Editor’s Note: This is the cover story in the March 2020 issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine. Subscribe today.
Real estate success in 2020 requires understanding consumers, reaching consumers and delivering a great experience to consumers.
So, in developing the 2020 RE/MAX advertising campaign, the team surveyed more than 5,000 consumers about buying and selling real estate. The participants described what they liked about the process, what they hated about it, what they expected from it and how they were frustrated by it. They offered insights about technology, iBuyers, communication, the attributes they value most in an agent, the problems they’d encountered, and much more.
The research was especially impactful because nearly everything RE/MAX is doing these days—and it’s a lot—is tied to aligning with today’s consumers, connecting them to skilled agents and making sure those agents have everything they need to deliver. The end game: a better experience for consumers and even more business for RE/MAX agents, who in the U.S. averaged over 15 closed transaction sides last year.
This modern, consumer-oriented approach has spread throughout the network. So, last fall, when marketing leaders presented the “Agents of the Future: What Do Consumers Want?” data to 200 top RE/MAX brokers, the group leaned in and wanted to hear every detail.
No surprise. After all, in 2020 and beyond, “What do consumers want?” and “How can we create a better experience?” are the most important questions in real estate. Knowing the answers—and taking action—is everything.
Leading By Example
Taking action has been a big part of Adam Contos‘ daily routine since he became CEO of RE/MAX Holdings in early 2018.
Contos, whose style blends a “be kind and do the right thing” foundation with a passion for actionable business strategies, works nonstop to provide value to more than 130,000 RE/MAX agents and the consumers they serve.
“The real estate business is about people helping people solve their problems, overcome their challenges and get what they want,” Contos says. “It’s about showing kindness and gratitude, about being great at what you do, and about using technology and strategic modern marketing to scale your business and connect with people wherever they are.”
Many of those connections, at least initially, start online and on social media. To give RE/MAX agents a digital competitive edge, Contos is leading a technological transformation at the company. It began with the bold and unexpected acquisition of booj—an acclaimed web-design and tech firm—in February 2018.
The purchase spurred the development of the booj platform, part of a tech ecosystem incorporating consumer preferences and input from thousands of RE/MAX affiliates. The platform, an integrated suite of digital tools that empower RE/MAX agents and teams to establish, manage and grow client relationships, launched at the network’s annual Broker Owner Conference (BOC) last August. A phased rollout of CRM and website products began soon after.
“It’s superior tools for superior agents,” says Mark Mann, a broker/owner at RE/MAX Realty Consultants in Greensboro, N.C. “And this is only the tip of the iceberg of all the tech getting ready to roll out.”
A Better remax.com
The tech transformation took a big leap forward in early February, with the launch of a new, booj-powered remax.com and the RE/MAX Real Estate Search App. The website links to a network of customized office, agent and team sites, while the app uses augmented reality, finger-drawn search areas and other interactive features to create an engaging consumer experience.
RE/MAX agents can brand the app and provide it to their contacts, resulting in streamlined communications and as much collaboration as the consumer wants.
“We want to give consumers a great search experience on their phones,” Contos says. “The app is built around what they want. It puts them in control, giving them constantly updated information and making it easy for them and their RE/MAX agent to assess all their options and move quickly when they’ve found the right home.”
The new website and app are also designed to generate leads and opportunities for RE/MAX agents. And, because booj is essentially in-house tech, enhancements and upgrades will be frequent, fast and driven by data on how visitors are interacting with the platforms.
“We have no interest in sitting still and watching. We’re moving fast and launching tech that will push the industry forward and bring RE/MAX agents even more business,” Contos says. “We’ve chosen the harder but more rewarding route in so many decisions along the way, and the extra effort should benefit RE/MAX agents and their clients for years to come.”
Timely Ads Help Consumers Choose Wisely
RE/MAX pokes playful fun at other real estate options in its ambitious new 2020 advertising campaign. The ads, which assure homebuyers and sellers, “Don’t worry, we’ve done this a million times,” drive home the point that consumers are best served by full-time, full-service agents. Here’s a sampling of the spots (which are all posted on the RE/MAX YouTube channel):
After falling through a hole in the stairs, a man asks, “Did we do that termite inspection?” and his wife replies that “the discount agent said we didn’t need to.” “Discount agents could cost you.”
An agent speaking to a couple about a “great house” for them adds truthful but unappealing details in a hushed voice. “Want an agent who doesn’t come with disclaimers?”
A man talking to an automated voice on his cellphone is increasingly frustrated by the bot’s inability to understand. “Want an agent who’s a real human being?”
A sleek and modern automated For Sale sign goes haywire and sells a couple’s home “to the lowest bidder.” “You don’t need a smart sign; you need a smart agent.”
After a woman says she’s glad to have saved money with a discount agent, a loud plane flying overhead makes the house shake. “Want an agent who actually does their research?”
A part-time agent in a pizza delivery car pulls up to meet his clients and transforms from pizza delivery guy to real estate agent. “Want an agent who’s a full-time agent?”
A couple trying to enter a house they’d like to tour are frustrated by an app that won’t give them the proper access code. “Want an agent who actually shows up in person?”
“The most successful agents find ways to build community around their business,” Contos says. “By showing appreciation and providing value to people they know, they surround themselves with advocates who recommend them to others. That’s why so many RE/MAX agents enjoy a steady stream of referrals and repeat business.”
Even so, every agent has felt the pain of seeing a competitor’s sign pop up in the yard of a friend or past client. To address that pain point, RE/MAX made another big move at the end of the year: acquiring a second tech company.
First, a ground-breaking North Carolina firm recognized for its industry innovations, produces an app that uses data, machine learning and predictive analytics to analyze an agent’s contacts and identify those most likely to move in the near future. The app, serving as an intelligent coaching platform, then prescribes a strategic action plan for the agent to reach out, fortify the connection and be top of mind before any potential move.
With the acquisition, the First app becomes a RE/MAX exclusive.
“The First app helps agents avoid having transactions picked off from inside their database,” says Nick Bailey, RE/MAX chief customer officer. “In the industry, the vast majority of clients say they’d use their agent again, but only a small percentage actually do. That’s because agents aren’t staying as connected to their sphere as they should. The First app fixes that and protects their database.”
Many RE/MAX affiliates used the First app before the acquisition.
“First helps you prioritize who to call and when to call them,” says Kendall Bonner, broker/owner of RE/MAX Capital Realty in Tampa, Fla. “The app puts you first—in front of the portals and iBuyers and the million other tech companies fighting for your customer’s attention.”
The First acquisition is yet another example of RE/MAX evolving with the times and embracing state-of-the-art practices in an ever-changing industry. In many ways, RE/MAX acts far more like an aggressive, modern competitor than a typical traditional player.
That’s good news for RE/MAX agents because, as Bailey notes, the traditional home-buying process of Consumer >> Agent >> House has transformed into Consumer >> House >> Agent.
“In the new formula, the agent and the house have switched spots,” he says. “That fundamentally changes the agent’s role, meaning they need to provide even more value during the steps most important to the consumer—things like negotiating and solving issues that come up.”
A real estate lifer, Bailey bought two commercial buildings at 17, earned his license at 21, thrived as an agent for several years, and then joined the RE/MAX headquarters team at 26. After leaving 12 years later, he served in senior executive roles at Market Leader and Zillow, as well as CEO of Century 21.
He returned to RE/MAX on Oct. 1, 2019 with a clear objective: growth.
“I’m focused on all aspects of growth—marketshare, agent count, productivity, brand presence—and leading the brand into the future,” Bailey says. “Consumers are driving this business now, and our growth is tied to brokers and agents understanding that. The good news is that they do, which is one reason they’re so successful.”
They certainly are. In fact, with over 1.59 million closed residential transaction sides in 2019, RE/MAX agents once again solidified the assertion that “Nobody in the World Sells More Real Estate Than RE/MAX” in terms of residential sides.
Bailey’s arrival is a big factor in the momentum RE/MAX brings into 2020.
Building on the foundation laid at what many called “the best Broker Owner Conference in years,” Bailey implemented several new strategies that helped brokers sharpen their focus on recruiting. In fact, the entire leadership group went all-in to help brokers recruit, with hundreds of brokers adopting a renewed growth mindset.
The result: the best Q4 of agent gain in at least 15 years, and one of the best quarters overall in that span. The network ended 2019 with more than 130,000 agents worldwide—its highest count ever—and a presence in more than 110 countries and territories.
“The RE/MAX culture creates an environment for agents to be as successful as they want to be—and that’s very appealing to someone who’s interested in getting to a higher level of productivity,” Bailey says. “There’s a race to the bottom on fees right now, but we’re not interested in joining it. We don’t need to. When prospects take a closer look at RE/MAX, they quickly see the value and the impact it could have on their careers.”
The addition of new technology from booj and First only strengthens the competitive edge already enjoyed by RE/MAX agents, who are, after all, part of one of the premier franchise brands in any industry.
Although it remains “home to top producers,” the RE/MAX of 2020 is far different than any earlier iteration of the brand—in part because of the organization’s appetite for progress, innovation and new ideas.
“We have a startup mentality, so we move quickly, take risks and get better every day,” Bailey says. “I firmly believe the best days of RE/MAX are still ahead of us.”
4 Key Things to Know About Motto Mortgage
The RE/MAX Holdings, Inc. family of brands also includes Motto Franchising, LLC and its network of Motto Mortgage brokerages. Here are four things to know about this fast-moving, fast-growing innovator:
1. Launched in October 2016 as the first of its kind in the U.S. mortgage industry, Motto Franchising, LLC has grown quickly and steadily, with a network of more than 100 offices open in over 30 states.
2. In 2019, Motto Mortgage brokerages closed more than $1 billion in loan volume and helped more than 5,000 families realize their dreams of homeownership.
3. The Motto Mortgage model creates a path to an ancillary business for current real estate brokers and teams, while offering real estate agents convenient access to mortgage professionals.
4. Ward Morrison, president of Motto Franchising, LLC since day one, is a 2020 RISMedia Real Estate Newsmaker. He’s joined on the list by Kendall Bonner, broker/owner of Motto Mortgage Resource and RE/MAX Capital Realty in Tampa, Fla.