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Op/Ed

How the three historic issues in the real estate industry are now converging

The real estate industry is currently experiencing a shift that can be felt by all boots on the ground, but what moving parts make up this shift and where are we headed?

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converging rivers

The city of Pittsburgh has three rivers (Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio) that converge in the middle of town. These rivers all have a glorious history and they are the true foundation of this great city. Steel mills may have come and gone, but the rivers have been and always will be part of Pittsburgh.

Like Pittsburgh, the real estate industry has three historic rivers of thought that are converging. The three rivers of thought in real estate are automated agent selection, agent demographics, and agent professionalism.

1. Automated Agent Selection

There is a renewed effort in the real estate space to find an electronic way to connect buyers and sellers with Realtors®. We’ve been talking about this for years and still there has been no successful/effective way to fully automate the find a Realtor® process. Many see this as the great battleground/goldmine in real estate today. If someone gains control of this process, they will have successfully inserted technology between Realtors® and their clients.

Frankly, this seems unlikely to happen, at least on a grand scale. According to a survey by the Illinois Association of Realtors®, less than 10% of homebuyers found their agent through technology while 50% relied on a recommendation from friends or family.

Someone may gain a small foothold with automated agent selections, but real estate is still a people business despite the massive influx of technology in the past 20 years. In addition, the other two rivers of thought are problematic to the automated agent selection process.

2. Realtor® Demographics

We have talked for years about the increasing average age of Realtors® and the lack of a diversity in the membership. The general worry is that buyers are getting younger and more diverse while Realtors® get older and remain predominantly white. Will Realtors® become “out of touch” as this trend continues, or is this irrelevant?

First, it should be noted that the average age of a Realtor® actually dropped to 56 years old this year (from 57). This is the first drop since 2007, according to NAR’s 2014 Member Profile. A decade ago, the report showed an average age of 52.

The increase in average age is easy to explain – Realtors® don’t retire. As the saying goes, “Realtors® don’t retire, they just become listless.” Forty percent of NAR’s members are 60+ years old. That mass of above average members pulls the overall age of members up naturally. The fact that the average age actually went down in 2014 indicates a strong surge of younger members.

The lack of diversity in the Realtor® world has always been surprising. The organization is dedicated to fair housing practices and has no underlying prejudice that I have detected in the past 20 years. Despite this, 85% of members qualify themselves as “white” on the NAR survey and that number goes to 91% for the over 60 crowd. The younger section of the membership (under 40) is a little better at 75%.

This lack of diversity makes automated agent selection more difficult. Realtors® demographics simply do not automatically match with typical buyers and sellers.

3. Agent Professionalism

And then there is agent professionalism… another topic we have discussed (complained about) for years. In 2009, NAR developed some strategies aimed at improving the professionalism of members. Required training, testing, and agent reviews were all part of a proposal that never saw the light of day.

NAR is taking on the topic again and we can expect some action this time. Only time will tell if the NAR Board has the boldness to approve major changes, but NAR leadership has shown a willingness to embrace change in the last two years (for example, Realtor.com and the new Core Standards).

Research, however, shows that the problem is more of a lack of self-confidence within the Realtor® ranks than it is in the public’s eye. A 2010 survey by the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® showed that 48% of homebuyers strongly agreed that Realtors® are professional, but only 33% of members thought the same. In addition, that same survey showed that the public strongly considers Realtors® more knowledgeable (58% to 43%) and more ethical (39% to 33%) than members.

Will NAR finally take action on defining professionalism and requiring members to live up to that standard? If they do, how will this help the process of automating agent selection?

What Will This Convergence Look Like?

What the Realtor® organization does in the coming months about professionalism will be interesting, but how this concept converges with demographics and automated agent selection will be compelling. If we actually define what is meant by “professional” and we can figure out a way around the lack of Realtor® diversity, someone may be able to move forward with automated agent selection. But, is that what we really want?

Realtors® certainly do not want a computer to decide which clients select them. You only have to look at the malaise over Realtor.com’s AgentMatch for proof… and that was a friendly attempt. Firms don’t want a computer to make such a decision, unless, of course, they own that computer. NAR might secretly want to own the automated agent selection process, but it is not the type of competitive issue they generally pursue.

So, that leaves third parties vendors like Zillow, Trulia, and Google as the most likely suspects. Good luck, because even with the convergence of these three issues, this is going to be a tough paradigm to shift. Realtors®, unlike books and hotel rooms, are not a commodity to catalog and index. Despite their lack of racial/ethnic diversity, NAR members are not generally similar. They come in all shapes and sizes, all types and categories, and from all parts of the country. In other words, they’re humans.

Designing a computer program to match clients and agents goes against the fundamentals of the real estate business. Can it be done? Sure. Will it be widely adopted? I doubt it, but matching humans seems to work in the dating business, so maybe I’m wrong. It will be interesting to see how this all works out.

Note from the Editor: The image above is not in Pittsburgh, rather a depiction of converging rivers.

Dave is a 20+ year veteran in Realtor® association management and leadership and is currently the CEO of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors®. He is a writer, speaker, strategic planner, and life-long learner with a passion for creative thinking. Dave has published his first novel For Reasons Unknown and will be publishing his second by the end of the year.

Op/Ed

5 Things your home office may not need

(EDITORIAL) Since many of us are working entirely from home now, we are probably getting annoyed at a messy desk, let’s take a crack at minimalism!

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desk minimalism

COVID-19 is changing our behaviors. As more people stay home, they’re seeing (and having to deal with) the clutter in their home. Many people are turning to minimalism to reduce clutter and find more joy. There are many ways to define minimalism. Some people define it as the number of items you own. Others think of it as only owning items that you actually need.

I prefer to think of minimalism as intentionality of possessions. I have a couple of dishes that are not practical, nor do I use them very often. But they belonged to my grandma, and out of sentimentality, I keep them. Most minimalists probably wouldn’t.

They say a messy desk is a sign of creativity. Unfortunately, that same messy desk limits productivity. Harvard Business Review reports that cluttered spaces have negative effects on us. Keep your messy desk, but get rid of the clutter. Take a minimalistic approach to your home office. Here are five things to clean up:

  1. Old technology – When was the last time you printed something for work? Most of us don’t print much anymore. Get rid of the old printers, computer parts, and other pieces of hardware that are collecting dust.
  2. Papers and documents – Go digital, or just save the documents that absolutely matter. Of course, this may vary by industry, but take a hard look at the paper you’ve saved over the past month or so. Then ask yourself whether you will really ever look at it again.
  3. Filing cabinets – If you’re not saving paper, you don’t need filing cabinets.
  4. Trade magazines and journals – Go digital, and keep your magazines on your Kindle, or pass down the print versions to colleagues who may be interested.
  5. Anything unrelated to work – Ok, save the picture of your family and coffee mug, but clean off your desk of things that aren’t required for work. It’s easy for home and work to get mixed up when you’re working and living in one place. Keep it separate for your own peace of mind and better workflow. If space is tight and you’re sharing a dining room table with work, get a laundry basket or box. At the start of the workday, remove home items and put them in the box. Transfer work items to another box at the end of the day. It might seem like a little more work, but it will give you some boundaries.

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Op/Ed

5 Consumer behavior shifts caused by the pandemic

(EDITORIAL) COVID-19 has changed the way a lot of people look at and act in the new world. These are the biggest 5 changes you should be aware of consumers.

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consumers priorities

COVID-19 is affecting businesses in multiple ways, depending on the industry. One thing that affects every business, regardless of industry is customer behavior. It’s no surprise that customers are changing behavior to meet the challenges of the pandemic. Google just released information that should help your business. It’s estimated that over 4 million people are staying home around the world to slow the spread of coronavirus. Use this information to help you shift your marketing efforts.

  1. Consumers are using multiple devices more than ever before.
    With kids home trying to do school, parents who are working, and people who are furloughed, content is being consumed at record rates. According to Google, Americans are watching 12 hours of media content each day.
  2. Increases in search for critical information.
    Online grocery shopping and cooking videos are top searches these days while Americans are staying home. Telemedicine is another hot search topic. People are looking for ways to stay home and protected.
  3. Consumers want to stay connected online.
    Google announced that in April, Google Meet hosted over 3 billion minutes of video meetings. YouTube has seen an increase in “with me” videos. People are filming themselves going about their day to connect with their friends and family. Virtual events have changed how people meet up.
  4. Routines are changing to be “internet-first.”
    Telecommuting is a top search these days as consumers try to find ways to work from home. People are looking for exercise options that can be managed at home. Consumers are using the internet to find options that keep them socially-distanced but connected to their routine.
  5. Self-care is taking a higher priority.
    Meditation videos are being consumed at a higher percentage than before. People are looking for books, games and puzzles to stay occupied at home.

Consider Your Business Against Consumer Behavior

COVID-19 restrictions may be easing, but consumer behavior may not change much until there is a vaccine. Your business can use this information to change your marketing to meet consumers at their point of need.

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Op/Ed

5 Secrets to a more productive morning in the office

(EDITORIAL) Productivity is king in the office, but sometimes distractions and other issues slow you down. So what can you do to limit these factors?

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distractions stop productivity

Regardless of whether you’re a self-proclaimed morning person or not, more efficient mornings can be catalytic in your daily productivity and output. The only question is, do you know how to make the most of your mornings in the office?

5 Tips for Greater Morning Productivity

In economic terms, productivity is a measure of output as it relates to input. Academics often discuss productivity in terms of a one-acre farm’s ability to produce a specific crop yield, or an auto manufacturing plant’s ability to produce a certain number of vehicles over a period of time. But then there’s productivity in our personal lives.

Your own daily productivity can be defined in a variety of ways. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting the desired results with less time and effort on the input side. And as a business professional, one of the best ways to do this is by optimizing your morning in the office.

Here are a few timely suggestions:

  1. Eliminate All Non-Essential Actions


    Spend the next week keeping a log of every single action you take from the moment your eyes open in the morning until you sit down at your desk. It might look something like this:

    • Turn off alarm
    • Scroll through social media on phone
    • Get out of bed
    • Eat breakfast
    • Take shower
    • Brush teeth
    • Walk dog
    • Watch news
    • Browse favorite websites
    • Get in car
    • Starbucks drive-thru
    • Arrive at office
    • Small talk with coworkers
    • Sit down at desk

    If you do this over the course of a week, you’ll notice that your behaviors don’t change all that much. There might be some slight deviations, but it’s basically the same pattern.

    Now consider how you can eliminate as many points of friction as possible from your routine. [Note from the Editor: This may be an unpopular opinion, but] For example, can you skip social media time? Can you make coffee at home, rather than drive five minutes out of your way to wait in the Starbucks drive-thru line? Just doing these two things alone could result in an additional 30 minutes of productive time in the office.

  2. Reduce Distractions


    Distractions kill productivity. They’re like rooftop snipers. As soon as they see any sign of productivity, they put it in their crosshairs and pull the trigger.

    Ask yourself this: What are my biggest distractions and how can I eliminate them?

    Popular distractions include social media, SMS, video games, news websites, and email. And while none of these are evil, they zap focus. At the very least, you should shift them to later in the day.

  3. Set Measurable Goals and Action items


    It’s hard to have a productive morning if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it means to be productive. Make sure you set measurable goals, create actionable to-do lists, and establish definitive measurements of what it looks like to be efficient. However, don’t get so caught up in the end result that you miss out on true productivity.

    “There’s a big difference between movement and achievement; while to-do lists guarantee that you feel accomplished in completing tasks, they don’t ensure that you move closer to your ultimate goals,” TonyRobbins.com mentions. “There are many ways to increase your productivity; the key is choosing the ones that are right for you and your ultimate goals.”

    In other words, set goals that are actually reflective of productivity. In doing so, you’ll adjust your behavior to come in proper alignment with the results you’re seeking.

  4. Try Vagus Nerve Stimulation


    Sometimes you just need to block out distractions and focus on the ask at hand. There are plenty of ways to shut out interruptions, but makes sure you’re also simultaneously cuing your mind to be productive. Vagus nerve stimulation is one option for doing both.

    Vagus nerve stimulation, which gently targets the body’s vagus nerve to promote balance and relaxation, while simultaneously enhancing focus and output.

  5. Optimize Your Workspace


    Makes sure your office workspace is conducive to productivity. This means eliminating clutter, optimizing the ergonomics of your desk, reducing distractions, and using “away” settings on apps and devices to suppress notifications during work time.

Make Productivity a Priority

Never take productivity for granted. The world is full of distractions and your willpower is finite. If you “wing it,” you’ll end up spending more time, energy, and effort, all while getting fewer positive results.

Make productivity a priority – especially during the mornings when your mind is fresh and the troubles of the day have yet to be released in full force. Doing so will change the way you operate, function, and feel. It’ll also enhance tangible results, like income, job status, and the accolades that come along with moving up in your career.

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