“Meet the Changemakers” at RISMedia’s 2018 Real Estate CEO Exchange (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)
The real estate industry has undergone a significant shift in just the past five years—not only in brokerage models, but in consumer and agent behavior being influenced by market shifts and technological innovations. There’s a heavier focus and reliance on the internet, as well as on modern resources and sophisticated tools, such as artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, which is driving higher consumer expectations.
The future of real estate is constantly transforming. With more changes ahead, who will not only survive, but thrive, in this rapidly shifting environment?
The changemakers of the industry, discussed at RISMedia’s 2018 Real Estate CEO Exchange in New York City on September 5 and 6. In “Meet the ‘Changemakers,” moderated by Joe Rand, chief creative officer of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Rand Reality, JP Piccinini, founder and CEO of JP & Associates REALTORS®; Greg McClure, CEO and broker at Realty ONE Group Complete; Kevin Simrin, broker/owner at RE/MAX Integrity; Bill Flemming, principal owner/managing broker of HomeSmart Connect Real Estate; and Randolph Saa, broker/owner of CENTURY 21 American Homes, shared how they’re adapting and evolving to keep up with swiftly changing market trends, and how they’re staying relevant with today’s consumers.
An element critical to survival? Elasticity. Brokerages today must be able to adapt and transform, and should have the flexibility for continuous innovation through trial and error.
“We didn’t have Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or any social media before, and look how far we’ve evolved as an industry in the last 10 years,” said Piccinini. “What I love about tech is it does push change—and push you to implement and adapt quickly. But as much as tech is available to us now, you just have to be nimble. I challenge everyone to think like a Lego box. Try something, and, if it doesn’t work, be nimble enough to take that piece out and put another one in.”
For some of the changemakers, malleability as a goal has shaped their brokerage’s commission model to provide agents with more autonomy in their business.
“We give them the economic flexibility to let them run their business the way they want to run it,” said McClure. “Traditional models used to make sense, but now agents are running their own websites, their own blogs, their own podcasts…our model rewards them for doing the work themselves. This is the first time they can invest in their business.”
Others, however, equated their success to their reliance on certain evergreen standards that endure through market shifts.
“It’s a requirement that our brokers don’t list or sell so they have time to speak with consumers,” said Simrin, who believes this clear demarcation of roles ensures that consumers receive the level of client services they expect.
On all fronts? A sense of responsibility.
“Hold your agents accountable and expect that they are going to do business the right way,” said Saa.
Piccinini agreed, noting that agents are the foundation of this business.
“We need to put emphasis on the agents and remember this is a relationship business—let them figure out that relationship,” said Piccinini. “Our focus allows us to grow.”
On the consumer-facing side, it narrows down to a powerful value proposition that agents can offer to clients, and how brokerages can train their agents to provide this offering at extremely competitive levels.
“If we’re not putting the same emphasis on improving the customer experience, someone is going to swoop in and upend things because we took our eyes off the ball,” said Rand, who posed the question, “What is the thing that clients need from us?”
“Local knowledge,” said McClure. “Consumers now have more information than we do and we have to help guide them through misinformation. Sometimes the only seeming difference between a REALTOR® and a consumer is lockbox access. [Agents and brokers] have to elevate their game in knowledge of market trends, especially for the local markets.”
“Market knowledge is a huge value proposition for any buyer,” said Flemming, who believes it depends on the client. “For sellers, they are really focused on marketing.”
Bill Flemming, Principal Owner/Managing Broker, HomeSmart Connect Real Estate (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)
Meanwhile, Simrin prioritizes vendor relationships to help with transaction management. For Piccinini, the focus is on the agents as consultants, in order to ensure that consumer expectations are not only met, but exceeded.
“Everybody agrees that agents aren’t going anywhere,” said Piccinini. “Yes, their jobs are going to change because of tech, but the focus should be on them being a consultant and delivering all the ingredients that lead to a house.”
A common trait among these featured changemakers? The foresight and innovative tendencies to invest carefully, only in members, products and resources that will have a high ROI in either profits or in agent retention and client satisfaction—ideally, all three.
“They key point: Whatever model you’re in, my mantra has been to only pay for what the agents and consumers value and cut out everything else. If it doesn’t service consumers, then get rid of it,” said Rand.
“Disruption is very much a cool word right now, but it’s just the evolution of our business. In every industry, it’s just a matter of being the best at what you do,” said Saa. “We are trying to be at the forefront of what we’re trying to accomplish, and that’s providing service to the consumer.”
For continuing coverage of this year’s CEO Exchange sessions, stay tuned to RISMedia.com:
- CEO Exchange Keynote: Leadership, in Every Sense of the Word
- Disruptors vs. Innovators: CEO Exchange Redefines Roles
- CEO Exchange Exclusive: Helen Hanna Casey on Succeeding in Any Market
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