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Who is the Center of Your Real Estate Business?

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Target by Jasper JohnsIn a recent conversation during the Virtual ReBarCamp, Joe Ferraro was talking about the future of real estate brokerages, which he thought would be an Agent Centric Model. Rob Hahn of 7DS Consulting immediately chimed in that if the real estate industry became any more agent centric, it would put brokerages out of business because of their low profit margins.  I saw the conversation and threw in my two cents – that a successful business should be consumer-centric.

All of the phrases seem to be buzz-words, but in order to have a discussion, we first have to have a common (or agreed upon)  understanding of what we mean when we use the phrases – and since this is my post, I get to create those definitions.

So let’s define our terms for the purpose of this discussion;

Agent-Centric – where the operation of the business is centered around the real estate agent and the operation of the business is focused on the benefits to the agent first

Broker-Centric – where the operation of the business is centered around the real estate brokerage/firm and the operation of the business is focused on the benefits to the company first

Consumer- Centric – where the operation of the business is centered around the consumer’s needs and the operation of the business is focused on the benefits to the consumer first

I was going to try to make the other two cases , but I’ll just hope that Rob & Joe stop by to make their case in the comments. I’m just going to make the case for the consumer centric model. In that model, though the business needs to be operated in a profitable manner, and the real estate agent needs to make a living, it is the consumer’s need that has to be addressed first. In the words of Field of Dreams,”if you build it they will come”.

I don’t believe that the consumer-centric model is built around fee structures, or some obscure business model, but around quality service and attention to their needs and desires. The best agents I know, with the longest careers build those careers on their referral business, and that is a function of their satisfied consumers.  And I don’t believe that consumers are driven solely by price anymore than I believe that agents change brokerage firms because of percentage splits. That being said, this model would put the interests of the consumer at the forefront of their search for a home. Business decisions would be made to facilitate whatever is needed to provide the consumer the best experience possible.

Jim Duncan (on the agent-centric side) chimed in with the question “How is having profit centers- in-house loans/closers beneficial to clients?”.  In my mind its beneficial to clients because they indicate that they prefer a one stop shopping experience. However that doesn’t mean that those companies don’t need to be competitive and service oriented. The ownership of the company is less important then the service or product offered in my opinion. If the company (in a Broker-Centric model) is big enough to do the business and be profitable, then more power to them.

Jim also expanded on a statement by Joe ” agent centric IS consumer centric”  saying “&  Broker Centric is not“.  I need you to know that I really respect both of these guys and think they are very smart. But in my opinion, in this case, even these really smart guys are just wrong. By definition, neither Agent nor Broker Centric models can be Consumer-Centric  because they don’t start by having the consumer’s interest first – they place either the broker or agent first.  It doesn’t mean that the people in either models are stupid or too self-serving to remember that the customer is central to our business, it just means that their strategies don’t start there. Take Nordstrom’s as an example. They are a retailer that built a business on serving the needs of the customer before the needs of the company, and became a model for customer service in the retail industry.

Perhaps the best example of my thught process is from the movie “Miracle on 34th Street”. In that movie a child comes to Macy’s (where the “real” Kris Kringle is working as a seasonal Santa) and asks for a toy that Macy’s does not carry. Kris tells him that Gimbels (Macy’s arch rival) does carry the toy, making the customer really happy. The manager is prepared to fire Kris, until they realize that people are flooding the store, because they want that consumer-centric service model (of course they weren’t using those terms – its a holiday picture for goodness sake!).

Without a Kris Kringle working in our office, I do believe that the most successful real estate companies have awesome consumer centered cultures, and those cultures provide both the agent and the company with a lot of consumer contact (generated at a low cost through word of mouth and referrals) and therefore the opportunity for lots of transactions. From those points on, its about the competence of the agent and the business models of the agent and company, both of which can be choke points for any person or operation.  In other words, even if you have the opportunity, you won’t be able to execute against it if you are not good at your job. And of you have lots of transactions, and you run your company poorly, you may still manage to run your company into the ground.

No one is foolish enough to think that a business that doesn’t make money is sustainable. I don’t think any of us believe that a company that doesn’t treat its agents well can long retain a quality sales staff, and attending to the consumer’s needs is not only required by the Code of Ethics, but is just plain good business, for without clients and customers, we’re out of business.  And for those reasons, it has always seemed to me that putting the consumer at the center of your business is the surest way to succeed. What do you think?

Bill is an unusual blend of Old & New - The CEO Century 21 Advantage Gold (Philadelphia's Largest Century 21 company and BuzzBuilderz (a Social Media Marketing Company), He is a Ninja CEO, blending the Web 1 and 2.0 world together in a fashion that stretches the fabric of the universe. You can follow him on twitter @Billlublin or Facebook or LinkedIn.

Austin

Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?

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Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.

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aging housing inventory

The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.

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zillow move

zillow move

Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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