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Opinion Editorials

NAR REThink: meaningful dissection of the future of real estate

As a convention cynic, I typically roll my eyes when someone addresses “the future,” but at this event, there was a tangible sense that people are finally becoming aware of industry changes.

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nar rethink

nar rethink

Finally, a real estate event that didn’t put me to sleep

The thought of conventions, seminars, and webinar’s of people in the real estate industry getting together to talk usually makes me yawn. Talks of the latest technology, IDX syndication versus sites like Zillow and Trulia, agents fighting for the return of their information, agents becoming extinct and how social media perfection is the way of the future… I tire of this not because I don’t agree things are/will change in the future. Quite the contrary.

I LOVE ideas, but loathe lack of action and continuous talks of some so-called revolution or people just trying to sell me things. While things never change overnight and there have been some big game changers in the past decade of real estate and technology coming together, agents are still around, doing the same things and thinking still, that nothing will really ever change. Leadership in state and local boards don’t want to talk about it because that would mean opening up and discussing the idea their jobs may one day become extinct. Many brokerages don’t want to talk because there is fear of agents becoming too educated and leaving.

But that didn’t happen at the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR’s) recent REThink session, NAR’s new “open source” strategic planning initiative. I was impressed. If any of you know me at all, a good impression of a national convention attended strictly by people out to protect their own jobs is NOT my idea of a great way to spend a whirlwind of 24 hours between Baltimore and Chicago and leaving my work and family to attend. However, this was different. There was even a young 25ish agent helping to lead the discussion on stage in skinny jeans and some hip brand of shoes I am sure I don’t know about.

Told to arrive at 8am on Monday at the Sheraton in Chicago, the YPN (Young Professionals Network) chairs from around the country were brought together to be given an intinerary of how the remainder of the day was to go. The NAR strategic planning committee announced that this year, they were switching things up. The idea was to have all 200 of us man 2-3 tables each of 6 incoming or outgoing NAR and state level leadership.

Our job was to get them to fill up tables from the front to the back, inquire as to who followed the email sent out about bringing a fully charged lap top or iPad and make them “tech scribes.” We were even in charge of giving each of our tables the instructions for the day. Let me just tell you how someone reacts to someone 20 years their junior telling them where to sit and how a program was to go… Let’s just say the majority of us weren’t greeted too fondly. I am pretty sure at least 10 people rolled their eyes at me when I asked them to fill up tables before sitting down where I had asked, people walked away from me and sat where they wanted and I know I heard several comments of “What is going on?” and “We’ve never done it like this before…psh.”

Once everyone was wrangled, seated, directed and served food, things started loosening up a bit.

nar rethink

Legitimate outside research on the future

The usual talks were given in the beginning and then an outside company from Canada was introduced. The term used to describe the role of the company that caused me to start paying attention was “Cultural Anthropologists.” Coolest. Job. Ever.

This company had actually researched data from consumer attitudes, REALTORS(R), and other national trends and had put together over the course of a year of research, an amazing well thought out, data driven prospective on the future of real estate. Not some general ‘what-if’ scenarios, but actual scenarios based on facts. With NAR (the strategic planning committee) bringing in an outside company, the level of credibility (in my mind) sky rocketed.

The overall idea of the conference was focused on this central idea:

“In an ever-changing world, what is the future of the real estate industry in 5 to 10 years?”

How will this impact:

  • Consumers, including buyers and sellers?
  • Agents, brokers and companies?
  • NAR, state and local associations?

The responses at first were slow. The idea that people don’t fear change but fear some sort of loss was very apparent. The blunt ideas presented made people squirm. I loved it. Once people got talking though and felt more comfortable things came to life for the next 4 hours.

Here were some basic scenarios presented:

  • There will be a large exodus of brokerages leaving NAR. REALTORS questioning their dues and opting out. Together another solution is found to allow agents access to lockboxes and MLS’s without being a “member” of a board.
  • More independent brokerages get together from around the country and put their heads together to form a “new” brokerage
  • Outside of the industry, companies start sharing their data with the real estate industry to predict home buying and selling signals and sell that back to brokerages as leads
  • People stop buying homes and want to be more transient and ideas of leasing homes gains popularity
  • Homesharing becomes the norm
  • Small communities of people get together to start sharing land, farming it and owning it
  • More immigrants coming to the country reinvigorate the idea of the “American Dream” of owning a home and long time residents opt for other investment options
  • Big data: how can it reduce expenses? How can competitors come together to combine new value and create new ideas? When will Zillow, Trulia and/or Realtor.com come together to create something so massive no one can compete?
  • Finding cooperation and competition amongst one another to balance and change the game.

The unavoidable future

Once the scenarios were rolled out, they used a technology called Sayzu. With this real time technology, the “tech scribe” of the group (aka, the one person per table that followed directions and actually brought a laptop or iPad) was able to collect actual comments and thoughts from each member of the table and stream directly to the cloud. Ok, and there were also low tech options of branded REThink plastic paddles for yes/no questions and good old fashioned text the answer to…

Hashtag for the event was #rethinkfuture and after looking back through Twitter, this was no real estate tech conference with my whole feed blowing up and everyone tweeting and retweeting the exact same thing to get in the “cool crowd.” There were a very small handful of tweets, hardly anything in Instagram, and then just some chatter on a closed Facebook page for the event through YPN.  

There was a pretty apparent lack of social media hype throughout the whole event. This to me ultimately highlights the difference in demographics between the industry of 2012 and the idea of how quickly an idea can spread like wild fire through a more social media savvy type of person/leader of the future. With current leaders already announcing their plans for running in years like 2019, they better keep up quickly with these trends and ideas which are spreading. I have a feeling some of these people have been planning a run for quite some time as a natural progression in leadership and salary based position. But based on what I saw, the times when working up that ladder through time served is coming a lot closer to an end as ideas and people are changing much quicker year after year.

A current NAR leader sitting at my table gathering ideas with us said  “Just seeing those two young women up on stage this year leading this discussion makes you realize things are changing… and they haven’t changed in over 30 years since I have been involved in this industry.”

Kudos to the NAR Strategic Planning committee. You have impressed a convention cynic. And yes, I have read your 2012-2014 Strategic Plan. Thank you for recognizing the new “younger, more racially diverse generation” of agent that demands more from their leaders and for adding the importance of the rapidly changing consumer voice to what we need to be addressing as an industry.

“The thing about tsunamis is that you can not see them from the shore.”

Images of REThink

I took the following photos while at REThink:

REThink the future of real estate

REThink the future of real estate

REThink the future of real estate

REThink the future of real estate

Amanda Lopez is a real estate broker and founder of Style House Realty in Baltimore, Md. She has worked in the real estate industry for over 6 years and prior to that studied advertising, branding and web design. Refusing to believe the real estate industry had to be bland and boring in design and appeal to everyone, she set out to bring some style and technology into the mix. Amanda can most likely be found with coffee that got cold, great shoes, her mind in the sky and her evernote app open.

Business Finance

How to survive a recession in the modern economy

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Advice about surviving a recession is common these days, but its intended audience can leave a large gap in application.

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There’s no question of whether or not we’re in a recession right now, and while some may debate the severity of this recession in comparison to the last major one, there are undoubtedly some parallels–something Next Avenue’s Elizabeth White highlights in her advice on planning for the next few months (or years).

Among White’s musings are actionable strategies that involve forecasting for future layoffs, anticipating age discrimination, and swallowing one’s ego in regards to labor worth and government benefits like unemployment.

White isn’t wrong. It’s exceptionally important to plan for the future as much as possible–even when that plan undergoes major paradigm shifts a few times a week, at best–and if you can reduce your spending at all, that’s a pretty major part of your planning that doesn’t necessarily have to be subjected to those weekly changes.

However, White also approaches the issue of a recession from an angle that assumes a few things about the audience–that they’re middle-aged, relatively established in their occupation, and about to be unemployed for years at a time. These are, of course, completely reasonable assumptions to make…but they don’t apply to a pretty large subset of the current workforce.

We’d like to look at a different angle, one from which everything is a gig, unemployment benefits aren’t guaranteed, and long-term savings are a laughable concept at best.

White’s advice vis-a-vis spending is spot-on–cancelling literally everything you can to avoid recurring charges, pausing all non-essential memberships (yes, that includes Netflix), and downgrading your phone plan–it’s something that transcends generational boundaries.

In fact, it’s even more important for this generation than White’s because of how frail our savings accounts really are. This means that some of White’s advice–i.e., plan for being unemployed for years–isn’t really feasible for a lot of us.

It means that taking literally any job, benefit, handout, or circumstantial support that we can find is mandatory, regardless of setbacks. It means that White’s point of “getting off the throne” isn’t extreme enough–the throne needs to be abolished entirely, and survival mode needs to be implemented immediately.

We’re not a generation that’s flying all over the place for work, investing in real estate because it’s there, and taking an appropriate amount of paid time off because we can; we’re a generation of scrappy, gig economy-based, paycheck-to-paycheck-living, student debt-encumbered individuals who were, are, and will continue to be woefully unprepared for the parameters of a post-COVID world.

If you’re preparing to be unemployed, you’re recently unemployed, or you even think you might undergo unemployment at some point in your life, start scrapping your expenses and adopt as many healthy habits as possible. Anything goes.

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Opinion Editorials

How strong leaders use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) We’re months into the COVID-19 crisis, and some leaders are still fumbling through it, while others are quietly safeguarding their company’s future.

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Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how a strong leader can see their teams, their companies, their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always, but is amplified when a crisis like COVID-19 occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve our teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms.

Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything is disrupted and people are now adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.

The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.

And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.

We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when we game plan, we strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.

That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.

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decluttering

It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob or an un-alphabetized bookshelf.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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