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Many small changes in real estate this year, but something’s not right

There have been many notable changes in the industry in 2012, but the focus has shifted away from what is truly important, as agents are captivated by shiny iPads and slick lead gen apps.

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An overview of the state of affairs in the industry

[pl_blockquote pull=”right”]
Agents are more connected than
ever, and their systems have
never been better.
[/pl_blockquote]So Chris Smith, formerly at Move, Inc. hits Inman, and does some amazing rainmaking for the brand, and is now at DotLoop. DotLoop’s CEO is much deserving the cover of Entrepreneur Magazine (and yeah, his teeth really are that amazing). It wouldn’t be an article if I didn’t mention Zillow, now Trulia going public (congrats to both), or Move’s recent acquisition of TigerLeads. Keller Williams makes some bold new international moves, and the Good Life Team in Austin has joined the trade show business. Who would have thunk that Marc and the 1000Watt team would rock the real estate industry with Nudge, a great new product essentially putting their money where their mouth has been for years to Joel Beasley launching Merge to unforseen popularity – I mean it’s a really, really crazy popular product.

So many changes, and so many tiny moves in a small space that the industry seems busy busy as we trend into a sellers market. Agents look sharper today with their iPads, and if you haven’t seen Ben Kinney’s application of presentations mixed with scripts that sell on a stage yet, you’re really missing something. Agents are more connected than ever, and their systems have never been better, and for those who have not yet, they soon will, because the rest of the industry has gotten the word that mediocrity isn’t a winning system.

An ear to the ground

[pl_blockquote pull=”right”]
…the industry is leaning very
heavily toward modernizing the
agent and the agent’s experience,
but not so much the experience
of the home buyer or seller.
[/pl_blockquote]In our AgentGenius Group on Facebook, I watch daily agents discussing cold calling, mailers, email marketing, and things once thought irrelevant. Agents are talking about tough problems, mentoring others to give old systems a second thought, or even finding tweaks to old ways of doing things. It’s truly amazing to see others openly helping each other, and discussing the news of the day or week, or just giving each other a hard time – it’s a lot of fun.

I know I’ve missed some much deserving accolades here, but I need to get around to the meat. I’ve simply thrown out what’s top of mind for the moment, so please don’t be offended. What I’m pointing out here are good things – the industry from my perspective has never looked more modern or more professional. Sure there’s a long way to go in regards to innovation, but it seems to me that the industry is leaning very heavily toward modernizing the agent and the agent’s experience, but not so much the experience of the home buyer or seller. That’s not getting much press at all, and why? Because it’s not happening.

Why is this the focus?

[pl_blockquote pull=”right”]
Agents would rather spend an hour
on a session on how to capture
more leads than how to build
consumer loyalty and keep it.
[/pl_blockquote]The conversations I’ve heard over the past week are sales related, and they’re agent-centric, not consumer-centric. They are completely numbers driven, not people driven. Agent consumers will sit through an hour long presentation on how to boost up their Facebook by Stacey Harmon (which I hear is actually useful and not to miss) rather than spend 15 minutes talking to the guys at Better Voicemail about how to better control the consumer experience on the phone.

Agents would rather spend an hour on a session on how to capture more leads than how to build consumer loyalty and keep it. I’m not saying one is better than the other, I’m saying they go hand-in-hand and are not one in the same. Noted columnist Jeff Brown is as old school as it gets, but having worked with Jeff and his clients, even he’ll admit that it’s a red carpet situation from start to finish with very little technology, but the technology he is using is much much better than 40 years ago (the length of his career).

Shifting the focus to consumers

[pl_blockquote pull=”right”]
This is the conversation we need
to get back to. You’ve got your
iPad, so now what?
[/pl_blockquote]I guess right now Keller Williams is winning in the consumer experience race with two JD Power and Associates awards, but what is their difference? Culture? This is the conversation we need to get back to. You’ve got your iPad, so now what? What is your brand failing at and how can you make it better? Or are you just going to repeat the past and ride the seller wave until the wave is no more?

The National Association of Realtors has done an amazing job of preparing to handle Capitol Hill, and are even getting consumers involved in housing matters. Their ad campaigns make more sense to a new generation, and bring a message of hope and prosperity through homeownership, and we applaude them – we’ve been their loudest critic, but have always been fair. But there’s more work today for the big NAR. It’s time to tear down the walls and allow competition in the marketplace when it comes to new technology that better helps consumers. There needs to be more agent choice in the products NAR backs, for example, why not DotLoop? Why ZipForms? Hell, why not both? There is a lot more Second Century Ventures could do to incentivize outside influence in technology to really prepare the industry for a Second Century. There are so many budding startups NAR should be partnered with that the industry really is missing a large opportinity.

The bottom line

There are so many more issues in real estate still to be dealt with, but I fear politics of the residential industry get in the way. But I wonder, if it really is about the overall consumer experience that agents are tweeting and conferencing about, if true progression and greater changes could be felt thoughout the industry and across the consumer beltway?

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Ozarksagent

    September 21, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    ozarksagent

  2. Ozarksagent

    September 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    The market has caused us to focus on short-term results at minimal cost for survival. That is why we are not relationship ie long-term focused as well as the types of clients a diatressed market attracts are not really that responsive to typical marketing either.

  3. krisstinawise

    September 21, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Ben, you are an incredible writer. I think the best in the business. 
     
    Just to let you know, what we think differentiates us at GoodLife Team is our focus on the consumer experience. Our #1 company Core Value is “Delivering a 5-star customer experience”. Our Tech is simply a way to deliver it…better. Our upcoming conference is the place where we will be sharing with other agents across the country how we consistently produce a 5-star experience as a local consumer brand so that other local brands (in other markets) can do the same.  
     
    Thank you for what you do for the industry. I (almost) always agree with your point of view 🙂 
     
    Krisstina

    • krisstinawise

      September 21, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      Oh, and I totally agree with the opinion you share in this post. You are right on. 

  4. RussBergeronMRED

    September 21, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    Technology of the past 30 years has focused on the delivery and monetization of the listing data.  The actual real estate transaction – the art of the deal – has not changed a bit. It’s still between you and me.

  5. michellepoccia

    September 22, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Benn, great piece…full of valid questions and points. (“spell check” would have come in handy prior to posting). The title…the tablet VS JD Power awards could be changed to a piece with “the tablet + JD Powers Award”. I think technology and an agent’s desire to acquire, learn and utilize these technologies is totally driven by the desire to better serve the consumer (the consumer, who I might add, is often more up to speed on using these technologies than the average agent!). 
    If I grasped your point about NAR opening the door to more than one vendor per venue…your point about it being “political”…well, I think you hit a nail on the head with that point. (I hope I understood it correctly).
    With all the many associations and MLS’s across the United States alone, any vendor would be hard pressed to provide services that work seamlessly with all players. That presents a huge problem for these “start ups” in developing their technologies to serve our industry as a whole. And getting the attention at the NAR level would require attending lots of real estate conferences on local, state and national levels spending long nights providing steaks and scotch for the current heads of those entities (ouch! did I just type that!).
    I totally agree that “crowning” one vendor over another as “the” service provider is a problem. The door should be opened. As we all know in our real estate businesses…there are many real estate offices that the consumer can choose from in any given area. The consumer has a choice. That competitive nature is what keeps us all on our toes perfecting what we do and pointing that out in order to drive consumers to “choose me”.
    Oh, and by the way, those JD Power awards…this is just my opinion…as I see it get passed back and forth between the major franchises…KW, RE/MAX, Coldwell Banker, Prudential, etc… Didn’t you just fall prey to the game of giving greater meaning to that award than is perhaps deserved? Yes, it is a good thing to poll the consumer population and take the temperature for “how are we doing?”. I do not think that consumers are going to the JD Power site to see who won the award that year to choose the real estate agent and/or company that they will use to list or buy a home. In the long run, doesn’t that consumer really only care about the person who is sitting in their home talking with them one on one about servicing their specific real estate needs. I think those awards are just another “political” weapon used in our industry to “fly a flag” for the year and show it off to the other companies. In fact, many times when you see the breakdown of the counts…the numbers are incredibly close. And that, my friend, is a good thing. If all these companies are staying on their toes taking care of consumers…then surely they must be sharpening their tools along the way, raising the bar of how we behave and service clients and customers. So, I have no problem with the JD Powers awards at all…just not sure how much creedence to give them and in what category. Don’t get me wrong…they are valid. But they are awarded for past behaviors and achievements. 
    Thanks for making me think about all this stuff this morning. Good job, my friend!

  6. DavidPylyp

    September 22, 2012 at 10:26 am

    All good and valid points!  We are seeking a way to justify what has become a commodity, with the deliver of listings to anyone with an ipad.   They can search and do all their own neighbourhood comparisons.
     
    Realtors need to define the value that they bring to the transaction without a 30 second elevator speech when you are only going two floors/   Having the shiniest newest iPhone iPad or tablet does not enable you to Docusign anything until you have a prospect and a property.
     
    I’m in Toronto Canada    Google Me.
     
    David Pylyp
     

  7. ChrisShouse

    September 22, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Very excellent article and so many valid points.  Great job Benn.

  8. nigeria hotels

    September 23, 2012 at 11:05 am

    …..Agents are more connected than ever, and their systems have never been better, and for those who have not yet, they soon will, because the rest of the industry has gotten the word that mediocrity isn’t a winning system….. So what do they actually think of nigeria hotels, if they think that selling through your iPad would make it much better. You can’t just sell if you’re sitting around just meddling with your gadgets. Yes, I see your point about the advantages of our technology today and I do admire Stacey Harmon’s point of view, but still I’m old school as you put it because I believe in “getting up close and personal” with the client. 

  9. PioneerTraining

    September 29, 2012 at 3:37 am

    There are many small changes in real estate but something is not right. Read to know more
    https://www.pioneertraining.org/

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Woman working in office with remote team

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According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

This story was first published in November 2020.

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board of directors

What?
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

Why?
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
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As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

When?
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Ageism void

Before the pandemic, age discrimination was prevalent in workplaces. The EEOC reports that in 2018, about 6 out of 10 workers aged 45 years and older say they experience discrimination on the job.

A 2015 survey found that 75% of older workers found age an obstacle in job hunting. COVID-19 made the situation much worse.

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Know that the environment may change as the pandemic continues to affect workers.

Be thoughtful about your hiring practices moving forward to avoid costly litigation from age discrimination.

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