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It seems like the real estate industry has been “ripe for disruption” for decades, although it’s hard to recall a time when the headlines sounded as threatening. Over the past year, countless news stories and opinion columnists at major publishers have cited statistics and reported on start-ups poised to shake up the status quo. The stories seem to go hand-in-hand with a broader, recurring theme: technology will soon make virtually every job obsolete.

Admittedly, the numbers are impressive. Investor funding runs well into nine figures for the two largest direct homebuyers, Opendoor ($320 million) and OfferPad ($260 million). Among technology-centric brokerages, Compass Group recently landed another $450 million in funding, the largest U.S. real estate technology investment to-date.

Should traditional brokerages feel threatened? Perhaps. Any firm that maintains a “business as usual” mindset, in any industry, is vulnerable to new competition. However, as long as brokerages are keeping up with changing consumer preferences and adapting to serve an evolving market, they should fare well. In my opinion, there are several ways to do this:

Embrace technology. Whether it’s new ways to market properties (virtual staging or tours), better ways to manage transactions (using DocuSign, zipLogix, etc.), or more efficient business prospecting (via strong Customer Relationship Management [CRM] systems or new predictive analytics), there are many ways to leverage technology to make your agents’ jobs easier and win over new clients.

Deliver full service. It should go without saying that superior customer service is the best way to grow your business, whether you’re competing against traditional brokerages or new real estate models. There will always be room for top-notch, experienced agents to gain business from appreciative customers. Help your agents find ways to up their game.

Foster relationships. Real estate may be about properties, but it’s ultimately an industry that centers on people, especially on the residential side. Technology can support those relationships, but it will never replace them.

Understand and promote representation. Within the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC), we’re focused on helping buyers gain a better understanding of what fiduciary responsibilities mean, to them, in a real estate transaction. The point is equally important to sellers. We’ve found that agents who place a top priority on their representation skills consistently perform at a higher level and earn more clients.

Never stop learning. NAR offers many designations and certifications. While some agents gravitate to them for continuing education credits or personal marketing purposes, the greatest benefit of education is the opportunity to continue expanding our knowledge and skills. This includes learning how to adapt and compete against new real estate models.

Finally, I’d like to add that our most recent issue of Today’s Buyer’s Rep (the monthly REBAC newsletter) explored this topic in greater depth to help REBAC members get further up to speed on developments and implications for real estate professionals. We encourage REBAC members to check it out—and encourage brokers to support the ABR® training and other educational opportunities for their agents. If you’re not a REBAC member, but would like to read this issue, please email for a digital copy.

Gould_Marc_60x60Marc D. Gould is senior vice president, Member Development, for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) and executive director of the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC). A wholly-owned subsidiary of NAR, REBAC is the world’s largest association of real estate professionals focusing specifically on representing the real estate buyer. With more than 30,000 active members, REBAC awards the Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) designation to REALTORS® who have completed the designation requirements.

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