Editor’s Note: Before the coronavirus pandemic progressed in the U.S., RISMedia asked Power Brokers to offer their take on the upcoming year, from the current and future market outlook, to overall strengths and weaknesses. Below are excerpts of their perspectives, included in RISMedia’s 32nd Annual Power Broker Report. Hadi Atri, President & CEO, RE/MAX Executive
What have you done recently to pivot in order to meet a market need or overcome a challenge?
Ken Baris: The climate of concern with the stock market and coronavirus is certainly unsettling for many. In response to the volatile stock market, we ran ads: “Looking for Leverage…’Stock Up’ on Real Estate.” Keeping clients in constant communication is more essential now than ever before. We are educating on the opportunities that have emerged due to the unique and changing environment.
Hadi Atri: We have created a division that will help our potential clients update their homes prior to putting them on the market. This will help get a more favorable price for the sellers. Also, in order to confront iBuyers, we are working on a Guaranteed Sale program.
Larry Flick V: One of the challenges we face is staying in touch with and providing value to our clients after they complete their real estate transaction. As a result, we launched “Forever Concierge” on March 4. This program goes beyond transaction management by helping buyers and sellers navigate everything they need to do from agreement of sale to settlement. After settlement, we provide a library of contractors and vendors that clients can access any time, whatever their needs may be—and our clients complete all these tasks within our system. Additionally, Forever Concierge allows our sales professionals to invite their past and future clients who are homeowners to benefit from access to a home-management assistant. This will allow them to cultivate a customer for life—forever.
Hoby Hanna: We introduced a program last June called Find It First, and it’s been a big difference-maker for us. We found that we, as an industry, were doing a disservice to the seller by taking their listing and putting it online only to have inquiries on those properties sold off to agents who had never even been in the house. This was hurting the seller’s value and expediency. Why wouldn’t we make sure that the buyers who are actually out there looking know about the house first to help sell the home faster? With the challenges of low inventory and so much business being siphoned off by Zillow and the aggregators, we pivoted. Customers have a relationship with Howard Hanna that they trust and value, so we looked at how we could lean into that better.
Gary Rabon: The Triangle has been a very robust market for the past few years; in fact, we have had over 80,000 transactions between 2018 and 2019 alone. We decided to move our business model toward being a business incubator for our agents. We feel it’s our responsibility to partner with our agents to build the business they desire. Whether that business is a traditional team, horizontal team, hybrid team or simply just partnering with another agent to create a more balanced life, we have morphed our consulting, marketing, training, accounting and management structure to help agents build the business they want to build and embrace the ever-evolving consumer trends.
Diane M. Ramirez: In this whole new arena of technology, we’re very excited and proud to have created our own listing system, RESource. We did it in collaboration with Brown Harris Stevens, and it’s a Terra Holdings (Halstead’s parent company) initiative. Competitively, it’s a home run. Having the best listing system is not necessarily a silver bullet, but we knew it was something we needed to have in order to be competitive. We also sold part ownership to our competitors, Douglas Elliman and Corcoran. The three top firms using the same data makes it better data. It’s something New York has never done.
What’s the biggest stumbling block for agents, and how are you addressing it?
Ben Kinney: The biggest stumbling block is probably fear. There are lots of things for those in the industry to worry about, like iBuyers, portals and discount brokerages—not to mention the economy, interest rates, politics and now pandemics. We need to keep our agents focused on providing value and service to their databases and doing the daily lead generation. We’re providing the tech, training and accountability that helps agents survive all of the above.
Chris Kelly: We believe what separates real estate professionals with sustained excellence from those who are unable to create a lasting career comes down to having systems and processes for repeatable and predictable success. The creation of goals, measurement of lead-producing activities, tracking success and embracing accountability are all traits and predictors of highly achieving sales professionals. As crazy as it sounds, less than 20 percent of sales professionals will embrace this proven path to success, and will find themselves subject to the winds of changing markets. Our company is working to ensure every professional that joins us is taught this system to provide the best opportunity to create a successful and lasting career with us.
Neil Walter: Agents being susceptible to short-term thinking is a stumbling block. There are a lot of changing dynamics in real estate, and agents often think that those things don’t apply to them. This is a long-term industry, so this kind of thinking leads to misalignments.
Rosey Koberlein: Allowing the mindset of the shortage of inventory to be a reason they are not doing enough business. We are changing this mindset through hitting it straight on—teaching tried-and-true techniques for creating listings.
Gary Rabon: Inventory and thought leadership are two of the biggest stumbling blocks. While we have a partner who builds homes, we also believe that we need to help our agents find the hidden inventory that exists in every market. Hidden inventory are those homeowners who have thought about selling but have not decided to pull the trigger for a variety of reasons. We have embraced Ninja training and are augmenting that training with additional coaching to teach our agents how to build and mine their spheres using techniques like real estate reviews.
George Q. Morris: The biggest roadblock is mindset. Agents focus on all the things they cannot control: lack of inventory, pricing, mortgage rates, unemployment, good markets, bad markets. My job as the CEO is to assist them with focusing on the right things. So much of the activity level of the agent has to do with the messaging that comes from their leader. If you have an inconsistent message and, as a leader, get pulled into every different dogma and philosophy, you begin to speak to that inside your organization, and your people get confused.
Deirdre O’Connell: As a whole, managing the tools necessary to support their business has proven to be challenging for real estate advisors. They need CRM tools to increase their productivity and service, and must be digitally adept to reach current and prospective customers and clients. Some real estate advisors shy away from technology and others embrace it so much as to neglect the importance of personal interaction when selling. We are supporting our agents through intergenerational mentoring, training and networking.
Hadi Atri: The speed in which technology is affecting our business. There are many REALTORS® who have not accepted the fact that they must learn to use the new tools in our business in order to be competitive. Many don’t like change and don’t want to get out of their comfort zone. We have monthly classes that teach our agents how to use and take advantage of all the tools and services we offer.
Joseph Rand: I think that agents are suffering from informational overload—so much technology, most of which is not integrated all that well. What we’re trying to do is isolate the technology so that it’s subordinated within the elements of our training program—that is, we don’t teach the tech itself; rather, we teach the skill, and how the tech is just a tool for helping to build or execute that skill. If agents see the connection between the tech tool and what they’re trying to accomplish for their business, they’re more likely to get over the learning curve.
Jennifer Shemwell: Technology is always a stumbling block. We have a full-time trainer. We try to make shortcuts for agents, like producing social media that agents can tag and share, to make it easier for them.
Matt Widdows: The noise about technology and the continued crunch on commissions that we’re seeing are some of the biggest stumbling blocks today. That’s why we provide agents what they need and help them focus on what resources they should be capitalizing on. Besides offering 100-percent commissions, we also give agents the technology and the tools to be successful without continually increasing their monthly out-of-pocket costs. We embrace the fact that consumers are coming to the table with more information and expect the agent to be consultative throughout the process.
Hoby Hanna: I’m a big believer that the agent is going to stay at the center of the transaction. There is no technology alone, no different business model, that is going to change the face of the business—but today, distractions are heard so loud, from online sources and social media, that people can get a little paralyzed.
RISMedia’s 2020 Power Broker Report & Survey is sponsored by American Home Shield, Homes.com, HSA Home Warranty, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® and Pillar To Post Home Inspectors. The Power Broker Survey ranks brokerages by residential sales volume and transactions in 2019.