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Op/Ed

What will disrupt real estate next? The answers will likely surprise you.

Watching for what will disrupt your industry is key to survival, and there are many shifts on the horizon that most aren’t even considering yet.

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disrupt real estate

The real estate industry has always been a conundrum. On the one hand, we are still doing business the same way we always have. In a simplistic view, Realtors market properties and put deals together. On the other hand, the industry operates on an amazing concept of “coopetition” that is not found in such a large scale in any other industry.

Recently, I was asked how the real estate industry worked… a loaded question if I ever heard one. To explain, I used buying a car as an example. Imagine if every car dealer in your local area put all the cars they had for sale on one website and allowed salesman from other dealerships to sell their cars. Someone from the Ford dealer could walk onto a CarMax lot with a buyer and “sell” them a car.

Actually, that sounded like a good idea to me the consumer, but auto dealers would never go for it. But in real estate, that’s what we’ve been doing for decades. I cannot think of another industry that cooperates and competes on the same playing field, at least on the same scale as real estate.

The real estate industry also adapts quite well to tectonic shifts caused by changing consumer expectations. When buyer agency came to be a consumer expectation, the industry shifted. When the Internet achieved mass appeal, the industry adapted. When the public shifted attention to large aggregators, Realtors® were right there… still marketing properties and closing deals.

Where We Are Now

Currently, we are in the final stages of the Internet Infiltration and in the 4th quarter of the Portal Party. These are simply business cycles that will cease to be big deals once they have reached maturity.

The Internet has matured from a disruptive technology to a basic utility. Portals or aggregators have made it through puberty and are now in those difficult teenage years. Soon they will be leaving the house as mature adults and we won’t see them as much. Frankly, I can’t wait.

While there are lots of technology changes on the way that could disrupt the industry as much as the Internet did, to see the next change, you need to look to consumers. Consumers wanted to be represented in the transaction, so we gave them buyer agents. They wanted on-line access to property listing, so we gave it to them and instead of being satisfied, they asked for a better experience… enter the large aggregators.

No one knows what’s next, but looking at changing consumer expectations will give us a glimpse at the possibilities.

So what’s the next big shift in the industry that will cause industry watchers and doomsayers to predict the end of real estate as we know it?

Here are a few possible consumer frustrations that might foster the next disruptive expectation:

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

While AI has been around a while, it is just now starting to reach the mainstream. This matches perfectly with consumer expectations of quick responses from Realtors®. Unfortunately, these consumer expectations are NOT being met today.

Some will predict that AI will replace the need for Realtors®, but we’ve heard that song before. Instead, I look for the industry to embrace AI as a way to solve the speedy response expectation gap. When a consumer sends an email or text asking for more information, instantly a computer using AI will respond. And when I say respond, I mean better than any agent ever could. AI will know more about the property than the MLS or agent and will use big data to know more about the inquiring consumer than a human ever could.

Like any new game-changing technology, this one will scare most folks at first and there will be resistance. Consumers are already starting to move past the “creeped-out” phase of this technology and soon advantages of AI will out-weigh the fears. As we have with other new technologies, the real estate industry will embrace this as soon as it becomes a consumer expectation.

Mortgage Malaise

To find future consumer expectations, you only need to look at current consumer frustrations. AI will help with the consumer’s expectation for instant responses from Realtors®, but the frustrations over mortgages are more complicated. While AI may help solve the problem, the real problem is human’s displaying artificial (as in fake) intelligence. To keep this editorial from turning into a novel, can we all just agree that Congress and regulators have completely screwed up the mortgage industry, making it painful for consumers to get loans?

Since you probably have your own horror story about the mortgage process, I’ll spare you by not sharing mine. Instead, let’s focus on the seemingly remote chance we find a solution to this consumer frustration. The beauty of capitalism (including the real estate industry) is that entrepreneurs generally find solutions that fill the gap between consumer expectations and reality. Eventually this will happen with mortgages.

Currently, consumer expectations are low with obtaining mortgages. Having been beaten down by the financial crisis, over-correcting government regulations, and sluggish home prices, consumers expect a difficult experience when applying for a mortgage. When the overall housing market heats up next decade thanks to favorable demographics, we can expect consumer expectations to change.

Hopefully we will never return to the days of 125% LTV’s, and No Doc Loans, but consumers will expect an easier, faster experience. It is hard to imagine a mortgage process that can be completed in a week or less, but why shouldn’t consumers expect that? If you have good credit and income, why do you have to wait in the same line with those who don’t? The current process penalizes everyone and rewards no one. Capitalism does not support such a business model for long and will figure out a way to fix this silliness.

Here are a few thoughts to consider that don’t require the regulators and politicians to fix things: Why do we have to wait until a contract is accepted to do appraisals, surveys, title searches, and even home inspections? Also, why does the buyer have to wait to apply for the loan until they find a property? Finally, why don’t we give buyers with good credit an express lane that rewards them?

Changing Demographics

The other significant emerging consumer expectation is more related to demographics than current frustrations. Currently, cities are seeing an influx of young homebuyers and renters. Next decade, that group will shift to the suburbs in search of better schools and lower taxes. Baby boomers followed a similar migration pattern decades ago.

The difference between the Millennial generation and the Boomers is their expectations, especially related to technology. AI will not creep them out and smart homes will attract them. They will also expect better pictures and videos of properties that put them in control of deciding which properties are worth the time to actually go see.

Drones and smartphones have created better opportunities for Realtors® to improve video images for homes they are marketing, but unless the industry takes a major step forward in this area, the expectations of the Millennials will not be met.

While Realtors® have been impressive in embracing technology in the past, the bar will be raised again by the emergence of the Millennials as the primary force in the real estate marketplace. Realtors® will need to raise their use of technology in communications, service, and marketing to stay relevant with the next dominate generation in the marketplace.

The wrap up

While only time will tell which of these three (if any) will cause a tectonic shift in the real estate industry, we can be certain that there will be a shift. It could be caused by something that we can’t see coming, or by something that has yet to be invented.

Based on history, we will embrace the shift and remain relevant. We’ll figure out how to use the shift to create a better way to market properties and make deals happen. In real estate, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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

To-do list tips & tricks to maximize productivity and lower stress levels

(EDITORIAL) Even if you have a to-do list, the weight of your tasks might be overwhelming. Here’s advice on how to fix the overwhelm.

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To-do list in a journal with gold rings.

If you ask me, there’s no better way to unwind and ease everyday stress by making a to-do list. Like they said in the movie, Clueless, “It gives [you] a sense of control in a world full of chaos.”

While that quote was specific to a makeover, it certainly applies here. When you have too many things on your plate, making a to-do list is a quick way to get yourself in order. Typically, this does the trick for organizing your upcoming tasks.

It’s important to determine what method of listmaking works for you. I personally like to use sticky notes around my computer monitor to keep me in check for what’s needed to be done work-wise or by use of my computer. Other personal task items will either be kept in a list on my phone, or in my paper planner.

For work, I have a roster of clients I work with everyday. They each have their own list containing tasks I have to complete for them. I also use Google Calendar to keep these tasks in order if they have a specific deadline.

For personal use, I create a to-do list at the start of each week to determine what needs to be accomplished over the next seven days. I also have a monthly overview for big-picture items that need to be tackled (like an oil change).

This form of organization can be a lot and it can still be overwhelming, even if I have my ducks in a row. And, every once in a while, those tasks can really pile up on those lists and a whole new kind of overwhelm develops.

Fear not, as there are still ways to break it down from here. Let me explain.

First, what I’d recommend is going through all of your tasks and categorizing them (i.e. a work list, a personal list, a family list, etc.) From there, go through each subsequent list and determine priority.

You can do this by setting a deadline for each task, and then put every task in order based on what deadline is coming up first. From there, pieces start to fall into place and tasks begin to be eliminated. I do recognize that this is what works for my brain, and may not be what works for yours.

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has some interesting insight on the topic and examines the importance of how you relate to your tasks. The concept is, instead of letting the tasks be some sort of scary stress, find ways to make them more relatable. Here are some examples that Babauta shares:

  • I’m fully committed to this task because it’s incredibly important to me, so I’m going to create a sacred space of 30 minutes today to be fully present with it.
  • This task is an opportunity for me to serve someone I care deeply about, with love.
  • These tasks are training ground for me to practice presence, devotion, getting comfortable with uncertainty.
  • These tasks are an adventure! An exploration of new ground, a learning space, a way to grow and discover and create and be curious.
  • This task list is a huge playground, full of ways for me to play today!

Finding the best method of creating your to-do list or your task list and the best method for accomplishing those tasks is all about how you relate and work best. It can be trial and error, but there is certainly a method for everyone. What are your methods?

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Op/Ed

How minimizing your clutter will help you with time management

(EDITORIAL) If you’re a clutter queen that tends to wait until your inbox has more than 500 emails in it or your closet can’t shut, read this…please.

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Woman carrying boxes representing minimizing clutter.

Rethinking your clutter habits

Are you one of those people who has an endless to-do list of mindless tasks like emptying your inbox, decluttering your entryway, or balancing your checkbook? Think about these tasks for just a minute.


In each case, the longer you put it off, the more time it takes to get it back to a manageable amount. If you’re a procrastinator that tends to wait until your inbox has more than 500 emails in it or your closet can’t shut, maybe it’s time to look at this clutter through a different lens.

Busyness is like a debt

When you have a credit card, it’s recommended to pay off the balance each month to get to zero. You would never let your bill go unpaid month after month. Once you get your credit card balance paid off, you’re probably more cautious about taking on more debt.

Consider your inbox a debt you have to take care of each week. The idea is to get it down to zero.

Delete it or file it, just get it out of your inbox so that it doesn’t get back up to 25, 100, or 500 to reduce the clutter in your life. Same thing with your entryway. The idea is to minimize the clutter. Once you keep this clutter at zero, it’s much less work to manage it.

Minimalism as a lifestyle

You may have to spend some time cleaning up your inbox or tidying up the kitchen to find your zero, but it’s time well spent. Don’t try to tackle every job in one week, but think about some of the things that have gotten out of hand in your life.

Routine work is manageable, but you have to make a commitment to it. If you need more inspiration, check out Zeromalist, a manifesto of living simply and embracing minimalism.

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Op/Ed

How to go about delegation to *actually* bring about peak productivity

(OPINION) Delegation is well, a delicate subject, and can end up creating more work for yourself if it isn’t done well. Here’s how to fix that.

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Man talking on virtual meeting, using delegation to get more work done.

Delegating work is a logical step in the process of attaining peak efficiency. It’s also a step that, when executed incorrectly, leads to a huge headache and a lot of extra work for whomever is delegating tasks—not to mention frustration on the part of those asked to complete said tasks. Here is how you can assign work with the confidence that it will be done quickly and effectively.

Firstly, realizing that a “one size fits all” approach doesn’t work can be a bit of a blow. It’s certainly easier to assign tasks across the board and wait for them to be completed; however, when you consider how much clean-up work you have to do when those tasks don’t end the way you expect them to, it’s actually simpler to assign tasks according to employees’ strengths and weaknesses, providing appropriate supports along the way.

In education, this process is called “differentiation”, and it’s the same idea: If you assign 30 students the exact same work, you’ll see pretty close to 30 different answers. Assigning that same piece with the accommodations each student needs to succeed—or giving them different parameters according to their strengths—means more consistency overall. You can apply that same concept to your delegation.

Another weak point in many people’s management models revolves around how employees see their superiors. In part, this isn’t your fault; American authority paradigms mandate that employees fear their bosses, bend over backward to impress them, and refrain from communicating concerns. However, it is ultimately your job to make sure that your employees feel both supported and capable.

To wit, assign your employees open-ended questions and thought-provoking problems early on to allow them to foster critical thinking skills. The more you solve their problems for them, the more they will begin to rely on you in a crisis—and the more work you’ll take home despite all of your delegation efforts. Molding employees into problem-solvers can certainly take time, but it’s worth the wait.

Finally, your employees may lack strength in the areas of quality and initiative. That sounds a lot worse than it actually is—basically, employees may not know what you expect, and in the absence of certainty, they will flounder. You can solve this by providing employees with the aforementioned supports; in this case, those look like a list of things to avoid, a bulleted list of priorities for a given project, or even a demo of how to complete their work.

Again, this sounds like a lot of effort upfront for your delegation, but you’ll find your patience rewarded come deadline time.

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