Putting in 40-plus years in the real estate business doesn’t mean it’s time for
RE/MAX Founder and Chairman Dave Liniger to steady the pace. Quite the opposite, in fact. The spark still burns brightly for Liniger, who continues to embrace the changes that will keep his company ahead of the pack in an evolving real estate market. Recently, RISMedia President & CEO John Featherston chatted with Liniger to find out where RE/MAX stands now, and what’s next for the future of the company…and the industry at large.
John Featherston: Dave, you’ve certainly earned the right to sit back and relax, but you’re not one to settle for status quo, are you?
Dave Liniger: No, I’m not! When some people age, they get stuck where they’re at. Other people like me age and are just as curious about change as ever. I’ve always embraced change and have never been threatened by it. I work hard and I play hard. I get to the office at 6 a.m. and leave at 7 p.m., but I’m not a workaholic. I’m up at my ranch four or five days a month and I love taking my family to Lake Powell. I also take big blocks of time to read books—not just about our industry, but other industries—to find out about the changes we need to be implementing.
JF: Speaking of change, please give us some insight into the recent leadership changes at RE/MAX.
DL: Years ago, I started looking at how to change the company from being an entrepreneurial business to one that is more professionally managed. As we became more prosperous and profitable as a company, we made significant changes. The team you start with is never going to be the one you end up with. Companies that want to win have to continually be on top of the game and have to continually bring in young, new thinkers and new attitudes. The best teams demand excellence and are constantly moving the bar higher and higher every year.
JF: Does that mean you’re focused on attracting the younger generation to join the RE/MAX team?
DL: At RE/MAX, your age does not determine your level of enthusiasm or curiosity. Some are bored by 30 and are there just to make a paycheck. Others are 70 and 80 years old, running huge empires—but they do that by putting the right team underneath them. Piece by piece, you have to keep building your team and making it better.
JF: Looking at the big picture, where do you think we stand in terms of a national recovery in residential real estate in the United States?
DL: Without a doubt, the best years are still ahead of us. The world is in love with homeownership. A house is not just bricks and mortar; it is a place where you raise your family. Worldwide, there is an increasing desire for homeownership and it is still the dream for most Americans to own their own home. Over the next 5 – 10 years, our economy will continue to improve, but it’s also changing. We continue to become a better-educated workforce. And the workforce worldwide is rapidly becoming much younger.
JF: How is the younger generation impacting the future of business?
DL: Ten years ago, the baby boomers made up 45 percent of the U.S. workforce and millennials were only 10 percent—now they’re over 35 percent. Boomers are retiring and leaving in huge fashion. Now a third of the workforce is under age 35 and they think differently. Millennials are truly more different than any other generation in the workforce—they’re more team oriented, more devoted to improving the world, more interested in a meaningful job over a paycheck, and they’re much more flexible in their way of thinking. They also learn differently and are paperless. Millennials will soon be ruling this country for the foreseeable future.
JF: So have the changes at your company been to continue to position RE/MAX as one of the most competitive brands in this marketplace, and to more effectively and efficiently service the changing consumer?
DL: That’s exactly true. You have to understand where your buyers are coming from. The millennials are coming. Last year, they made 30 percent of home purchases. They want a piece of the action. And millennials are still buying downtown, but there’s a massive shift toward that group moving to the suburbs. Once they have a child or two, they want parks and schools and churches.
JF: What are the biggest challenges facing today’s agents?
DL: Agents have to sell what the buyers want, not what they want to sell to them. You have to send them valuable information and ask for nothing in return—you have to provide content that is fascinating to this generation. You have to look at every customer you work with and find out the best way to communicate with them. Baby boomers are still happy getting information once a day—millennials want answers within five minutes.
We also have to look at the impact of multiculturalism. This is the most multicultural we’ve ever been. In another 10 years, whites will be the minority in the United States.
JF: Our world has changed, our nation is changing. We have to adapt and change ourselves.
DL: RE/MAX had more agents in NAHREP’s Top 250 Latino Agents survey than any other organization.
JF: What technology should agents and brokers focus on? What’s the best bet?
DL: Too many people are chasing their tail trying to figure out what the next greatest thing is. But the next greatest thing still comes down to customer service. Technology is not the be-all, end-all. We have millennials coming into the office with 25 listings they’ve already looked at online and printed out. But they’re still willing to pay you a commission to handle the transaction. They want it done for them and they want it done correctly.
JF: Dave, in your opinion, what’s one of the most significant changes our industry needs to see happen?
DL: The No. 1 thing everyone talks about is increasing the quality of REALTORS® themselves. Those of us who are proud of what we do would like to see the standards upped. There just doesn’t seem to be a collective willpower to do so, so progressive companies will need to do it on their own.
JF: Yes, there will always be a segment that is pushing the envelope on that front. Dave, do you see any significant changes in the immediate future as to how real estate is transacted based on the financial power of players like the Zillow Group?
DL: Everyone talks about change, and obviously, things have changed dramatically because of litigation and technology standards. But more important is what has not changed: the agent is still central to the transaction. The relationship is not between a buyer or seller and a company—each buyer and seller is represented by a red-blooded human being. This is an agent-centric business that specializes in giving world-class service and personal attention. That hasn’t changed in 40 years and it won’t change in the foreseeable future. People still want an expert to guide them through the transaction.
JF: What advice would you give to an agent starting out today?
DL: Run your business like a business. Agents who have become extra successful have figured out that they list and sell real estate, but they are also a business. Do you have a strategic plan? Do you have a monthly goal? A weekly goal? An hourly goal?
JF: Dave, what advice would you give to Power Brokers for growing their firms?
DL: Well, if you’re approaching the end of your career, maybe it’s time to sell your office to the next generation. Brokers need to figure out how they can put their business in order so that it has more value than it does today. That means thinking your way through the process. You have to ask yourself, if I was buying this company today, what changes would I immediately make?
JF: Finally, Dave, what’s next for RE/MAX in terms of growth?
DL: We’re growing our agents in the U.S. at a net of about 5 percent a year. Internationally, we’re growing at a fast pace—there’s much more opportunity around the world. We’re trying to emphasize agent and broker development, and development is entirely different than training. Everyone is sick and tired of hearing about training. We need to focus on development: developing a talent pool; developing a multicultural-inclusive salesforce and management team; developing a millennial group. We need to focus on mentoring and teaching and the sharing of ideas. I don’t think anyone does that sufficiently in our business. My biggest goal in the world is for agents to make more money in less time and for brokers to create businesses that are so great, they have agents lining up around the corner to get in.
For more information, visit www.remax.com.