Chris Crocker is vice president of operations for NRT’s Southwestern division.

Crocker oversees company strategy and operational improvement projects and spearheads technology development for the Realogy corporate-owned operations.

His industry perspective comes from a combination of his diverse real estate experience with a background in technology investment banking and consulting.

Crocker will speak at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, July 23-25, 2008.

He answered a set of questions posed by Inman News:

What do you see happening in the real estate market in 2008?

There is a general lack of confidence among consumers as the media blasts them with messages about doom and gloom in the marketplace. Smart buyers will purchase in some of the best conditions buyers have seen in years but the thin volume of transactions will cause many good brokerages to go under and close. The relationship between brokers and agents will need to be revisited as many brokers will struggle with the balance of rising operating expenses and agents who want more services and better splits.

What advice do you have to help real estate agents and brokers get through this market?

Both agents and brokers need to revisit their unique selling proposition and redefine what it is they do to create value. What they did last year and last month is no longer of value to consumers and is viewed as a commodity. Consumers are now better informed and have access to the same data that agents do. Access to data is not a value proposition anymore. Helping consumers to understand and utilize the overabundance of data IS a value proposition. The industry needs to reinvent the value it delivers to a new breed of hyper-informed consumers who want a higher level of value than is being delivered today.

What was your first job?

Setting up beach chairs and umbrellas on the beach in Florida. I spent a summer of my childhood in Fort Walton Beach and quickly figured out I could get paid by the lifeguard for setting up umbrellas and taking tourists on hobie cat rides. I got $10 per hour for sailing a hobie cat, more than double my weekly allowance at the time, plus I got a cool lifeguard t-shirt and a whistle to look official. My mom wasn’t too happy when I told her I was no longer taking out the trash as I didn’t need any allowance any more!

What made you get into real estate?

I had an advisor in college who was a commercial broker. He had a brand-new S Class Benz, nice suits and a Motorola "briefcase" cell phone! Back then, only doctors and drug dealers had cell phones so it was a real status symbol! As I sustained myself through college on mac and cheese, I decided real estate might be a good path to look into when I graduated.

What’s been your biggest challenge in running the business?

The economics of running a real estate brokerage are getting very difficult to make a win/win partnership between top agents and the company with rising overhead costs for the broker. Walk into any branch in America and you will see a field of seldom-used agent desks that the broker pays to maintain at great cost. All the large brokers need to redefine what a typical branch office looks like and what services it provides to the agents given our highly mobile workforce.

If you had one thing to do over again in your life, what would it be?

I would have taken that job offer I had after college to be a crew member on a 150-foot private yacht that was going to spend a year in the Mediterranean after a season in the Caribbean.

What style of home do you live in and when did you buy it?

My wife and I are living in an investment property we own while we build a new house on a lot we purchased five years ago. The down market has created a fantastic time to build with cheap money, lower demand on materials and plenty of quality sub-contractors competing on price for my business. My architect would call it a Santa Barbara/Monterrey Colonial — my wife and I call it "the house Tommy Bahama would build."

What worries keep you awake at night?

Keeping my construction project on time and under budget.

Balancing the need for open access on the Internet with individual privacy rights and wondering if my two young daughters will have a right to privacy and security without being monitored by big brother when they grow up.

What lesson did you learn in the last year?

Those small plastic toy scissors CAN actually cut hair if your child tries hard enough.

What would your second career choice be?

Skipper on an America’s Cup Sailboat Campaign

What kind of music do you listen to?

This year I discovered Pandora.com and set up a multi-zone Sonos wireless system in my house. For about $30 a year, you can tell it the name of an artist or song you like and it will build a never-ending playlist of music that is similar to your choice with no commercials or annoying people talking between songs. Popular Pandora "channels" in my house right now are Jack Johnson, Buddy Guy, Jimmy Buffett, Ottmar Liebert and James Blunt.

Who is your hero?

The poet, David Whyte. It takes a lot of guts to go to your new father-in-law and tell him you intend to look after his daughter by pursuing your desire to be a "corporate poet" as a profession. I’m not normally a fan of poetry, but Whyte has an incredible way of talking about the "conversation" that is our lives and how we as humans seek to find our true identity in the world. Do yourself a big favor and pick up a copy of his audio book — you will be glad you did!

Hear Crocker speak at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, July 23-25, 2008. The conference program and registration are available online via the Connect Web site .

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