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For the past 20 years, we have witnessed the word “disruption” reach Gregorian chant-like levels of repetition at essentially every real estate convention and conference. Clearly, countervailing responses and solutions have not resonated at the same level of volume or velocity.

Many so-called thought leaders would proclaim that “we must keep REALTORSⓇ at the center of the transaction.” This flawed thought unwittingly coincided with the similar strategy of so-called disrupters: “Let’s keep real estate agents at the center of the transaction so we can monetize consumers and real estate agents before consumers arrive at the transactional level.”

In my view, there is only one essential way to preemptively inoculate the real estate industry from disintermediation, disruption or value diminution. That would be to evolve from a transactional-first and relational-second approach to a relational-first and transactional-second industry.

While words alone do not achieve complete outcomes, words do lead to actions. Therefore, if ever there were two words that encapsulate the reasons behind undeniable real estate industry vulnerability, it would be the words “past clients.”

Think about it. How often have you heard the following refrain: “I need to do a better job of keeping in touch with my past clients.” One keeps in touch with consumers, customers, geographical farms, databases and spheres of influences—but not past clients.

Now, technically speaking, a real estate consumer is a client when there is a fiduciary and agency real estate relationship. So, too, in the legal world. Yet most doctors, lawyers and financial planners routinely refer to all those whom they have previously served as their “clients.” When do any of us become the past clients of our family doctor, accountant or financial planner? What are these other professionals doing to assume this loftier level of nomenclature that real estate professionals are deprived of? Are they signing lifetime contracts with consumers? The answer is no.

How, then, do other professionals pull off this presumed and enviable loyalty?

– They do not focus on sphere-of-influence but rather on influencing their sphere.
– They do not focus on databases but instead, client bases.
– They are not building a business but rather a practice.
– And finally, they do not discard their clients once an episodic event expires by forever referring to them as “past clients.”

Let’s hope past real estate clients become a thing of real estate past!

Allan Dalton is CEO of Real Living Real Estate and senior vice president, Research & Development of HSF Affiliates. For more information, please visit