Recruiting more agents is the most critical business challenge for top real estate executives, said 85 percent of the respondents in the latest Imprev Thought Leader survey, out this week.

Reaching younger agents is a priority, they said, with over 52 percent ranking “attracting younger agents” among their top concerns.

About the study

The annual Imprev Thought Leader Real Estate Confidence study, created in 2012 by Imprev, provides automated marketing services to real estate brands and aims to provide insight on key business challenges facing top executives and broker owners.

This year’s survey, conducted from October 18 to November 1, 2016, polled nearly 240 real estate leaders who represent brokerages responsible for more than half of all U.S. residential real estate transactions last year.

Economic confidence

The survey checked the economic confidence of this cohort and found that it was a bit less upbeat than the previous year.

Among respondents:

  • 30 percent thought the economy would improve in 2017, compared with 45 percent last year
  • 44 percent thought it would remain the same, the same percentage as last year
  • 24 percent believed it would deteriorate, compared with 9 percent last year

In terms of the housing market, 74 percent were somewhat confident and 21 percent very confident about it for the next year.

Almost half (49 percent) were somewhat confident that their real estate brokerage would be more profitable in the next 12 months and 39 percent very confident of this — 12 percent not at all.

Recruiting top producers harder in healthy markets

Recruiting top producers from other brokerages has become harder in the current healthy market, it seems.

A Minnesota broker owner of a major franchise office said: “Recruiting is, and always has been, our biggest challenge. While we continue to grow, it’s never at the pace we want it to be.

“While recruiting younger, less-experienced agents has improved for us this year, we’ve noticed increased difficulty in recruiting the top talent.”

Another independent brokerage owner bemoaned her ability to compete with the rates at larger brokerages when trying to attract top producers, while the leader of a smaller Southern Californian brokerage said her top recruiting challenge was being able to offer agents alternative motivation to stay or join her firm.

“We are a family-run boutique business and cannot compete with the money of the heavily-backed firms,” she said.

Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of real estate brokerage leaders, meanwhile, said they were “very confident” about retaining their top agents in 2017. Over one-third (35 percent) of the leaders said they were “somewhat confident.”

The problem, said a South Florida broker owner, is that “retention and a competitive environment reduces profits, and that makes recruiting difficult.”

Agent productivity with the help of technology

Agent productivity was another key concern, according to top real estate executives and broker owners in the survey, with 44 percent of participants ranking “getting agents to use broker-provided technology” as their next critical business concern.

These concerns ranked well above lead generation and lead follow-up, at 34 percent and 36 percent, respectively.

One California brokerage owner said they struggled to get “user adoption of tools that would help agents communicate with their clients.”

One Dallas brokerage owner had the desired technology but was still working on getting agents to adopt it.

“We feel confident in our technology we have in place; we (just) need to continue to teach and train for this technology.”

Progress yet to come on agent adoption of technology

There is no doubt leaders and broker owners would like to see better adoption of their carefully chosen agent technology.

Renwick Congdon

Renwick Congdon

“Real estate leaders clearly believe that the technology they provide to their agents is widely underused,” said Renwick Congdon, CEO of Imprev.

How does the industry begin to improve agent adoption, he asked? “By reducing complexity. Systems need to seamlessly fit into the agent’s business and process. Integrated and connected platforms — rather than apps and standalone solutions — are imperative to successfully compete with the portals.”

More than half of survey respondents ranked “getting our systems to work together” as their most critical technology challenge for 2017.

Brokerage owners said that while they might feel they have their technology in place, they were still working to make it all come together.

One Houston, Texas broker, running a major franchise office said his goal in 2017 was to see “seamless integration of the transaction, from agent to corporate to closing, and simplified use of mobile devices to enter all data across the company.”

It’s a struggle to have “technology that is cohesive,” added a broker owner from a top Southwestern Florida brokerage.

Pressure to compete with real estate portals

Being competitive with the portals was another concern expressed by respondents.

Specifically, having “systems for more effectively competing against the real estate portals for generating leads” (44 percent) and “increasing mobile capabilities for agents” (36 percent) were seen as important.

On the subject of lead generation, the Imprev Thought Leader research found in 2015, that more than one-third cited “ensuring lead follow-up by agents” (36 percent) and “providing more leads for agents” (35 percent) as among their top critical business challenges.

The findings for critical business challenges related to lead generation in 2016 are nearly identical: More than one-third of real estate leaders cited “ensuring lead follow-up by agents” (38 percent) and “providing better quality leads for agents” (34 percent) as top issues.

A Seattle-area broker owner cited the need to get “agents to plug into our systems and models and actually doing lead generating.”

And above all, these senior real estate professionals are going to be working hard not to have any nasty surprises sprung on them this year.

“We will be ensuring that we remain relevant to our agents and that we are leading them toward the future, rather than having the future ‘happen’ and we weren’t prepared,”  vowed a Nevada franchise broker-owner.

Email Gill South.

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