Do you feel that giving out free advice on Trulia helps or hurts the real estate brokerage industry?

Asked by Jonathan Bowen, Stoughton, MA Mon Feb 16, 2009

I think about this question every so often because I know of no other profession in which the practitioners give out free advice as so many agents on Trulia are want to do. I have recently noticed questions on Trulia that are getting very specific. The agents seem to be facilitating a sale without the remote possibility of getting paid. What do you think?

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Mark Kinslow…, Agent, Centennial, CO
Tue Feb 17, 2009

I find that answering these questions is a great way for free marketing. I have been on Trulia since Jan 09 and I have 3 Buyers Under Contract who found me on here. I am not using Trulia pro and am reaping the benifits of giving out free information. It costs me nothing to answer a question while I am working on contracts or talking to clients on the phone, but the payback of my phone ringing is priceless. I hope this helps.
8 votes
Frank Spencer, Agent, Corona, CA
Mon Feb 16, 2009
Hi Jonathan,
What a great question. I have always subscribed to the the theory that we get paid for what we know. In a market such as ours the more information that you have at your disposal, the better your opportunity to earn. But here is the problem, if we are not willing to openly discuss the issues and concerns that buyers and sellers have how do we demonstrate our knowledge base. I would contend that this is a terrific opportunity not only to share information with the public but to educate and learn from our counterparts across the country. If you think about it there is not another industry that that I can think of that gives away so much for so little. And yet those of us who have survived do quite well. So please continue to share with (and learn from) us. This is how we grow as professionals.

Best wishes,

Frank Spencer
7 votes
Daniele Summ…, , Charlotte, NC
Mon Feb 16, 2009
That is a very good question and I agree with Frank. The old days of hording the information is long gone. Buyers and sellers are more educated and want to learn about the process and we are glad to help them.

I enjoy reading what other agents have to say because I may or may not someday be in that same position. I feel that providing accurate sound advise will help everyone learn and be better more professional knowledgable agents, buyers and sellers.

Yes, There is the posibility that so much information is posted about a question that seems to be facilitating a sale without the remote possibility of getting paid, but our business shouldn't be all about the paycheck its about bringing buyers and sellers together when they can't do it themselves.

I LOVE what I do and if I can make a good living at helping people work through one of the most important decisions they'll ever make. Sweet!

Daniele Summerfield
Wilkinson & Associates
5 votes
Katie Minkus,…, Agent, Hanalei, HI
Thu Feb 19, 2009
Aloha, Jonathan... I believe that in today's day and age, to cling to the old methods of "controlling the information" is outdated and a sure way to antiquate yourself right out of the business. It's my belief that consumers who are asking questions on places such as Trulia are actually to some degree "interviewing" us as agents. So while we might be giving away "free advice" on the other hand, typically we're only giving information that is public record such that anyone could find the information elsewhere if they knew where to look - and by doing so, we create "relationship" and "trust" electronically, instead of face to face. I recently closed my first all-internet SELLER - I didn't know this person, have never met them face to face and only spoke with her on the phone about five times. She hired me to sell her house based on the information I provided to her "for free" on Trulia and other places around the internet - she looked around, liked what I had to "say" and hired me. I received 9 offers in 2 days and closed the sale in under 60 days from when I took the listing. That's money in my pocket in exchange for the time and free advice I give away online. Works for me! Warm aloha, Katie Minkus, R(B)
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4 votes
Hugo Torres, Agent, Arcadia, CA
Tue Feb 17, 2009
An informed customer is a always the better option.

I agree that REALTORS should shy away from providing any kind of legal or tax advice on these forums.
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4 votes
Matthew Share, Agent, Marietta, GA
Fri Feb 20, 2009
I am all for exposing the information for public access. It actually helps those agents who realize that the value of their service goes way beyond the information. It is the analysis of the information and the day-to-day expertise of their local market that can not really be conveyed on a web site. Like the stock market: anyone can look and see what the Dow did in a day; but it takes a trained financial analyst who really understands the impacts and reasons behind volatility to make inferences and predictions based on what's really going on. I do have a problem with web sites that post incorrect information. Often the automated CMA's on these web sites are extremely inaccuarte because they ignore very important factors such as school district, condition of home, lot location, type of yard, etc. all of which have a very real impact on property values in the open market. It's ok for consumers to look at this as a helpful tool; but it's somewhat irritating when they take this misinformation and claim to know more than the agent when they try to use it to justify a ridiculous offer on a listing, etc.
3 votes
The Kinslow…, Agent, Centennial, CO
Thu Feb 26, 2009
This format has been extremely helpful to me. I love reading the advice and experiences of other Realtors. I give a lot of advice myself, if someone else learns something from me, hurray! More then anything, I think people who are reading these entries are learning how much is involved in every Real Estate transaction and that they really do need professional help. Some things in life you can do yourself, but a Real Estate transaction is big and a little error can be a big hit in the pocket book.


P.S. I too have Sold homes to people directly from Trulia, not only that, I have met some outrageously nice people here. Two of you nice people know who you are...I can't wait to see your new home tomorrow with all of your furniture in it! :)
2 votes
Brian Brosen, Agent, Albany, NY
Fri Feb 20, 2009
We are firm believers in giving info out as much as possible, whenever possible. The info is out there already, for the most part, and if you are transparent, and give info out freely, we firmly believe that people will come back to you.
2 votes
, ,
Sat Feb 28, 2009
Hi Jonathan:

I think its a beautiful thing. Buyers today are more informed than ever. If an agent thinks that witholding informating is the way to go, I'd like to introduce them to a little thing called the internet. Darn near all the information we give on sites like this are available elsewhere for free. The one HUGE advantage that we have above any internet savy buyer is experience. We do this day in and day out, transaction after transaction and we hone our skills while the average person deals with real estate maybe once every 10 years or so (not sure of the exact statistic but I'm sure I'm not far from the actual number). We deal with markets as they change and keep up with local stats. We have to in order to survive. Heaven help a potential buyer who goes into a multi thousand or million dollar real estate transaction solely with the information they learned from the internet and knowledge they got from an advice column. It takes a whole lot more than that. Thats why I go to WebMD before going to a doctors appointment. I just want to know what to ask relative to my situation. I'm not looking to perform the surgery myself.

I believe these advice columns should serve as a starting point for potential buyers or sellers to get information they may not have considered or known. Hopefully, they'll take what they learned, find a professional and expand on it. I think its a great thing.

Viva la Internet!!

Daniel A. Ovalles
Prudetial Douglas Elliman
1 vote
Scott A. Nel…, , 02155
Fri Feb 20, 2009
BloodhoundBlog recently had a great blog post on this: , how to best utilize these 3rd party vendors sites & integrating your own site into the mix. Alot of it also translates over to ActiveRains new policy to charge for new blog members who want to feed their blogs out to the public & charging $$ to do so.

Personally I use Blogger (Owned by Google) to host my blog and have started to implement the suggestions I found in that article. Here's the rest of my discussion on the topic:…
1 vote
Other/Just L…, , Fleming Fitch Grant, Holly Hill, FL
Fri Feb 20, 2009
From a lending and mortgage underwriting postion, I believe that Frank's and Danielle's answers apply to my industry as well. When I purchased my first home (many years before entering the mortgage industry), I knew nothing about mortgages or real estate... but I was LUCKY.

I purchased my first home FSBO from a husband and wife mortgage broker/real estate broker team who handled the sale and the mortgage. Later, when I had a little knowledge and hauled out my closing package, I found they not only gave me a great (but fair) price, but also an excellent, low cost mortgage - my wife and I were well-served by professionals who didn't take advantage of our ignorance as first time buyers and borrowers.

To this day, remembering the fortuitous value I received from those honest pros, I try to "pay it forward" on mortgage related questions... with no expectation of gain (even in states in which I am licensed to originate).

Back then there was no internet to turn to for advice. I think Trulia provides an invaluable service in enabling buyers and borrowers to obtain free advice before making the biggest purchase (and debt) decision of a lifetime.
1 vote
kennymerrim…, Agent, Cape Girardeau, MO
Fri Feb 20, 2009
I feel that there is a lot of adivce being given out at the coffee shop or other gathering places that any opportunity to give out advice that is accurate is a good thing. I realize that anyone can give out advice and sometimes it is like noses, we all have one. It is just over time people learn who gives out good sound advice and those who do not. Usually people looking for advice are at the time just questioning. I feel that giving out good advice is in the best interest of my business. I can not be everyone's agent but I can be viewed as a person who is willing to help without expecting a return. As far as giving out information for a specific question that needs an agent/client relationship I simply recommend to the person to seek out an agent of choice and begin a relationship.
1 vote
Marilyn Mess…, Agent, Concord, MA
Fri Feb 20, 2009
Jonathan, I also wonder about this.

I write market condition reports for various web sites and I think it's good for consumers to have access to information that is from a local source who is actually in the market on a daily basis rather than from national news reporters who sell headlines. But, I think it's very risky for agents to give advice about specific transactions and some of the advice is definately outside of real estate. As licensed professionals we are liable for the advice we give whether we are getting paid or not.

Many of the people asking questions appear to already be in the middle of a transaction so they must have some type of relationship with an agent - my question to them is where is your agent? Like you, I wonder why real estate agents continue to give the store away!
1 vote
Lucy Puniwai, Agent, Haslet, TX
Thu Feb 19, 2009
I agree with Katie (howzit!)
In the spirit of giving and providing service, it makes me feel great to know that I can share my knowledge with folks that make the effort to ask the questions!
The information highway has come along way and there are many professions that are providing this service, I believe it is the "American Way" to educate, share and also benefit from the contributions made by others.
Our industry has taken it's lumps when it comes to subprime lending - how many of you knew that your clients were pushing the envelope when qualifying for a home? While I am not saying we are not to shoulder the blame for Lender's practices, some of us had to know the reality of what was going on.
It is time for us to present ourselves as individuals with integrity and sincerity in serving our customers.
Being asked for advice puts us in the position we need to seen in, as the professionals that home buyers and sellers seek before making, for most, the most expensive decision in their life!

Lucy Puniwai
Floyd Realty Group
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1 vote
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