It’s no secret: The industry is changing, and it’s changing quickly. The word disruption is tossed around on a daily basis. But what does it actually mean for those practicing in the real estate business?
The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) hosted a session, “NAR Talks to the C-Suite: Disrupted! Is Our Industry on a Path for Significant Change or Is It Business as Usual?”, during the 2019® REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco. The session featured some of real estate’s biggest powerhouses to find out what brokerages are doing to adapt to a shifting industry.
“One thing that seems to be becoming more predominant now and into the future is the importance of the brand,” said moderator Sherry Chris, CEO of Realogy Expansion Brands.
Panelist Adam Contos, CEO of RE/MAX, agreed, stating that the role of the brand has gone through an evolution.
“It’s more important now than ever,” said Contos. “If a consumer gets upset, they’ll often attack the brand, because that’s what they attach emotions to.”
Today’s brokers need to be more careful about how they communicate their value through their brand. Contos explained that we are living in a more emotional environment now than ever before, and “the agent has to be willing to be digitally transparent and out in front of the business regardless of the brand they’re with.”
But a brand can be a powerful tool when leveraged appropriately. According to panelist Helen Hanna Casey, CEO of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, branding can communicate consistency and support.
“If they know you’re with Howard Hanna, they know there is support behind you,” said Hanna Casey, adding that the brand should also reflect what the company speaks every day in terms of its values. It’s what’s behind the name that matters, she emphasized.
“Tomorrow, if we became ABC Real Estate, it would still be about what’s behind the name,” said Hanna Casey. “It’s not just the brand name or the color; it’s the support we provide and who we are in our communities.”
It’s the core values that help establish that reputation. The authenticity behind core values is what helps brokerages differentiate themselves from the disruptors.
“They should be a stake in the ground and stand for something,” said Chris.
Panelist Gino Blefari, CEO of HomeServices of America, who has been part of a number of brands, said it’s about building that trust. Just like ordering coffee from the same place and expecting the same drink, Blefari said consumers expect to receive the same level of service from the same brand, regardless of the agent they’re working with.
Even the companies that are labeled disruptors themselves agree: It’s about service. Panelist Errol Samuelson, chief industry development officer at Zillow Group, explained that these new business models that are allegedly disrupting the real estate industry were simply created to solve a service-based problem in real estate.
“There’s a huge opportunity and that’s why we are investing in home sellers,” said Samuelson. “They are really frustrated with elements of the process. How can we apply tech, combined with really great agents, to destress sellers? If home-selling was less scary and less stressful, we would end up with more transactions.”
Panelist Ian Wong, co-founder and chief technology officer at Opendoor, agreed.
“You have to make sure it’s in service of the customer to get fair market value for the seller, and for the buyer to have a great experience as well,” said Wong. “We want to eliminate everything that is not essential, getting right to the advice, and the rest should be taken care of.”
The missed opportunity for traditional brokerages is not letting agents become the disruptors themselves, said Hanna Casey, but Contos added that’s part of a larger problem: Agents and consumers are confused about what’s available and how they should proceed.
“When you confuse, you lose,” said Contos. “We need some clarity as an industry and that’s why we look to NAR and business leaders in our space to decide upon what’s in our best interest. And it’s going to come down to us being really good communicators.”
For continuing coverage of the REALTORS® Conference & Expo, please visit RISMedia.com.
Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In my opinion the biggest disruptor in our industry today is ZILLOW itself. Even the consumers that I speak with and I’m a 40 year veteran will tell you that they are further confused by the way ZILLOW handles incoming phone calls. Why do we need an intermediary funneling the calls to the agents, they do not follow except procedure as to who gets those calls they lean towards agents to pay ZILLOW the most money which again does not necessarily get that consumer the best agent to answer questions about any individual property. Fortunately by the time they get connected with an agent through Zillow they’re already frustrated as to why they had to answer so many questions upfront? The very first thing that I do when I get a Zillow lead is ask the caller if her has a paper and pencil. I am mediately asked him to take down my personal cell phone number and my name and to text me back his name and email address so that we can eliminate communication through Zillow!!!! That makes them feel that I am talking to them as a person, about what his real estate goals are and that I will take a personal interest in helping them! Some of the leads that come through Zillow are just nothing but pure junk and they should not be allowed to be posted on Zillow i.e. these fake listings which are repossessions which aren’t able to be shown! ZILLOW should more closely monitor the postings as agents are paying for those leads which are counted against them, with no hope of working with a buyer or earning a commission. ZILLOW is the interrupter!
Tomi – I understand the frustration you are venting. However, Zillow and more companies like Zillow are around the corner. The complexity of buying/selling a home is being simplified as buyers are now gaining access to data that facilitates their transactions without hands on human intervention. Agents are obviously still important to the process, but the tide is shifting like what we witnessed in the demise of the newspaper industry and the gradual slide of brick-n-morter retail.
In my opinion, agents & brokerages will need like never before to find differentiators in their local and national branding in order to stand out and to gain/retain market share.
First, every broker should have their own independent website separate and apart from the brokerage that employs them. Brokerages are going to further shrink, merge and consolidate while trimming staff that do not readily produce. So the independent agent (or small team) needs to be well-positioned on the internet for their local market, and to have their own high-quality website portal that acts as their global, dedicated marketing channel.