It can be hard to see the entirety of our industry and the consumers we serve. We all tend to be very focused on what is right around us. At the same time, our industry is changing and increasingly challenged to keep up with the many new expectations of homebuyers and sellers.

  • Agents need their competitors.
  • Every market isn't totally unique.
  • Buyers care less and less about brokerage offices.

Some things impact our work and personal lives, and we don’t notice them. They are just “normal,” or they are things we never really noticed before for some reason.

My duties as CEO of a multi-state real estate company have allowed me a unique opportunity. I’ve spent months studying the real estate industry from a grassroots level and assembled this information for an unusually encompassing high-level view.

In the past four years, I’ve had long conversations with hundreds of real estate agents (most of whom are not our licensed agents) in multiple states.

I’m still traveling, meeting and learning. However, from these conversations, here are three oddities, or really “thought patterns,” that emerged and opportunities that arise when you recognize them:

1. Agents need their competitors

I am surprised by the odd facial expressions when I say to real estate agents, “Real estate is the only major industry where you do deals and earn your income by frequently working with your direct competitor.”

Although this is behavior is very obvious (especially when plainly stated), apparently many real estate professionals have never before considered their work from this perspective.

Two agents compete for a listing. Some time later, one agent brings a buyer to the other agent’s listing. Both agents work together to help the seller and buyer have a successful transaction.

This cooperative competition is why our company finds it critically important to meet a number of agents in any new market we enter.

Maybe they’ll be “like-minded” agents and join our brokerage, or maybe not. However, at the very least, we’ll be on opposite sides of deals, both helping clients.

The opportunity: Agents should remember that all local agents are not just competing with each other; they are also competing with other markets and other uses of buyers’ cash.

Work to always be better at cooperating with (and even assisting) other agents in your market. Many (granted, not all) will appreciate it. And together you’ll all serve more clients, serve them better and make more money.

2. Every market isn’t unique

I’m sure you’ve heard, “You know, our market here is ‘just different.'”

The idea that each market is unique is a myth of sorts. But in every single market, there’s an abstract understanding that there’s nothing like it out there.

I’ll grant that each market has unique aspects. However, if you look strongly at a large number of markets at once, you’ll find many are very similar. They might be a thousand miles apart, but they are remarkably the same.

I believe one reason so many agents think this way is because their market has marked differences from adjacent markets.

As agents interact with others in close geographic proximity, they realize many differences between the markets (which might simply be as basic as an adjacent neighborhood).

That said, I contend what is really meant by agents who think this way is, “I know my neighborhoods well, and agents from outside don’t (and they mess up deals here because of that).”

This does not mean the local market is that unique. It means uneducated agents create problems. And claiming uniqueness is a more politically correct way to explain the problem.

The opportunity: When convinced a market is truly unique, agents forget to learn from other agents.

They more easily miss the chance to learn service and marketing lessons from similar markets. This might include marketing ideas, customer service habits or improvements in efficiency.

3. Buyers care less and less about brokerage offices

I find mixed views from agents about the benefit of brokerage offices. Some admit they don’t visit the office much. They choose to spend that time where buyers and sellers frequent. Or they have other reasons.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are agents who love their office. They not only love their office, but they also swear that buyers and sellers love their office, too.

I’ve had some agents tell me, “You will never survive here without a visible office location” (which has repeatedly proven false).

I think that is something of a self-fulfilling and filtered thought. If you tell buyers to meet you at your office first, most people are polite and will do as told.

However, the appearance of these clients at the office does not mean they share the same love of the office. It means they are good at following directions and like to be cooperative.

I can make a decent argument for both sides of this view about offices, except our data repeatedly shows that in each market, there are an increasingly large number of buyers and sellers who prefer to skip a visit to the brokerage office. They just want to get on with the business at hand, be it buying or listing.

The opportunity: In today’s world, real estate agents can provide great service everywhere. Although an office can provide opportunities, these opportunities are diminishing as consumer behavior shifts to time preservation and increased convenience.

The successful agents are those who provide great, consistent service — not the best office environment. Don’t get mentally stuck in your thinking about consumer behavior.

It can be hard to see the entirety of the real estate industry and the consumers we serve. We can all tend to be very focused on what is right around us.

At the same time, the real estate industry is changing and increasingly challenged to keep up with the many new expectations of homebuyers and sellers.

If you look back several decades, it is more obvious how much real estate has changed. More change is coming in the future, and it is coming fast.

The better we see ourselves (personally and as an industry), the better positioned we’ll be to serve and prosper. So learn to see the oddities and then leverage the opportunities they present.

Glenn S. Phillips is the CEO of Lake Homes Realty, a full-service multi-state brokerage. You can connect with or follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Email Glenn S. Phillips.

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