This month’s National of Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Power Broker Roundtable introduces NAR’s 2022 President, Leslie Rouda Smith.
Senior Vice President, Regional Manager, Long & Foster Real Estate, Chantilly, Virginia; Liaison for Large Firms and Industry Relations, the National Association of REALTORS®
Leslie Rouda Smith
REALTOR®, Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate
2021 NAR President-Elect
Cindy Ariosa: Leslie, as you look ahead to your term as National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) president, what would you point to as some of the biggest challenges for brokerages today?
Leslie Rouda Smith: Ironically, one of the biggest has been the market. While business has been exceptionally busy, many agents, especially those focused on buyers, have never worked so hard and closed so little volume. At the same time, newbies are joining the business, so brokers are being called on to support their agents on many levels.
Brokers should meet often with their agents to share tips and let them vent. Let agents know that it’s okay to refer a buyer to someone else, especially if their market area doesn’t serve their need for affordable options.
Now is a good time to prospect for sellers. Experienced agents might free up their time by teaming up with junior agents to do showings and go to inspections. Most important, make sure you and your agents are practicing work-life balance. We all need gas in our tank.
CA: What are some of the most valuable adjustments brokers have made during the pandemic?
LRS: Brokers have had to be leaders, even when they weren’t certain where the market was headed. In early 2020, agents were fearful they’d lose their livelihood. A few months later, the opposite happened: the market overheated, creating its own set of challenges. In both cases, brokers have had to engage with their agents more frequently. In the early days of the pandemic, brokers were having weekly, if not daily, Zoom meetings with their agents to focus on agents’ professional development and provide support.
I think what brokers learned is that more frequent contact has value, so I hope brokers continue that.
CA: Consolidation continues to increase. Is this a negative or a positive?
LRS: Consolidation has been a factor as long as I’ve been in this business. The positive is that it enables brokerages to operate more efficiently and provide a more seamless consumer experience, whether by scaling new technologies or offering ancillary services.
Some consolidation comes from baby boomers pursuing their exit strategies. That creates opportunity for others to move up in management.
This is a very vibrant industry. New players continue to come on board and to introduce newer business models—virtual, flat fee, passive revenue streams for agents.
CA: What’s your advice to brokers when it comes to competing against new models and VC-backed firms?
LRS: Our members have the most valuable thing going in this business: customer relationships. But the market will ultimately decide which models succeed. Brokers should always be looking at how they can improve on what they’re doing to meet the consumer’s changing expectations. But they don’t have to try to develop everything on their own. Partnerships with tech or mortgage companies are a smart strategy. For instance, a lender partnership could enable brokers to offer services like bridge loans to sellers.
On the tech front, NAR supports brokers by partnering with and mentoring emerging proptech companies. This gives REALTORS® access to new technology before their clients start demanding it and helps ensure the companies keep REALTORS®’ needs top of mind. That’s an important strategy in a disruptive tech world.
Even better, these relationships mean members get exclusive access to the technology and special discounts. On average, 600,000 members use products and services made available through NAR’s strategic investment arm, Second Century Ventures (SCV) and the REACH scale-up program, representing $60 million in savings per year.
Our 2021 Profile of Real Estate Firms found that the vast majority of U.S. brokerages are small, independent operations. NAR recently added a new REALTOR Benefits® Program partner: The Residential Real Estate Council’s Broker Solutions. This lets brokerages with fewer than 150 agents equip their people with the tools and training they need to succeed, just as large corporations can. And it’s available to all NAR members at $50 off the full price.
Another way practitioners can compete is with knowledge. Ask prospective clients if they’re familiar with legislation related to real estate in your area, and explain it. Suggest they ask other agents they’re interviewing about that issue. Chances are the competition isn’t aware of it. Your engagement in the issues and the community is a big competitive edge.
CA: Looking to the year ahead, what do brokers need to have on their radar?
LRS: First, the inventory shortage. It’s eased a bit, but a long-term solution will require once-in-a-generation actions. NAR is working hard to advocate for solutions that will help both the commercial and residential sectors.
Second, we need to keep an eye on how our customers are changing. Millennials are the fastest-growing segment of buyers today, with Gen Z on their heels. The efficiency of the internet and digital technology is essential to them. They’re also more diverse than previous generations. That’s why every broker should have a strategy around diversity, equity and inclusion.
Third, for our commercial brokers, it’s still not entirely clear what long-term changes the pandemic will have on where we live and work. Commercial specialists need to be flexible and resilient. Meanwhile, NAR will continue to strongly advocate for local, state, and federal policies that incentivize commercial real estate investment.
For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.