moved towards, the digitization of many of these tools, are these here to stay or are they just ebbs and flows that go along with the market?

KG: You know, I think I’ll start and let Creig kind of go because he uses a lot of the tools there. I think, as mentioned before previously, you had the books and people had to come to the real estate office to see everything, and then we digitize it and put it out there. And there’s that saying that the toothpaste is already out of the bottle and the consumers now have access to all of this data. They have the ability to see the floor plans. They have the ability to walk through a home virtually, they have the ability to look and see how much, you know, what the taxes have been for the home and the historical. And they’re being able to do a lot of the analysis, but it’s how do they bring all of that stuff together? And that’s where the real estate agent comes in of being able to craft that, walk them through, walk them through the deal, et cetera. And so you have that piece of the deal of what we helped provide, but then as far as the agent is concerned, I think as Creig just mentioned, I’m gonna probably tee him up really well, is he just said, you know, that the people want brand, they like the brand and what goes on and how do they create and the trust of that brand? And so when you talk about other marketing tools like postcards, et cetera, that have been there, you know, we’ve seen brokerages that embrace and do and have that, have definitely been very successful and keep that connection through that first home buying experience to the second home buying experience and onward.

CN: Yes, it’s a touch, it’s a touch. And you know, and like you said, with the brand is you’ve got to trust the brand’s been around for many, many years. And I think people have to see it, though. You can’t be secret about it, right? One of the things that you got to do is with the digital age is be seen. I always say, treat every event like the Super Bowl, like every event should be exciting, right? You want to look forward to it. So anything you should do should be like the thing, if it’s the open house, it’s the best open house in the world. And when they come see me, he goes, Wow, you’re here. I said, Yeah, because it’s the best open house today, welcome. It’s that kind of excitement that digital can only go so far and that’s why real estate is still very much humanistic, right? You’ve got to have that humanistic touch because optimally, at the end of the day, it’s about the soul and technology can’t get you soul. Right? So soul sells and that’s important. And the knowledge of your areas builds trust and in the brand and the consistency of seeing that brand through different marketing portals, a TV and all that stuff is what people trust. And I think you’ve got to have that, you know. Make sure that they’re full time, make sure that they’re, you know, if you’re listing a house, make sure they’re marketing! Most agents do what I call three Ps: They put up a sign, they put it in the MLS and they pray. And that’s the challenge in some of our markets.

MBS: So I guess from the agent’s perspective, Creig, how do you stay relevant in today’s market? I mean, I love that you went like, it’s all about the soul. It’s about the passion, you clearly have that passion, but I think, you know, keeping up with the demands of the generation and the current trends, how is it difficult? Like how, how do you stay relevant?

CN: I mean, relevance is a great question. First of all, do something, right? We all talk about things, do something, right? And then what I try to do is add humor to it because I try to hit different audiences, right? Because to Kevin’s point he gave a great quote about video, right? Doing video is great, but guess what? It’s subpar, if you just do the same as everyone else does, right? So you’ve got to do something to look forward to it. Like I’ll jump in a pool with a suit on, what the heck, right? Why not? Right? But guess what, they talk about it. Matter of fact, the buyer bought the house because I jumped in it with the suit. They remember that, but you know, that’s been memorable is my first answer, right? Be memorable, find ways to be memorable. And then most importantly, get out there. Authentic is also another very key about being relevant, authentic but again, there’s three ways to really, I say, close the sale in this environment, okay. First you got to care, right? You’ve got to care about the client. You’ve got to care about what you do and care about everyone around you. Two, you’ve got to be consistent, you’ve got to be consistent. You can’t just run one ad and put out an ad and think it’s going to work, you’ve got to be consistent in ads. They’ve got to see it, you don’t build brand by one commercial or by one postcard. You do it by consistency and last, and most importantly is what’s lacking in a lot of the real estate agents is confidence. You’ve got to have confidence in what you do. You see if you have the three Cs, care, consistency and confidence, and if you lose the C in close, you lose the sale, okay, so ultimately the end of the day, it’s important that these three elements are there. And a lot of it has to do with the digital age. A lot of it has to do with, you know, doing more. I mean, you guys can do so much. Social media is free, but we don’t do enough of it. And in the real estate marketplace, I don’t get it. Like I had paid for everything I did. Well, here you go, you got a free element and you’re still not utilizing more, I don’t understand.

MBS: Yeah, that, no, it’s you clearly have those four Cs and it’s very clear Creig, why you have been so successful in your career and again, really glad to have your perspective here on our podcast. So Kevin, I want to switch gears a little bit and we’ve just briefly mentioned HomeVisit, touched on it through a couple of the questions, but when you think about innovations in this space and here at CoreLogic, we’re really trying to push the needle forward with everything that we’re doing in property. Agents, we want to try agents help stay relevant to find success in today’s hyper-competitive environment. And what kind of things are we doing here at CoreLogic can you talk about?

KG: Yeah, so that’s one of the reasons why, you know, CoreLogic acquired in, is growing HomeVisit from just not to where Creig is located in the mid-Atlantic, but, but making it national and relevant and making things easier for the agent to purchase and provide quality services like drone service, making sure that you have homes that have multi exposure images so that you can see and look at that home in the best light, you’re able to see through windows, you’re able to, really truly see what the home looks like we partner with people like Matterport, as Creig says, you have one of the leading providers of 3D in there and being able to have that. So we can safely and virtually walk a customer or consumer, you know, through a home and being able to do that. We have high quality print and great stuff so that we can do the traditional points that, that as Creig mentioned, that you need to be touching consumers on a regular basis and how do you do that? And through that, and we’ve always actually had the tools that help them set that up through some of our multiple listing service platform, previously known as Matrix and Realist. We may want to make it easier for the agent and within their workflow to be able to do that. And so whether or not it’s when they’re at the start of a listing or whether they’ve gotten the listing in to make things easier for an agent to upload images and video and send them out, provide them in a, you know, a single property website, that’s both branded and unbranded for the agent that allows them to look on their phones, be able to, show and share in social media, as Creig said, one of the free best platforms to do it and have multiple touch points for those agents. And we’re trying to do that within the agent’s workflow, whether or not they’re doing it through the MLS or through their broker, we want to make it easier for the agent to be able to provide these tools for them to showcase the homes that they get from their consumers.

MBS: That’s great, just being a part of this whole process and helping move things forward. So this has been fun, I’m really loving chatting with both of you and I think just to kind of wrap up today, many of these podcasts, and we’d like to say, if you were to look into your crystal ball and we look towards the future, I was going to think, I was thinking, you know, our virtual tour is a way of the past, but I know Creig, you said open houses work. So open houses, virtual tours are a little bit different, but do you think, are we gonna move more towards this buying a house from your couch and everything being virtual with virtual tours? Or will we ever go back to the way it was before? And it be mostly in-person? So what do you think? So all the way from Kodak to 3D, what, where, where do you think we’re going?

CN: Well, I think it never lose the soul of what we are. So I don’t think, I think humanistic is still important. I think majority of people have to touch and feel what they want to buy, right? So that even though the goal of all the digital world and all these things we already talked about today is to drive the consumer to your product. But to sell your product has to be somebody to care as much about what your needs are as you would. And that care about you being your client for life. I call it so that you’re the realtor resource and you’re going to take good care of them. And you know, all the things that we literally know a house, I could rebuild a house in my mind today that I can help a client, a new one, especially a first-time home buyer. What about changing furnace filters? What about all the logistics of a home that we’re just basically going here? Good luck, right? That’s what digital does here. Buy it, good luck, you can buy it from Amazon and it’ll show up at your doorstep, but guess what? You may need somebody to help you walk through it. You may need somebody to help you guide you how to operate things and put some of that. I don’t think ever real estate will change from the humanistic side because there’s, it’s too valuable and asset to allow a computer to buy your house to be honest.

KG: I completely agree, I mean, they always say real estate is local. You know, I got a wife and three kids and two dogs, and I want to know where I’m going to walk my dogs and where my children are going to go to school and how are they going to get there? And what route are they going to take? And what’s going on? I think it’s really important to understand what the neighborhood is and hear from the people that live in the neighborhood and have lived there and grown up there being able to, and so there is always going to be that element. I think the big thing is the tool, these virtual tools are going to help narrow people’s, either A, narrow what they want to go see, or B, expand what they want to see, because they’re actually going to see something more like, I really want to go see that house. I want to see that because I’ve seen these features and functionality and being able to do that. And how does that fit in with me and my lifestyle? So it’s just an added tool to help kind of hone in and fine tune it. But ultimately I don’t disagree with Creig as I’ve bought and sold seven homes in multiple states how this goes, and you know, you need to go find out what that neighborhood is and that’s where you’re going to lay your head at night and that’s where you’re going to have your family and make sure that they’re safe and it’s, and you grow there. So I think you’re ultimately always going to go there majority of the time. I think some, you know, unless you’re using it as an investment property, or you already know the neighborhood and you’re just getting a second property, et cetera, there are always exceptions, but I would say 80% of the time, if not more there there’s, someone’s going to play at their feet there before they sign a contract.

MBS: So overall technology helps a lot. The human always wins, so

CN: Yeah.

MBS: Kevin and Creig, thank you so much for joining me today on Core Conversations at CoreLogic podcast. It’s been great to have you both here. For more information on the property market and the housing economy, please visit corelogic.com/intelligence. Thanks for listening, I hope you’ve enjoyed our latest episode, please remember to leave us a review and let us know your thoughts and subscribe wherever you get your podcast to be notified when new episodes are released and thanks to the team for helping bring this podcast to life. Producer Rhea Turakhia, editor and sound engineer, Romie Aromin and social media guru, Mike Wojcik. Tune in next time for another Core Conversation

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