Editor’s note: Inman News is asking our audience to explore the future form and function of the real estate industry. This Roadmap to Recovery editorial project offers an invitation to engage in discussions about the direction of the industry. In this piece, columnist Marc Davison addresses the changes that have swept through the brokerage industry in the past decade, and shines light on a possible path forward.
What you should be
The media center for local real estate.
The repository of real estate facts and truths.
The provider of valued benefits to the community.
The trusted source.
The one-stop provider for everything real estate.
In the 1999 release, "Homesurfing.net, The insiders guide to buying and selling your home," writer Blanche Evans documented the eight main services brokerages offered for sellers and buyers. They were:
1. Fix-up advice prior to showing.
2. Calculating the listing price.
3. Listing the property in the MLS and on the Internet.
4. Assistance with marketing, including signs, brochures, tours, open house parties, and other advertising.
5. Providing potential buyers with information on various financing alternatives.
6. Negotiating the offer.
7. Arranging the closing.
8. Troubleshooting the gap between offer and closing.
1. Pre-qualifying the buyer.
2. Matching the buyer’s needs and wants against his/her ability to pay.
3. Help with search.
4. Showing the property.
5. Help with the offer.
6. Assistance with inspections.
7. Help with financing.
8. Help with the closing.
This was 10 years ago.
A quick scan of the Web reveals how obsolete many of these services have become, due in part to information and/or services now provided by either people and/or technologies that have made these services and specialties ubiquitous.
From the flurry of decision-support content that now resides everywhere to establishing affordability now offered by new entrants like icanbuy.com, what you did as a broker 10 years ago is no longer special, highly regarded or arguably, valued.
Given what’s transpired in the past few years — the decimation of trust in the marketplace alongside the emergence of new participants that are slicing and dicing real estate — brokers are looking at a grim future and questioning both their services and value. And for good reason.
What you can do
Think this through with me.
Consumers search, find and educate themselves via the Web. They can even create marketing material on their home, craft a listing and syndicate it directly to Craigslist. Buyers can search, save, estimate, calculate and through services like N-Play begin the negotiation on their own.
Granted, there are reports that are needed and the coordination of activities that involve the offer that, in time, will be managed by some third-party vendor.
Am I predicting doom for a brokerage? On the contrary, I am documenting a clear path toward what kind of Web site and online service a virtual brokerage must offer going forward. As I see it, if what I just documented is the precise behavior of millions of Americans, why not give them one place to do all of it?
Take Zenbe, a Web 2.0 platform provider that took a similar path. It understood that creating a single destination that organizes all of our e-mail accounts alongside all of our social network accounts would allow us, much like AOL did two decades ago and Yahoo did a decade ago, a new one-stop destination to manage the many things that are important to us all within one framework.
Knowledge Management is a practice used to identify, create, represent, distribute and enable adoption of insights and experiences. Practitioners of KM treat inherent knowledge as a component of their business activities as an explicit concern leveraging the organizations explicit and tacit intellectual assets to create positive business results.
Apply this to your brokerage. Whether you have eight agents or 800 agents, you are a warehouse of intellectual assets that are right now currently fragmented in that many areas. The result is a fragmented brand and confusing value proposition that sits like a rotting outer layer covering what could be a very sweet core.
My guess is most brokers don’t even know what they have, where it might be located and, if you could even find it, might not know how to expose it, market it, drive users to it and earn revenue from it.
My guess is you might be too deeply wed to that service legacy that doesn’t work anymore and can’t see your way out.
You could take a trip to the Sonoran desert, eat some peyote and tap the realm of the unknown. Sometimes, I think that’s not a totally bad idea. Carlos Castaneda would regard that as the teaching of Mesoamerican shamanism. Joseph Schumpeter would regard that as simple creative destruction.
I call it survival. And the most obvious next step for a brokerage.
And that’s my point, folks. Pick you poison, but right now you need to find a way to dynamite the deeper recesses of your brokerage mine and find that vein that leads to the diamonds. I know it’s lying there under the sediment, under the politics, under what your agents think they want, need and force you to be doing.
Brush it off.
Hold it to the light.
We are talking about your future here.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.