Consumers are more empowered than ever today, but real estate industry leaders still believe agents will be able to thrive over the next decade.

Change. Disruption. Empowered consumers.

These are the things that are going to dominate the next decade in real estate, according to Sherry Chris and Mark McDonough.

Chris, president and CEO of Realogy Expansion Brands, and McDonough, president of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Winans, both spoke Tuesday afternoon at Inman Connect New York. And in a session called Top Trends for the New Decade, the two industry leaders said that there was good news for agents, and news that could potentially be more challenging. 

In the good news category, McDonough said that agents aren’t going away. Though consumers now come to the real estate transaction with more data, more knowledge and more power generally, they still want professionals to help guide them through the process. To remain relevant, then, those professionals need to help meet consumers’ growing needs for more speed and efficiency.

“Empowered consumers will always pay for service,” he argued.

Mark McDonough at Inman Connect Tuesday. Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic / Inside Real Estate

Chris also said during the session that today’s consumers are also interested in lifestyle and community, meaning agents need to craft high-quality content that foregrounds those qualities. She referred to the rising generation of consumers as the “HGTV-generation,” alluding to the television network that has found massive success with real estate programming.

“It really is shifting the game, in my opinion, significantly,” Chris added of newer consumers’ preferences.

All of this is pretty positive stuff. Consumers might be evolving, but the take away is that agents are still needed.

However, challenges lie ahead as well.

Chris said that in particular, the same kinds of changes and disruption that have dominated recent years will continue in the future. And that “change will continue at an accelerated pace.”

“We have had an awful lot of change,” Chris said. “We have had what some people would call disruption. Some people would call it fun. But not everyone would call it fun.”

Sherry Chris at Inman Connect Tuesday. Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic / Inside Real Estate

Chris went on to mention a number of changes that have arisen recently — things like iBuyers, for example — and argued that going forward the industry will see a “bifurcation” of agents. What that means is that there will be some agents who offer limited services, and those that offer more traditional full-service.

And while many real estate professionals have watched with frustration as things like flat-fee brokerages and discount brokers eat market share, Chris said these developments aren’t all bad.

“We need to embrace change, I love it because we learn from them,” she said, advising agents a moment later to “Find your niche. Be good at it. Be great at it. And your clients will come.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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