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Real estate associations, Realtor members and their unique challenges

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It’s no wonder that Realtor professionals are placing more and more pressure upon the associations tasked with connecting them to the latest and greatest technologies. The hysteria caused by the rapid growth of Zillow and Trulia along with the surge of mobile technologies, social media, and the idea of do-it-yourself real estate empowered by the likes of Google and popular television shows geared to this phenomenon are certainly tasking industry professionals in more ways than can be counted. Realtors seeking to maintain relevancy are demanding bleeding edge solutions and in most cases coming up empty handed.

Although the associations themselves do not design and develop their own systems, they have tasked themselves with the feat of connecting membership with the latest technology, never anticipating the wide birth of technological advances the real estate industry has sustained over the past 10 to 15 years. From the sharing of local MLS data with third parties, to a more personal shift in communications in relation to smartphone and mobile computing, it seems that the problem of buying an up to date PC only to be obsolete the next day is now compounded by a generation of consumer accepting and adopting the concept of online transactions coupled with the user experiences provided by consumer facing search products designed to capitalize on this digital evolution.

It’s becoming more and more apparent that there is a growing frustration among Realtors that search no longer begins locally, and when it does, local real estate search looks nothing like branded search competitors. Local Realtors can obviously overcome some of this by providing the best IDX products on the market but ultimately, they remain in competition with local search provided not only by associations, but also by branded search, and increasing numbers of SEO savvy Realtors. The first impression is either highly negative or positive, yet insanely competitive depending on who holds first position in search engines in that particular market. Realtor associations are walking a very tight rope in bolstering the local Realtor brand, not competing with Realtors or Brokers themselves, yet delivering the sharpest and most innovative first and last stop solution for consumers.

This crucial element is often overlooked by associations in the frustration of Realtor membership as it’s just one of many symptomatic issues that plague Realtors in terms of relevancy and associations in terms of living up to their mission statements. Why is this so critical? It’s not specifically search that is so critical, it’s the first point of contact for consumers that is the true issue in whatever first contact that comes to pass, whether it’s a client gateway, an IDX, a website itself, or even an MLS. Realtors we’ve studied see no difference in any of these products in terms of first and last impression and consumer experience believing that services they (the Realtor) do not control cannot and should not diminish their ultimate value in the eyes of consumers.

Many Realtors do not understand that the consumer facing real estate search that associations may provide is not the MLS itself, nor that the MLS itself is not a consumer facing product, nor the difference between an IDX data layer from an MLS, nor do they care. Education on these subjects is needed but often ignored by most associations as associations have relied on vendors to just magically produce acceptable products for associations to pass along to member consumers. But the expectations have drastically changed over time as the perception of many Realtors is that some vendors are in competition with them directly, or that their products are antiquated in comparison to most consumer facing products.

Advances once ignored by the industry are now in demand by Realtors but plagued (yet blessed) by membership-driven leadership with term limits, slow turn around time by vendors, and balancing the unique expectations of each and every member with their personal vision of what is bleeding edge yet not competitive with the membership itself, not to mention the political business interests inherently built into any Realtor association. The only thing that comes with many part-time cooks and supervisors in a kitchen is chaos and burnt food, all of which is being fueled by the latest 140 character sound bite on why Realtors are going to die like dinosaurs, or more realistically, like the legacy travel or stock trading industries.

Although Realtors and consumers are captivated by 140 character headlines, they’re less inclined to actually attempt to understand the complexities that make up the headlines they’re reading and repeating. When a Realtor flippantly spouts one of these sound bites that lend to the demise of the Realtor brand, they can seldom tell you where they heard it or argue to support it, thus lending to the ignorance shared among many real estate professionals who’ve fallen victim to the hysteria of change.

It’s true, in our opinion, that the real estate revolution was put down, but the evolution of the real estate industry has by no means ceased. The battle for relevancy has internalized and is spreading from within, and in some cases are placing the associations’ next move in the cross hairs of Realtor membership. The questions on the table for associations and Realtor membership are abundant and complicated, as is the relationship members have with brokers and branded search providers, but one thing is clear, it isn’t just Realtors themselves that are in question in terms of relevancy, but Realtor associations are as well in terms of what they are, who they serve, as is their ultimate purpose in the eyes of their membership.

Associations must redefine themselves today to get ahead of these systemic issues beginning with their CEOs. The root answer is leadership, and a clear and concise vision for the board and it’s membership with a hands on approach to solving these unique challenges. Visionary leadership from the top down is the only viable answer when it comes to uniting a membership behind a purpose and a mission. At the end of the day, the only thing that tames Hell’s Kitchen is a coherent strategy designed by a world class Chef.

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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44 Comments

44 Comments

  1. kevin troll tomlinson

    May 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    Good post. I wish I got points for commenting, like AR

  2. Teresa Boardman

    May 8, 2011 at 2:07 pm

    I am not sure I get your point on this one. I know the homes searches are important but buyers can search for homes pretty much anywhere and I don't care where they search. It is a shame we gave our data away but this is the information age and our roles have expanded beyond that of gate keeper.

  3. Matthew Rathbun

    May 8, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    I've had a large personal shift in ideology in the past 18 months or so… I've become indifferent about the Association. I get what support I can from them and don't expect them to get me on the bleeding edge.

    It's time for agents to take responsibility to learn what we need on our own and stop blaming our brokers and Associations for our own lack of knowledge.

    As far as data goes, it's out – now it's time to do what we should have been doing all along… concentrate on service and not being the keepers of the data.

  4. Missy Caulk

    May 9, 2011 at 6:53 am

    "What are you doing for me?" What is the value proposition?

    This is the question our Association is dealing with, as we just hired Kevin McQueen to come in and do an assessment. Well that was the 2nd most response. The first was, "we want data sharing to be easier."

    Of course never mind there are updates all the time from the staff and very few members click them open or read them.

    I agree with you Benn, in the fact that Associations are redefining themselves or are having too. Technology is above them most of the time.

    We currently use mlxchange and have been waiting for it to be Safari, FoxFire compliant for years. We finally were told they were beta testing in Austin with a product called Fusion.

    But, they are using flash to upgrade, now how is that gonna work out for you with Ipads and Iphones….NOT.

    Us, Mac users (which is becoming more and more in Ann Arbor) are frustrated beyond belief.

  5. Eric Holmes

    May 9, 2011 at 11:49 am

    I think if you look at the demographics of each association you'll get a better idea of why they're slow, cumbersome dinosaurs. For every forward thinking, go-getter Realtor that's in the business there are ten "old school" agents that wish we were using dot matrix printers, mls books and the only competition in town were FSBO's. If you think about it the Association is doing exactly what is expected of them by the majority of it's members. They don't want change and they don't want cutting edge. They want to hop in a DeLorean, kick that puppy up 88 mph and head back to 1985.

    The issue then becomes do you turn your back on the Association because you're not being represented or do you get involved and change the culture. Me, I'm getting involved. I don't know all the answers or for that matter half the questions, but I read AgentGenius and a few other blogs so I've got a head start on the "old school" agents that are out there. Most of them think that if they put their head in the sand then this will all go away. I'm going to go by and kick those agents in the rear and tell them to hop on board because this train is only going one direction.

  6. John Rowles

    May 9, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    >The battle for relevancy has internalized and is spreading from within..

    Sooner or later Brokers are going to realize that content=power.

    Today, the local MLS, IDX sites, Realtor.com, Trulia, Zillow and the rest use the *content that brokers give them* (GIVE them!!!) to beat the broker's own domain in Google. Now, we can add Realogy to the list of companies with brand-driven PageRank that will be competing with local brokers using content those local brokers originated.

    Maybe, just maybe, that will be a bridge too far and brokers will demand the separation of the "church" of the local board and all it does outside of organizing listings and the "state" of MLS+IDX, but I'm not holding my breath.

    Brokers who are ready to recognize the need to put the homebuyer's interest ahead of their own perceived self interest today are invited to MainRhode.com/contact.shtm where they can request our new whitepaper on "search reciprocity".

    In a search reciprocity network, brokers agree to trade traffic at the search result level for their own listings so that the homebuyer is put in touch with the only customer service rep the industry has to offer that actually knows anything about the property in question — the listing agent.

    The net result is that Google will be able to tell that the listing broker's domain is the most relevant domain for any particular listing, because every other broker domain on the network will point to it — end of story. Since the whole thing is open source and cloud hosted, it is affordable and scalable.

    To paraphrase Yakov Smirnoff, "What a concept".

  7. Jim Whatley

    May 9, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    We are lucky at the Emerald coast Association of Realtors. We Use Solid Earth. I have be able to talk to The CEO of our MLS provider. He gets it. He understand he will not be able to provide all of our request. What they do is provide the information so others can make apps, software and IDX to fill out tool box. I'm with John, I do not think Realogy, NAR and most information providers really care if I'm around next year. I better stay ahead of the the game. If I have to stand on my head and spit nickels for google I will. I'm in the real estate marketing business. The Most powerful tool out there is your local MLS. If don't have the IDX feed that stands out what's the point. Will google even now it's your listing.

  8. BawldGuy

    May 10, 2011 at 10:54 am

    I'm with Teresa. There is no problem, at least any new one. Realtor leadership is an oxymoronic phrase. Get over it. It's been that way since I learned what a real estate agent was back in the mid-60's.

    Zillow, Trulia, and the rest simply don't matter a hill of beans to agents. Sure, some have figured out how to game those systems, and more power to 'em, they're smart folk. But in the end? It's still about producing consistent results, and no, the associations, as dumb as they've been about the data, etc., aren't the reason an agent fails — or succeeds.

    Tech or no tech — produce results and move on.

    Oh, and for those who'll opt in knee jerk fashion to label me a dinosaur, I'm OldSchool, but no dinosaur. I don't complain about various association missteps, cuz frankly, they don't matter much. I use technology to the best of my limited understanding. It serves me well.

    There is no crisis. There is only lack of results. IMHO, most who are concerned as agents on this 'topic' should stop making excuses, and start making good. The public will always, as a rule, opt for results over TechGuy.

    There, I feel much better.

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Opinion Editorials

The secret to self improvement isn’t always about improvements

(EDITORIAL) Self improvement and happiness go hand in hand, but are you getting lost in the mechanics of self improvement?

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fitness happiness

Think back to your New Year’s resolutions. Now that it’s summer, how many of them are you still keeping? Think about which ones stuck and what went by the wayside.

If you’re like most of us, you had big plans to make yourself better but didn’t stay the course. I’ve only managed to keep one of my resolutions, but it isn’t always easy.

I want to take a look at why we can’t keep our goals. I think we’re always on a journey of self-improvement. It’s easy to get obsessed with reading self-help books or trying to learn new things. We want to be better. This spring, I went through a Lent study with a group of people. Lent is a time of growth and self-reflection, just six weeks. And yet many of us are struggling to keep up with the daily reading or maintaining a fast of something we willingly chose to give up.

Why do we fail?

I think we fail because of three things.

You might think I’m going to say something like we fail because we don’t have willpower, but I think that is the farthest thing from the truth. I’m no therapist, but I’ve read the literature on alcohol and drug rehab. It’s not willpower that keeps a person sober. It’s community. One reason I think we fail at our goals is that we don’t have a cheerleading team. I believe that we need people on our side when we’re trying to improve.

Secondly, I think we fail because we want immediate results. We have this mentality that things should happen quickly. I’ve written about this before. It’s like you workout once and want that swimsuit body. We get frustrated when we don’t see results right away. So, we move on to the next pursuit.

Do your goals lead to happiness?

Failure can also be because self-improvement goals don’t always lead to being better person. We do a lot of things because “we should.” Your doctor might think you need to lose weight. Maybe your boss wants you to be a better speaker. Meditation should make you a better person. Maybe you ran a marathon, and now you think you need to run an ultramarathon because that’s what your best friend did.

What makes you happy isn’t always what you should be doing.

Your doctor might be right, but if you’re choosing to lose weight because you want to make your doctor happy, you’re probably not going to stick with a program. If you’re trying to learn Spanish to make your boss happy, again, you’re probably not going to enjoy it enough to really learn. If you’re chasing after goals just to say you’ve done it, what value do your achievements bring to your life?

If you’re obsessed because you “should” do something, you’re going to get burned out and fail. Whether it’s New Year’s resolutions, a self-improvement project or giving up meat for Lent, you need solid reasons for change. And if you give something a try that isn’t for you, don’t soldier on. You don’t need to spend years taking yoga classes if you don’t enjoy it.

When something becomes a burden rather than bringing benefits, maybe it’s time to take a look at why you’re doing it.

When you don’t know why you’re knocking yourself out to be better, maybe you need to figure out a reason. And if you feel as if what you’re doing isn’t enough, stop and figure out what will satisfy you.

I’ve been doing a lot of meal prepping on the weekends. Sometimes, I want to quit. But it pays off because I have less to do throughout the week. It might seem like a burden, but the benefits outweigh the burdens. I’ve been able to eat much healthier and use more vegetables in my meals, which is the one goal I’ve been able to keep. I have some good friends that help me stay on track, too. I choose to eat more vegetables for my health. I think it’s a combination of all these things that is helping me meet my goal this year.

Don’t give up on making yourself a better person. Just don’t become obsessed over the program. Look at the outcome. Are you pursing happiness on a treadmill or are you really working to find happiness?

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Opinion Editorials

What I wish I knew about finances in my 20s

(EDITORIAL) They say money makes the world go round. So, let’s discuss how to be smart with finances before it’s too late.

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finances

Being in my early twenties, something I’m still getting used to is the fact that I’m making my own money. This is not to be confused with the babysitting money I was making 10 years ago.

Twice a month is the same routine: I get my paycheck and think, “Wooo! We goin’ out tonight!” but then I snap back to reality and think about what that money needs to be put towards. The smallest part of it going towards fun.

It’s been tricky to really start learning the ins and outs of finances. So, I do what I usually do in any type of learning process? I ask for advice.

I used to be fixated on asking those more advanced in age than I what they wish they knew when they were my age. Now that I’m determined to learn about finances, that question has been altered.

I reached out to a few professionals I know and trust and they gave me solid feedback to keep in mind about building my finances, about what they wish they had known in their 20s. However, I don’t think this only applies to those just starting out, and may be helpful for all of us.

“It’s important to simply know the value of money,” says human resource expert, Nicole Clark. “I think once you start earning your own money and are responsible for your housing, food, etc. you realize how valuable money is and how important it is to budget appropriately and make sure you’re watching your spending.”

Law firm executive director, Michael John, agrees with Clark’s sentiments. “I wish I had kept the value of saving in mind when I was younger,” explains John. “But, still remembering to balance savings while rewarding yourself and enjoying what your efforts produce.”

There are so many aspects of finance to keep in mind – saving, investing, budgeting, retirement plans, and so on and so forth.

In addition to suggesting to spend less than you make and to pay off your credit card in full each month, Kentucky-based attorney, Christopher Groeschen, explained the importance of a 401k.

“Every employee in America should be contributing everything they can into a 401k every year, up to the current $18,000 maximum per person,” suggests Groeschen.

“401ks present an opportunity for young investors to 1) learn about investing and 2) enter the market through a relatively low-risk vehicle (depending on your allocations),” he observes.

“An additional benefit is that 401ks also allow employees to earn FREE MONEY through employer matches,” he continues. “At the very least, every employee should contribute the amount necessary to earn the employer match (usually up to 4%) otherwise, you are giving up the opportunity to earn FREE MONEY. Earning FREE MONEY from your employer that is TAX FREE is much more important than having an extra Starbucks latte every day.”

Whether we like it or not, money is a core aspect of our daily lives. It should never be the most important thing, but we cannot deny that it is, in fact, an important thing. It’s tricky to learn, but investing in my future has become a priority.

This editorial was first published in May 2018.

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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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strong leaders

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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