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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.



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 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.

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  1. kenbrand

    August 27, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Nice report Amanda, thanks.  Nice to hear there are some sharp tools in the shed.  Cheers.

    • AmandaLopez

      August 27, 2012 at 10:07 pm

       @kenbrand Thanks Ken!

  2. VianeyOjeda

    August 27, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    I was there as a YPN Chair and I concur Amanda. Thanks for writing about it. Vianey

  3. QuincyClayton

    September 16, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Wow! Well captured!

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Opinion Editorials

Your business model doesn’t have to be a unicorn or a camel to succeed

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s not unusual for people to suggest a new business model analogy, but this latest “camel” suggestion isn’t new or helpful.



Camels walking in desert, not the best business model.

This year in 2020 I’ve seen a great deal of unique takes on how our system works. From 45 all the way down to children instructing adults on how to wear masks properly. However, after reading this new article published by the Harvard Business Review, I don’t think I’ve ever seen something so out of touch with the rest of the business world. Here’s a brief synopsis on this article on business model.

The author has decided that now of all times it’s drastically important for startups and entrepreneurs to switch their business tactics. Changing from a heavy front-end investment or “startups worth over a billion dollars” colloquially called “Unicorns” to a more financially reserved business model. One he has tried to coin as the “Camel”, using references to the animal’s ability to survive “long periods of time without sustenance, withstand the scorching desert heat, and adapt to extreme variations in climate.”

The author then goes on to outline best practices for this new business plan: “Balance instead of burn”, “Camels are built for the long haul”, “Breadth and depth for resilience”.

Now I will admit that he’s not wrong on his take. It’s a well thought-out adjustment to a very short-term solution. You want to know why I’m sure of that? Because people figured this out decades ago.

The only place that a “Unicorn” system worked was in something like the Silicon Valley software companies. Where people can start with their billions of dollars and expect “blitzscaling” (a rapid building-up tactic) to actually succeed. The rest of the world knows that a slow and resilient pace is better suited for long term investments and growth. This ‘new’ business realization is almost as outdated as the 2000 Olympics.

The other reason I’m not thrilled with this analogy is that they’ve chosen an animal that doesn’t really work well. Camels are temperamental creatures that actually need a great deal of sustenance to survive those conditions they’ve mentioned. It’s water that they don’t need for long periods, once they stock up. They have to have many other resources up front to survive those harsh conditions the article writer mentioned. So by this analogy, it’s not that different than Silicon Valley’s strongly backed “startups.”

If he wanted to actually use the correct animal for this analogy, then he should call it a tortoise business plan. Actually, any type of reptile or shark would work. It would probably be a better comparison in temperament as well, if we’re talking ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ Whatever you do, consider your angle, and settle in for the long haul.

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10 tips for anyone looking to up their professional game

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It’s easy to get bogged down by the details, procrastinate, and feel unproductive. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track and crush your professional goals.



work productivity

Self-reflection is critical to a growth mindset, which you must have if you want to grow and improve. If you are ready to take your professional game to the next level, here are some stories and tips to help you remain focused on killing your goals.

1. Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison is the thief of joy, as the quote goes. And, in the workplace it’s bound to make you second guess yourself and your abilities. This story explains when comparison can be useful, when to avoid it, and how to change your focus if it’s sucking the life out of you.

2. Burnout is real and the harder you work, the less productive you are. It’s an inverse relationship. But, there are ways to work smarter and have better life balance. Here are some tips to prioritize your workload and find more ease.

3. Stop procrastinating and start getting sh@t done. The reason we procrastinate may be less about not wanting to do something and more about the emotions underlying the task. Ready to get going and stop hemming and hawing, you got this and here’s the way to push through.

4. Perfection is impossible and if you seek this in your work and life, it’s likely you are very frustrated. Let that desire go and learn to be happy with excellence over perfection.

5. If you think you’re really awesome and seriously deserve more money, more responsibility, more of anything and are ready to drop the knowledge on your supervisor or boss, you may want to check this story out to see if your spinning in the right direction.

6. Technology makes it so easy to get answers so quickly, it’s hard to wait around for things to happen. We like instant gratification. Yet, that is another reason procrastination is a problem for some of us, but every person has a different way/reason for procrastinating. Learn what’s up with that.

7. Making choices can be a challenge for some of us (me included) who worry we are making the wrong choice. If you’ve ever struggled with decision making, you know it can be paralyzing and then you either make no decision or choose the safest option. What we have here is the Ambiguity Effect and it can be a real time suck. Kick ambiguity to the curb.

8. If you are having trouble interacting with colleagues or wondering why you don’t hear back from contacts it could be you are creeping folks out unintentionally (we hope). Here’s how to #belesscreepy.

9. In the social media era building your brand and marketing are critical, yet, if you’re posting to the usual suspects and seeing very little engagement, you’ve got a problem. Wharton Business School even did a study on how to fix the situation and be more shareable.

10. Every time you do a presentation that one co-worker butts in and calls you out. Dang. If you aren’t earning respect on the job, you will be limited in your ability to get to the next level. Respect is critical to any leadership position, as well as to making a difference in any role you may have within an organization, but actions can be misconstrued. There are ways to take what may be negative situations and use them to your advantage, building mutual respect.

You have the tools you need, now get out there, work hard, play hard and make sh*t happen. Oh, and remember, growth requires continual reflection and action, but you got this.

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Opinion Editorials

Why soft skills are even more essential in online era

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Since many of us aren’t seeing our co-workers in person these days, our soft skills are even more important in the online working space.



Skype video chat with person writing in notebook. Soft skills are critical online.

When did we start thinking of “soft” as bad? I mean, we’ve got soft serve (excellent), softball (good exercise), fabric soft-ener (another industry I’m enjoying killing as a millennial). And we’ve got soft skills.

Or at least… I hope we do.

The shift to non-optional remote working has been difficult for a lot of us, especially for everyone who forgets to press mute before making sure the kids behave. But it’ll take more than being hot-mic savvy to make it through the foreseeable future. Brush up on these soft skills while we’re waiting on a vaccine, and it’ll make the coming months (years?) much easier.

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Do you know the difference between “Hey, Brenda, can we have a 1:1 at 12:30pm to go over the laser-equipped yoga pants presentation details?” and “Brenda, we need to talk…”?

If not, you might not have a great grasp on how to say with your typey-words what you can no longer say with your facial expressions. You don’t need to throw an emoji or exclamation point into every sentence to get your points across, but you do have the power to keep your coworkers’ heart rates in a safe range by explaining what exactly you need from them in your initial messages.

Use that power wisely.

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There’s no water cooler talk if there’s no water cooler, right?

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Even if you’re not a small-talk kind of person, just a drop in for updates, meeting minutes, or sharing a relevant article via appropriate chatrooms and DMs can help hone your soft skills.

“Karen, this MLM article reminded me of your anti-Scentsy tangent you forgot we could all hear, maybe send this to your pushy ex-friend.”

“Hey, Ravindra, how’s the new laptop working out? All good? No ‘Kill all Humans’ protocols like the last one?”

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This was important before the pandemic, honestly, but it bears repeating now, especially for everyone in a leadership position. If you’re not making time for check-ins, constantly cancelling meetings, or just generally enjoying being gone when people need you…figure out a way to not. Delegate what you can, bring on a VA, shorten that vacation, whatever you have to do. Everyone’s struggling, and being captain means your crew is looking to you. Don’t let the general air of desperation lull you into thinking a metaphorical keelhauling is out of the question—that extra power still comes with extra responsibility.

Keep yourself from double-bookings, cancellations, and absences as much as possible, and things will continue to improve internally… Even if they don’t in the outside world.

Aesop had a fable about an oak tree and a little river reed. When a storm came, the hardened oak tree fell and died, while the flexible reed bent with the wind and lived. We’re in the storm now, and everyone’s doing their best not to break. Keep yourself rooted friends, but the moral here is to soften up.

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