Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent the past six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column publishes every Wednesday.
Rob Hahn’s done it for a long time. Brad Inman does it, and his name is splayed across the banner of the site you’re on right now. Lots of people do it, and while I’m not typically one to jump into something just because others are, the simple fact is: 2019 is here, and like many real estate gurus, I’ve gathered a number of predictions I suspect will come true in the next 12 months.
Disclaimer: These are my predictions, based on what I read, things I know, people I’ve talked to and complete whimsy. If reviewed at year-end, it’s quite likely none will have come close to reality. Take it for what it’s worth.
In no particular order of importance, likelihood of happening, or anything other than the way they fell out of my head into the keyboard, here are my predictions for 2019.
1. Some sea of sameness
You will continue to see these companies in Inman and industry headlines: Compass, Keller Williams, Redfin, eXp, Zillow, Some Dominant iBuyer.
Why? Because they are big, well-funded, different at times, amazingly obtuse at others, have the attention of both consumers and industry insiders, and mentioning them drives clicks and engagement and other stuff that media sites, influencers, conspiracy theorists and more want to see.
2. A new player will pop up
The venture capital (VC) money flowing into real estate won’t stop in 2019. Current VC darlings, such as Compass and Opendoor, will have new rounds. And someone — someone currently on no one’s radar — will get a big Series A round and be engulfed in the media spotlight.
I have no idea who this will be — no one does, that’s the point. The only thing we know is they’ll be trying to disrupt something, put downward pressure on commission, and/or ease consumer pain.
3. iBuyer break out
One or two companies will break out and begin to separate themselves from all iBuyer-type businesses. Opendoor, Offerpad and Knock seem to currently reign in the “iBuyer only” realm, while Redfin and Zillow Group dominate among those that are “iBuyers in addition to” some other revenue stream.
While there will be new entrants into the field, I think we’ll see Opendoor and Zillow Group start to pull ahead. Opendoor because of its first adopter advantage, VC funding and apparently smart leadership; Zillow Group because of its brand domination and what I know is brilliant leadership.
We will also continue to see brokerages implementing their own iBuyer service. Whether it’s a behemoth like Realogy, or the smart independents like Lamacchia Realty, those that realize some sellers want and benefit from an iBuyer-like transaction will be implementing and fine-tuning their own services.
4. iBuyer market share
Despite the buzz and the VC money, iBuyers aren’t going to eliminate agents and brokers. They aren’t even going to have much impact on traditional real estate, overall. IBuyer market share will top out at 10 percent of the markets they play in — maybe by the end of 2019.
And they won’t play in every market, ever.
5. National Association of Realtors (NAR)
One of the favorite targets of those who spend too much time blaming and complaining instead of focusing on their own business, NAR will continue to have every move scrutinized, over-analyzed and rejected. Yet the staff and dedicated volunteers will march on.
6. Successful agents and brokers
2019, just like every year in the past and those to come, will see thousands of agents achieve wild success. Conversely, thousands of unsuccessful agents will leave the business.
The key trait for the successful crowd doesn’t change in 2019. It remains providing superior customer service, offering value and knowing your market inside and out. It’s been that way for decades. The technology invasion doesn’t change the basics, nor does it threaten those who master them. Actually, technology benefits those who leverage it.
Finally, to the agents, brokers, vendors and others out there: Enjoy who you associate with, build relationships, push yourself out of your comfort zone a little and good things can happen.
Happy New Year, folks. May you find good health, prosperity and peace.
Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree in Seattle, as well as the mastermind behind Now Pondering. Follow him on Facebook or Instagram. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty.