Editor’s note: Inman News is exploring what the next decade may hold for real estate professionals in "2020 Re-Envision: The Future of Real Estate Brokerage," an editorial project that features a survey and related articles. Readers are invited to submit guest essays detailing their vision of the future for the real estate brokerage industry. Send your guest essay to firstname.lastname@example.org by Feb. 28, 2010.
Disclaimer: These predictions were revealed to me by a mystic Tarot card reader in San Francisco.
Since, by 2020, most information on homes has become public and listed on the Internet — a wealth of data ranging from factual stats, past sales history, taxes, RPR data (once held confidential by Realtors), and neighborhood and school data — most buyers are not using brokers to find homes.
Houses are found on the most popular real estate Web sites — Craigslist, Wal-Mart and TruZilla, a merged portal. Buyers also watch the local television channels of brokers, with social media access.
Buyers use their cell phones to point at "QR codes" in magazines, for-sale signs or other print media, like posters at train stations (a QR, or "Quick Response," code is a type of barcode that can be read by camera-equipped smartphones). Augmented reality also allows buyers to cruise the neighborhoods and shoot their photo phones at homes, retrieving information on those properties whether or not they are for sale.
The virtually virtual office
Most brokerages have downsized from the brick-and-mortar castles of the past, which buzzed with the babbling of agents at the bubbly water cooler.
Since most agents now work with laptops and cell phones, they no longer needed to sit in the office and watch the phone and passersby. They hit the road and Starbucks for lattes and wifi.
The huge offices became vacant domains. Only new agents, fresh to the trade, shared the space, acting as telephone and front-desk receptionists.
As rents increased and the housing industry nose-dived, brokerages had no choice but to downsize. And they adapted.
Brokerages are now renting smaller office spaces, sharing conference rooms with others in the industry — mortgage brokers, stagers, title companies and others. Each has their own little cubicle offices, but is able to interact with each other and use conference rooms with clients. Clients who come to the large spaces have no clue it is a communal office.
100 percent commission
Most brokers offer agents 100 percent commission, allowing the agents to be creative with fees. These agents pay the broker monthly subscription dues and small closing fees.
While brokers offer this to experienced agents, they still maintain the old-style 50/50 split with newbies and low-production agents. …CONTINUED
Television goes social
Brokerages had built nice Web sites to reach folks surfing the Internet. But the big brokers have moved to television, which now offers interactive social media.
These brokerages offer local news, school and neighborhood data, together with home listings, and allow consumers to interact with the office, and others, using social media that appears on the television set.
Folks can access Twitter, Facebook and Web sites using the remote control. They can also play YouTube videos and access home tours from the couch. Many save the home tours on the DVR or TiVo.
Because television has gone social, HGTV has become the new big brokerage. The HGTV brand had built a devoted and faithful audience of consumers with television shows like "Curb Appeal," "Design on a Dime," "House Hunters" and "Property Virgins." Now it easily attracts clients. It charges a very low commission rate. It has franchised nationally and offers agents 100 percent.
3-D home tours
Homeowners grew tired of open houses, which forced them to keep the home in pristine condition, as prospective buyers and nosy neighbors tracked junk into the house and homeowners spent time out of the house.
The new augmented 3-D open house tour has helped relieve homeowners. Buyers simply put on 3-D goggles, type in an address and take virtual tours of homes, as if they were actually there. The patented home-touring gadget is used by many brokers.
Indies play the field
Real estate agents have always been independent contractors, but they have been able to work for only one broker. A Supreme Court decision allows real estate agents to work for multiple brokers.
Exclusive buyer lists
Brokers now list exclusive buyers and promote them online and in print. Buyers are attracted to these brokers and sign up as clients.
They pay brokers to be featured buyers for higher exposure. The brokers use a buyer IDX system so their list of exclusive buyers is circulated to other brokers and agents who have listings.
Joseph Ferrara is publisher of the Sellsius Real Estate Blog and a partner in TheClozing.com, a real estate news aggregator site. He is an attorney with 25 years of experience in New York, and he also coaches agents on the use of blogging and social networking.
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