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not_about_usRecently, I was a conference panelist speaking on the topic of consumer perceptions of the real estate industry. As millions of homes are sold each year and buyers and sellers are generally happy with their experience, one may conclude that all is right with our world and the discussion irrelevant. Yet upon a more introspective look, the discussion unearthed important perception gaps we ignore at our own peril.

A number of surveys suggest an erosion of trust in real estate practitioners, most often a result of the customer’s increasing depth of knowledge due to unlimited access to information, the low barriers to enter the industry, and personal experiences with agents presenting a less than professional image. And yes, it’s always the other guy.

Unfortunately, there are some institutional aspects of our industry beyond our control. Yet, I would submit that a fundamental, self-inflicted problem lies just under the surface.

Best-selling author Simon Sinek speaks to the power of companies understanding their “why.” Why they do what they do. Only then may they define who they are and what they do for others. A quick Google search of Simon’s talk is worth your time.

We have become an industry self-absorbed, with the vast majority of marketing and promotion dollars centered on espousing how great we are, how much we have sold and, of course, the necessity to declare we are No. 1 in some category no matter how obscure or irrelevant. We are becoming an industry without empathy.

Incredible organizations in the area of branding have learned to turn the mirror away from themselves and instead focus the mirror on those who really matter…the consumer. When was the last time you saw a boastful Apple ad? In fact, you probably won’t hear a mention of features or any other aspects related to a purchase decision. Rather, Apple focuses on the experience of the consumer, and who that consumer envisions him or herself to be.

In the needless zero-sum real estate war where businesses are forced into categorization as either agent- or broker-centric, it is ultimately the consumer who ends up being overlooked.

We view things differently at Coldwell Banker. The consumer is our “why,” and we believe the right culture is one in which brokers, agents, support staff, etc., should respect the value each brings to the table in collaboration to fulfill our noble purpose of delivering an exceptional experience to buyers and sellers. That’s consumer-centricity. It is one of our five core values, not just a slogan on our wall.

Watch our television commercials. Read our Blue Matter blog. Investigate our new Web platform which engages sellers in telling their own story and social sharing, or check out our latest venture into the smart-home space. Everything is viewed from the perspective and the experience of the consumer rather than ourselves. It is by design.

The global brand of real estate is in desperate need of a do-over, and it needs to begin now. So for a change, how about we make it all about them?

I welcome your thoughts and a discussion, so please reach out to me directly at

Budge Huskey is president and CEO, Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC.

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