Who’s responsible for the shaky financial well-being of real estate agents?
At Inman Connect Las Vegas’ CEO Connect on Tuesday afternoon, three real estate executives sought to answer that question during a panel entitled “Agent Financial Well Being: What Do Good Agents Want and Deserve?”
“I believe it’s the responsibility of the brokerage that the agents are with,” said Chris Heller, newly with OJO Labs as the AI startup’s chief real estate officer. “Many agents don’t understand their P&L [profit & loss statement], don’t understand their finances, and they get in trouble and now they can’t pay their taxes the next year. It’s the responsibility of the brokerage to help those agents not end up there in the first place.”
The panelists, conversing with moderator Brandon Green of Keller Williams Capital Properties, agreed that individual agents share culpability for their financial life and decisions, but that brokerages, industry associations and others can be doing more to help agents learn the financial skills that aren’t routinely taught in schools or in the workplace. The tactical nature of just how best to do that dominated the rest of the session.
“We have an agent network of 50,000 agents, and we asked them, what do agents want?” said Sanya Gurnani, co-founder of Radius, a social network for real estate agents. “The biggest thing that came up, as much as steady leads did, is agents said they want personal financial training. Agents want to be independent and we need to enable that for them.”
Raj Bhaskar, whose Hurdlr app facilitates automatic business expense tracking and realtime P&Ls across many industries, compared real estate agents to the free agent status of Uber and Lyft drivers.
“Uber is launching Uber Pro, which offers a different level of benefits,” he said. “They recognize that drivers who drive the most for them are the most valuable. In real estate, the focus from most of the stakeholders is the top of the funnel, marketing and lead-gen.”
But, he added, “I’ve seen brokerages make healthcare available to their agents — not paying for it, but making it easy for the agents to choose. The bottom line is, agents are running their own businesses, so everyone has to be a good business person.”
Heller summed up, “The way to lose a real estate conversation is to talk about money or health. No one wants to talk about them. We can continue on the path we’re on — no one is jumping out windows. But if we really want to see change happen, it only happens with decisive and massive action. The status quo rarely ever works in trying to create new habits or change.”
The following session at CEO Connect, titled “How to Make Your Agent Network Work Like Uber,” came at the topic of agent growth and satisfaction from a different angle.
“Uber controls the process,” Boomsma said. “I can now find an Uber driver, because they’re all working together to find me. You are both doing a lot of things to affect the quality of your service. How do you make sure agents deliver quality and consistency?”
Daly and Yates cited good lead management, the importance of the customer experience and the continued hard work on getting agents to adopt systems that work for them as among the key answers.