All right, we get it. Real estate’s in a pickle. Former National Association of Realtors Chief Economist John Tuccillo’s recent observation that Realtor competence has fallen to its “lowest point ever” has everyone thinking, how much worse can this get?
Some of us are glass-half-full people. Others are glass-half-empty people. Me, I just finish the drink. Barkeep, pour me another. Why wonder how much worse it can get? Let’s start thinking about how to make this whole thing better.
The small broker
I’m going to start here: the local real estate brokerage with fewer than 100 agents. Here are 10 things I would do if I owned one, “Davison Real Estate”:
- 1. Hire the best, not the most. And when I say best, I don’t mean some top producer I’d obsess about poaching then give away the store to. I’d recruit people who are passionate about my vision and give them real training in real business skills: negotiation, property marketing, management and more. No “quick trainings” or “boot camps” for my people.
- 2. Create an in-house concierge department, hotel style. Whatever, whenever. This concierge department would be ground zero for anything clients needed locally: tickets to shows, directions, coupons. Everywhere referrals. Why just sell someone a home when you can help them live a life?
- 3. Retail. People buy homes and as soon as they move in they start shopping. They need furniture, bathroom accessories, kitchen gadgets. If the Wynn Hotel can house a Ferrari dealership, Davison Real Estate can sell welcome mats, bed sheets, plush terry cloth robes and aromatheraputic candles. All these things would be offered to my customers at great prices and would be branded to Davison Real Estate. Farfetched, you say? Note how many t-shirts sporting luxury brands you see on your next trip downtown.
- 4. Downsize. Remove all of the office cubicles (we’ll deal with the agents in a second). Open the space up. Make it shabby chic with shag throw rugs, oversized mismatched chairs, Mac computers. If my agents and their clients need privacy they can use my boardroom. Or, even better, they’ll cut deals in the outside world, where the client prefers to be anyway.
- 5. Install a coffee bar. Depending on where I was located, I might add a wine bar too. Who would man it? At my full-service, 6-percent-commission facility, every agent would also be trained as a barista, and so would I. If someone walked in interested in my five-figure services, I’d be more than happy to whip them up a double espresso.
- 6. Davison Depot. I’d have a shed. Inside it would be mops, buckets, painting gear, landscaping tools, light bulbs, etc., (again, all branded to Davison Real Estate). When someone buys a home from me, I’d want them coming to my place to borrow whatever they need to get their new place spiffed out.
- 7. Go paperless. All Davison Real Estate agents would be required to own a tablet computer. Those who balked would go work for the competition and bleed their profits going through ink cartridges, overnight packages, paper clips, staples and stamps while wasting sales time standing in front of a fax machine. My agents might be steaming milk for a client or serving an imported cheese snack but there’s no way I’d let them fish files from a cabinet.
- 8. Invest in DavisonRealEstate.com. The home page would feature an interactive map saturated with neighborhood polygons. Users could drill down to street level to get information about every home — active, pending and sold. The best available local information, school data and market trends would be fully integrated into the site. It would also be completely open to user-generated content. Every homeowner could post pics and video about their homes. I’d hold a “best home video contest” and dole out prizes each month. Homeowners could list and sell themselves for all I care. We’re not greedy atDavison Real Estate. We see the bigger picture.
- 9. Go all-in on online marketing. I’d do this for one reason and one reason only: Internet consumers are more intelligent, earn more money, spend more money and use up less time. Those are the clients I want — sophisticated people who appreciate sophistication from their service providers.
- 10. Obsess on image and brand. If any of my agents have dogs, none of my clients would ever know unless they asked. My people would dress sharply. No Tommy Bahamas, shorts and flip flops. We’ll be transacting six- to seven-figure deals and we’ll dress like it. You don’t see lawyers walking around with Bichon Frise earrings dangling from their lobes, shirts with their image silk-screened on them, and 20 stuffed animals lining their dashboards.
Think I’m kidding? I’m dead serious. It’s time to re-imagine the whole deal. Start from the ground up. It’s going to be fun, for those who are game.