From iBuyers and disruptors to niches and relationships — and everything in between — Inman Connect New York 2019 covered every hot real estate topic under the sun. Here are one indie broker’s top five takeaways from the event.

Inman Connect New York is repeatedly one of the highlights of my conference schedule for the year. I’m always excited to head into the city for the fast-paced, intellectually stimulating and thoroughly exhausting week. By the end of ICNY 19, my mind was full of new ideas to bring home to my real estate brokerage. Here’s my list of top takeaways from Inman Connect New York 2019.

1. iBuyers

Everyone’s talking about iBuyers — they were a major topic in 2018, and they are still on our radar in 2019. Homebuyers are not only online searching the portals — some also want to buy and complete the whole transaction online.

Speakers last year mentioned how complicated the homebuying and selling process is, and that the goal of some upstart companies is to “remove friction” from the transaction. In some cases that means removing the agent — or middle man — from the process.

On the seller side, companies are popping up that offer to buy a seller’s house outright and help them buy their next house. Others solicit listing proposals from multiple agents and investors to allow the seller to decide which path is best for them. A year ago, it was real estate giants like Zillow and Opendoor that took over iBuyer headlines, but this year we’ve learned that some franchises and even indie brokers are jumping on board.

Boston’s Anthony Lamacchia is one broker on the forefront of jumping on the trend. Search Inman’s archives and you’ll find dozens of articles in the past year on this topic. It’s not going away any time soon, so pay attention.

2. Disruption

Besides “iBuyers,” the second most used buzzword I heard over the past year was “disruption.” This isn’t new, but it has reached an almost panic level as of late.

Over 40 years ago, when RE/MAX and Realty Executives pioneered the “100 percent” concept, traditional brokerages called them disrupters. When Keller Williams debuted their business model it was an industry disruption. Every time a new business model appears — or a company challenges the status quo — it’s a potential disruption.

The internet has only accelerated that trend, and there will always be a segment of buyers and sellers who want to simply buy or sell a house without the so-called “friction” that fills the process.

But buying or selling a house is not like buying an airline ticket or car — it’s damn complicated. From finding the right home and navigating inspections, to financing and handling the emotional turbulence and negotiations, homebuying can be a bit of a roller coaster. Our industry will change with time, though, and anyone who believes it’ll be the same in 10 years needs to be reminded of the phrase “MLS books.”

We are not special or immune to change. I have a friend in the car business who was crying the “disruptor blues” the other day because car buyers can now attend what were dealer-only auctions and are buying from mega car retailers rather than his corner lot; and a friend in the dairy cow business is going through the same thing — same story, different industry.

Good brokers and agents will find ways to adapt and compete — or they will go out of business. Change is the only constant (even the ancient Greeks knew this). Stop your whining, build those relationships and be relentless. 

3. Niches

The adage “riches in niches” still holds true. I’ve always believed in this and heard it more than once at conferences. If you brand yourself to appeal to everyone you may end up appealing to few. Instead, find your sweet spot — your ideal client.

Who do you enjoy working with the most? What neighborhoods do you know best? What type of buyer or seller do you seem to attract? All of your marketing should aim for that ideal client, and not at the masses.

4. Thumbstopping

I love the word “thumbstopping.” In today’s increasingly mobile environment (desktops are becoming dinosaurs) we need to be creating content that stops people in their tracks as they thumb through their emails or newsfeed. That means high quality photos, snappy graphics, and catchy tag lines that make the consumer pause and not just keep on scrolling.

In today’s world of short attention spans you only have seconds to capture someone’s attention and stop them from moving on to the next item in their feed.

5. Relationships rock

This isn’t brain surgery, so why do so many agents chase the new lead and ignore their old clients? It’s easy (but expensive) to buy ZIP codes and leads. It’s so much better to pay attention to the clients you’ve already closed and your sphere, but few agents seem to do this.

They close a transaction and may send a closing gift, but that’s about it. Instead of seeing the closing as the end of a deal, consider it just one more step on a journey to building a solid relationship with that person. Stop in and see the changes they’ve made to the house. Send market updates so they know what’s going on in the neighborhood for pricing. Call them occasionally just to check in and see how they are doing. Too many of us spend time chasing the shiny new tech toys and don’t pay attention to what — and who — is right in front of us: our past and present clients. 

According to National Association of Realtors (NAR) statistics, 70 percent of buyers say they would use the same agent again in the future, but only 25 percent do. If you simply keep in touch you’ll be top of mind when they do need an agent again, instead of being one of the forgotten. The goal should be to not just sell a house and close a deal; it should be to build relationships that naturally lead to multiple transactions and referrals.

Most Inman best tips or takeaways articles mention that the new relationships formed and friendships renewed can be the best part of Connect, so I’m not forging new ground there. While the sessions as a whole are important, some of the most meaningful interactions happen in the hallways or over a shared meal.

Inman Ambassadors pre-conference urged attendees to never eat alone, and this is my top tip to future attendees. I made several new contacts in the past year that I already have followed up on and know I will keep in touch with in the future. If you go to a Connect conference you will come home enriched with new friends and a brain full of ideas to process.

Now’s the time time to implement the strategies learned from the speakers and other attendees.

Erica Ramus, MRE, is the broker/owner of RAMUS Real Estate. You can follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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