Transparency and Building Community

This may seem a little bit odd for a real estate agent to do, but I’m going to tell you the story of another agent who works in my parents’ neighborhood – the neighborhood in which I grew up.

For more years than I can remember, Bob delivered neighborhood real estate updates – the standard fare of what was for sale, what recently sold, etc. Even more notably, on the patriotic national holidays – Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day (if memory serves) we’d wake up to find a flag in our front lawn with a note saying that this gift had been left by Bob.

Keep in mind I was eight when I moved to the neighborhood and the memory sticks, if for no other reason than the presence of the flags was as predictable as the rising of the sun in the east.

Fast forward 30 years and my mom told me she had been visited by Bob … after three decades working the Dobson Ranch, he still was out door-knocking and saying hello to folks even though the neighborhood in the intervening years had become too large to dominate in such a manner. In fact, there’s at least one other large real estate team now working the Ranch who is about as well known.

What always struck me is that Bob, and Jim later after I moved from the area, both were working to build a sense of community. What also struck me is neither seemed particularly shy about the fact that they were real estate agents and they made their living helping people buy and sell their houses. The efforts no doubt were sincere but they also were transparent … they wanted the business and made sure you know just what business they were in.

Real estate seems to be unique in that most agents are hesitant to discuss what exactly is is that they do for a living. Maybe it’s because of the reputation real estate agents have in general in the minds of the public; then again, maybe that image would be better if we as a group didn’t spend so much time trying to soft sell what it is that we do. I’m not talking about silly agent tricks like crooked name tags or upside-down name tags or some other such allegedly “clever” concept. I mean being up front about what it is that we do, why we are making ourselves visible to the public eye, how we put food on our table, etc.

Transparency was a byword of the real estate blogs when they first started – the original group of us, even if we scoffed at the actual use of the word transparency – often tried to peel back the curtain on some of the silly tricks agents use, to be the Penns and Tellers of the real estate world, showing how the tricks are performed and mocking the simplicity of it all.

Those days are largely gone. And, if you listen to some, so is the brief golden era of real estate blogging. Which I guess leaves real estate writing in some sort of post-apocaplyptic hell. And what does that hell look like?

Mostly, it seems, agents attempting to build community through Facebook or through Twitter. Which is well and good, or at least to my mind would be well and good if there wasn’t such a desire to hide the fact that it’s a real estate agent at the heart of the effort.

What all agents strive for is top of mind recognition – think of the places you go out to each when you want a certain type of food; this is the reflexive recognition all of us hope for and precious few achieve – yet more and more, agents are trying to find that top of mind recognition through osmosis or, less scientifically, a game of Password. “The secret word is … Realtor.”

Conference after conference, panel after panel is devoted to ways to infiltrate build community within your social medial circle, a place where we all are supposed to be a bit more open and yes, transparent, yet we’re trying to soft sell a basic reality of who we are – real estate agents.

Soon we will move on from Facebook as we moved on from MySpace and from Twitter as we search for the next big thing. Hyperlocal blogging – where you can learn about every farmer’s market in town and once in a while get real estate information – already is enjoying its own renaissance after a bright start and fizzle.

And all of this really seems to pale in comparison from a top of mind perspective to the idea of flags in the front yards on the Fourth of July. Then again, that was sooooooooo 20th Century.

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at

1 Comment

  • Chandler Realtor 7 years ago

    Great post! We were just discussing this the other day!

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