How HomeSmart Supports a Future-Focused Approach So Agents Can Succeed in Any Market
Succeeding in real estate is harder than ever. Confronted with inflation, rising interest rates, low inventory and a smorgasbord of other factors taking a toll on consumer confidence, today’s agents are operating amidst lots of uncertainty and lots of change. The first place most turn to for help? Their brokerage.
In order to achieve success in the current market—and the unpredictable market that lies ahead—agents need more from their brokerage.
Matt Widdows gets this. Still very much connected to his roots as an agent, the HomeSmart CEO and founder makes it his business to stay tuned into the concerns of real estate professionals on the front lines. Whether it’s analyzing the support team’s response rate or poring over agent feedback, Widdows operates his company on one overarching premise: giving agents what they need to succeed—now and in the future.
Realistic yet positive, Widdows explains that uncertainty is just a fact of life in real estate.
“This industry has always dealt with peaks and valleys,” he says. “If you aren’t ready for that, you shouldn’t be in real estate. But there are ways to lessen the blow when you hit those low points, and HomeSmart has always thrived in that environment and come out ahead on the other end.”
Change has been part of HomeSmart’s DNA since the firm’s inception in 2000, when Widdows set out to build a model powered by technology and systems. The company has consistently taken a proactive instead of a reactive approach to change—adaptation and evolution are just part of the day-to-day.
“HomeSmart was built for the times we’re going through right now,” explains the company’s Chief Industry Officer Todd Sumney. “Our business model, tech and structure make it so we have success in any market. With HomeSmart, the company grows when the market is good and it grows when there are challenges. We keep seeking out what the opportunities are—that day, that week—and we help agents do the same.”
HomeSmart has embraced the ups and downs of the real estate business in order to provide agents with a brokerage partner that is agile and able to help them thrive in any market. The reason why is simple: When agents succeed, the company succeeds.
“There is so much uncertainty,” says HomeSmart President Ashley Bowers. “There are more questions than answers right now, and agents need to rely on their broker for support, guidance, decision-making and maintaining a steady course. Agents need to be very diligent about where they spend their resources, time and finances.”
As in most market shifts, the need for brokers and agents to adapt is being driven by the consumer.
“Consumers are demanding lower commission rates, and the industry has become far more competitive,” explains Widdows. “On the flip side, consumers are doing more upfront work, especially on the buy side…the agent probably has a better prepared consumer with more information up front, hopefully reducing the amount of legwork the agent has to do overall and allowing them to handle more volume than before to make up for the shrinking commission.”
By recognizing and adapting to such critical market shifts with speed and fluidity, HomeSmart is able to help agents carve a path to success. The risk of not doing so is too great.
The cost—and value—of change
While change often involves expense, the cost of clinging to the old ways of doing things is far greater. Brokerages—and by default, their agents—that don’t keep up with the pace of change will eventually reach a breaking point…which may come sooner than later in today’s market.
“It can be hard for brokers to make changes,” Bowers explains. “Lots of times, costs are fixed; technology could be a two- to three-year contract that they can’t pivot and get out of.”
Brokerage models built on adaptability, however, can always find a way through. And for HomeSmart, that way is paved with technology.
According to Widdows, while the real estate industry has finally caught up to other verticals in terms of technology, a new problem has emerged.
“Agents are putting multiple technology pieces together, which is inefficient,” he says. “Our goal at HomeSmart is to make an agent’s life as easy as possible with integrated and streamlined solutions for both the agent and our brokerage back office. If our back office operates efficiently with high service levels and products for the agents, that translates into a happy agent on the front end.”
“Agents get everything they need from us,” adds Bowers, “from the backend to the frontend to so much more. We can flex up and down as necessary. It’s easy for us to be nimble.”
The company’s adaptability provides agents with an important competitive advantage. While some brokerages find themselves rushing to adapt to market conditions, HomeSmart’s future-focused business model was built on a foundation of continuous evolution, designed to empower agents with support and choice. By keeping their focus on the five following core strategies, HomeSmart believes agents can unlock their potential, cultivate growth and take control of their careers despite the market challenge of the day.
With a corporate-level commitment to change, HomeSmart encourages its agents to also embrace change as a natural part of their career growth. That’s why the firm focuses not only on supporting agents’ current needs, but providing what they’ll need down the road as well.
To that end, HomeSmart works to anticipate gaps in offerings, and designs programs and services that yield great value to agents.
“We’re listening to agents to find out what they’re looking for and making sure we’re responding to those needs,” says Bowers. “Matt is really good at this. He was an agent and a broker, and he keeps that point-A-to-point-Z mindset—he knows what needs to happen.”
Sumney concurs. “Matt’s been an agent and knows what agents want,” he says. “He still reads every survey. We want every bit of feedback.”
“This is why HomeSmart has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation,” adds Sumney. “We are constantly asking what we can do better.”
“HomeSmart has always been very streamlined, and we are constantly looking at ways to improve that,” says Widdows. “Our flat-fee structure has always been attractive to agents, and we continue to provide outstanding service for those fees. That’s really the special sauce. We offer as many tools and benefits—or more—than our competitors who are charging much more.”
In addition to partnering with a brokerage that can keep them a step ahead of change, agents should also choose a brokerage that prioritizes his or her brand. HomeSmart believes that a solid brand identity in real estate is career currency—something all agents should invest in no matter what stage of their career they’re at. After all, clients buy into the agent, not the brokerage.
“We’re here to promote the agents first so the consumer can connect with the agent and go back to that agent in the future,” explains Bowers.
“Any agent can take their business and move it to any brokerage, and their business will follow them,” says Sumney. “We are here to help you build your brand and your business.”
To help make that happen, HomeSmart has created intuitive tools, like HomeSmart’s Marketing Design Center, which allows agents to easily customize marketing materials, build stand-out websites and effectively disseminate their brand identity—all at no additional cost.
“Some companies collect and waste a lot of money on ads talking about the company,” says Sumney. “At the end of the day, that doesn’t move the needle for the agent. HomeSmart agents earn 100% of their commission so they’re able to redirect the money they save on fees toward marketing their individual agent brand.”
As Widdows says, “When used right, technology can be a gamechanger.”
And according to Widdows, the right technology is that which takes a manual, human process and automates it for consistent delivery.
“If agents adopt technology that truly makes their lives easier, it makes them able to deliver better service in less time,” he explains. “That’s going to be the key to success in the future. But if an agent adopts technology for the sake of saying they have technology or because it looks pretty, that’s only going to make their lives more difficult.”
HomeSmart believes that agents should have access to all-in-one tech solutions that streamline business, create a seamless real estate experience for consumers, and save all parties time and money. What’s more, this technology should come at no additional cost. While many brokerages offer access to technology through third-party partnerships, agents must pay additional fees for it. HomeSmart, conversely, provides free, open access to tech solutions through its completely proprietary technology stack. This translates to better savings and better results for agents.
HomeSmart’s technology also stands apart because it is often first-to-market and always in-field proven.
“The system is constantly adapting, innovating and evolving,” says Sumney. “Anything we can do to reduce clicks and do more transactions, and make them simpler and easier, we’ll modify and adjust the system to do so. We have years of trial and error and have proven our technology in the industry. This has helped our brokers and agents evolve and adapt.”
For example, through RealSmart Agent and RealSmart Broker, HomeSmart agents are able to close more transactions faster without incurring costly technology fees. And, as Sumney explains, these programs speak directly to what today’s consumers expect—which is for everything to be easy.
“They want it to be fast, they want it to be seamless, clear and concise,” says Sumney. “A company like HomeSmart, built on technology and innovation, fulfills all those needs. It helps agents serve their clients. The HomeSmart client app is integrated with RealSmart Agent, so everything is transparent now. It’s fast, it’s instant and transparent.”
These integrated apps not only make life easier for agents and consumers, they also help create clients for life by providing instant access to documents needed throughout the course of homeownership. Instead of searching for paperwork in boxes, all a consumer has to do is log in, reinforcing the relationship with their agent each time.
According to Widdows, it’s all about answering the consumer’s demand for immediacy. “They can pull up information immediately on their phone, request other services, even apply for a loan right on their phone,” he explains. “HomeSmart is working on new ways to provide that instant gratification now and in the future. Some of the things we have coming online in the next couple years I think will be gamechangers.”
Real estate agents invest a lot to build a successful and sustainable business. Not only does HomeSmart believe that agents deserve more at a lower cost, but that every dollar they invest should serve a clear purpose and deliver a tangible return.
That’s why HomeSmart stays committed to a flat-fee model that gives agents access to everything they need to succeed, including technology, training, support and 100% commission.
“We believe in the 100% model: 100% support, service, marketing and technology,” says Sumney.
He also believes that the transaction-fee model is more important than ever for agents, given the challenges of the current and future real estate market.
“Right now, agents need more; they deserve more,” says Sumney. “They’re looking at what’s going on and they should demand more. They’re the ones doing all the work. Brokerages should be doing away with unnecessary fees and providing agents with more. HomeSmart has been doing this for years.”
HomeSmart’s 100%-commission, transaction-fee model is designed to help agents create a sustainable financial future and build wealth. It is the brand’s belief that brokerages should help agents maximize their earning potential with innovative offerings that provide flexibility and choice, and empower their business at every stage.
“We want agents to build a career here and to build wealth over their career,” says Sumney.
HomeSmart empowers agents to set and attain their financial goals in a variety of ways. The brand’s 100% commission plans allow agents to invest more in their business, while the company’s hands-on support and leading technology help them do more transactions, faster, to increase earnings. Add in the HomeSmart+ revenue-share program, and agents now have a spectrum of options to secure their financial future, giving them the ability to choose what works best for them now, and pivot as needed when future circumstances change.
The bottom line, according to Sumney? “Agents deserve choice over how to build their long-term wealth.”
Success in any market
As market conditions continue to shift amidst an unpredictable economy, the HomeSmart team sees opportunity, not crisis.
And they have good reason to. As Bowers points out, the company experienced its biggest organic growth ever during the 2008 recession.
“You can grow a real estate business in any market,” she says. “We’re acquisitive and very competitive. We’re looking forward to continuing to have strategic opportunities to prove we can grow in the downturn.”
According to Sumney, HomeSmart’s ongoing growth across the country will only make the company stronger by driving efficiency. “The more we expand, the more we provide service because it’s centralized and tech driven. We can ramp up and scale quickly in ways other companies can’t.”
And with those capabilities, HomeSmart can help agents grow in any market as well. “When you interview top agents around the country, they always thrive in any market,” says Widdows. “They figure out how to serve customers. These agents might see a slowdown in transactions, but their GCI is the same because they’re finding a way. Those agents need to be supported by a company that has a vision like theirs. We’re going to see some movement, some migration within the industry at the agent level and brokerage level. In many cases, this will be a good thing because it takes them to an environment where they can be supported and grow.”
And hard-working, supported agents will be needed because no matter what market conditions arise next, consumers will still need homes. “Consumers are still going to need to buy and sell homes and to be served by top agents,” says Sumney. “They’ll still want that professional service. Top agents provide it, and HomeSmart provides an environment for them to thrive.”
While the company’s low-fee model stands to be even more attractive to agents in today’s market, Widdows emphasizes that it’s the company’s ability to provide a high level of service and tools to agents, even in tough economic times, that will ultimately win. “We have already invested in our future with our own technology platforms and systems, and they are bought and paid for. But most importantly, they really do allow us to run a much more efficient operation, which allows HomeSmart to be more profitable in good times and continue to be prosperous in tougher times.”