This winter, Inman is obsessing over leadership in real estate. We’re publishing profiles, Q&As, strategy guides, and an in-depth 5-part report on what the industry wants from its leaders. Then, on March 26-28, we’re going to gather those leaders in the California desert to digest all of these inputs and figure out where to go from here.

This is a collaborative process. Please engage with our posts, and send us feedback to And if you are a leader who wants to join us in the desert in March, or if you want to recommend a colleague, send a note to and tell us why.

James Dwiggins is the chief executive officer at NextHome, Inc., a progressive real estate franchise with consumer-focused branding, technology and marketing. NextHome focuses on collaborative partnerships and effective products for business development, growth and relevance.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with James and pick his brain about his perspective on the future of real estate leadership.

As a leader, what keeps you up at night?

The realization that our industry as a whole truly does not understand who their customer is and what they want in a real estate buying or selling experience.

Our industry has been so slow to change to consumer demands, I simply do not see a future anymore within the next five to 10 years where the agent population hasn’t been reduced to half its current level. The lack of brokerage minimum standards, agent oversight and service level has created an environment where most consumers truly don’t understand what our industry provides for the fees it charges.

This is one of the main drivers behind all the venture capital (VC) pouring into real estate. Consumers think our industry charges too much and provides little value in return — and in many cases, it’s true.

We’ve all heard the stories from friends and family about these bad real estate experiences all too often. And frankly, when most brokerages continue to focus their agents’ attention on fees, splits, revenue share, etc., versus whatever it takes to increase their consumer value proposition, you know they’re either oblivious to the reality they’re facing or are choosing to ignore it.

Every real estate broker and agent must be heavily focused on how their brand is perceived in the market, and making sure their marketing, their service level, their advertising and their technology are all clearly understood and valued by today’s consumer.

Everything needs to be about making sure consumers want to choose them versus going it alone or using an alternative business model like Opendoor, OfferPad, RoofStock or even discount models like Redfin or Purplebricks. These companies are not going away and have significant money to compete and take market share. They’re already doing it!

It’s amazing to me that most leadership teams are focused on commission splits and technology to recruit/retain agents as a way to stay relevant. My biggest fear is that leadership in most real estate brokerages, and franchisors, are not changing fast enough. We continue to have conversations about compensation without getting real estate company leadership focused on the right things.

If you could change one thing in real estate, what would it be?

Consolidate all the multiple listing services (MLSs) down to 50 statewide systems. The amount of money it would save franchisors, brokerages, agents and technology companies wanting to build amazing products for our industry would be substantial. The only reason we’re not there is politics and brokerages/agents not forcing these mergers to happen faster. This should have occurred long ago.

How have your expectations of your management team changed over the past two years?

They haven’t. I’m truly blessed to have the opportunity to work with some of the brightest minds in the business. From day one, we started NextHome with the goal of making our brokerages and agents the central and most important part of every real estate transaction for consumers.

Everything we do is built around what buyers and sellers want from their agents and a real estate buying or selling experience. Never have we been more focused on that core mission than today. Our team is very passionate about it, and we push each other and our members to be better each and every day.

How do you keep your team competitive?

We go into every conversation or meeting looking for the best idea or ways to make any idea great. There are no egos allowed — it’s that simple.

Our team is extremely passionate about achieving the goals we set each year and, more importantly, making sure our members love working with us, and their clients love working with them.

We want to see this great profession succeed into the future and have the real estate agent reputation be known as a professional one. That’s all the competition we need.

With so much disruption in real estate, what’s your best advice for managing change?

Focus on the consumer. Get a group of buyers and sellers together who are willing to give you honest feedback on anything you’re trying or thinking of implementing.

Embrace change. Make it part of your company culture and who you are. Get rid of people who fight it, and bring in people who love it.

Make sure your primary goal is to increase the value proposition of your brokerage and what you provide your agents. They are your voice to consumers and if they don’t have an amazing value proposition and experience to provide, you (and they) will ultimately fail.

Change is hard — it’s the thing we fear most. However, if you create a safe environment where people learn to love it, you will succeed in the long run.

Want to connect with James? You can find him on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Email Matthew Shadbolt

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