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In August, I had the opportunity to talk to hundreds of brokers about their operations, their agents, their markets and their thoughts on the industry. One thing I heard loud and clear from them was a resolve to support their agents in the most meaningful ways possible.

These brokers weren’t talking about cutting services or compromising on quality. Instead, they were focused on providing the right services and the best competitive advantages. They wanted to be full-service brokerages filled with full-service agents. Frankly, it was refreshing.

Low-cost competitors
Our industry has its share of discounters and cut-rate, low-cost options for agents and consumers alike. Sometimes they work; more often they don’t.

On the consumer side, it’s an easy pitch: “Mr. and Mrs. Seller, here’s how much you could save from the commission those traditional agents will charge you.” The numbers can seem compelling, and if every sale were simple, this might be a reasonable way to go.

But real estate transactions aren’t simple. Buying or selling a house is a complex process involving high stakes, emotional moments and major decisions. If anything, transactions have grown even more complicated, given the current regulatory environment, tight credit standards, inventory challenges and other concerns.

Full-service agents have the skills and experience to avoid the landmines that can slow or derail a sale. They can also elevate the process with hands-on, personal attention. It’s a question of quality.

It’s the experience
Providing high-quality service is less of a focus for the discount options—many of them driven by technology—that tend to emerge during market upswings.

Tech-based, foundation-rattling changes in other industries—the rise of Uber, Amazon, Expedia and the like—are certainly worth noting in ours. But a critical point to realize is that those entities grew not because they saved people lots of money, but because they dramatically improved the consumer experience. In other words, they offered service that was superior to the alternatives.

In that sense, the path to success in our industry hasn’t really changed. To win, brokerages must provide agents with better support and competitive advantages than their competitors. And agents must provide the best personal service to their buyers and sellers. On either count, it’s not easy. It takes resolve, preparation, skill and commitment.

No magic secret
I recently saw a franchise sales ad that touted how a new franchisee could leverage technology to run a successful brokerage with a ratio of something like 150 agents to one staff member. The underlying message was clear: No overhead! No personnel issues! Low fees! Instant recruiting! All delivered through the magic of technology.

With all due respect, technology alone can’t match the attention and support of an engaged, readily available broker and staff. Similarly, it can’t replace what a full-service agent provides to a consumer.

Competition in our industry is fierce right now. Whether you’re a broker vying for recruits or an agent battling for listings, your ability to deliver quality service remains a key differentiator. Are you positioned to offer such service? If not, what can you change to get there?

Price is an issue only in the absence of value. Given the complexity of the home-buying or -selling process, the value provided by a full-service agent, supported by a full-service broker, is critical and unbeatable. I’m not alone in that thinking. In fact, I just spoke to hundreds of brokers who feel the same way.

Geoff Lewis is president of RE/MAX, LLC.

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