Nick Bailey, the chief customer officer at RE/MAX discusses sorting through the noise of disruption in the real estate industry at ICNY.

Zillow’s polarizing Zestimate tool is among a series of growing conflicts between agents and consumers, said Nick Bailey, the chief customer officer at RE/MAX, during a talk Tuesday at Inman Connect.

nick bailey

Nick Bailey | Photo credit: RE/MAX

Bailey, in a discussion with Joe Rand, managing partner and general counsel of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, insisted there’s no greater evidence of that than how the Zillow tool is loved by consumers yet loathed by agents.

“We have this conflict going on between what you, the agents, want and what the consumers want,” Bailey, a former executive at both Zillow and Century 21, said. “We’re in conflict.”

“I can sum it up in one word: Zestimate,” Bailey added.

The genesis of that conflict arrived when the responsibilities of the agent flipped with those of the consumer. From the days of multiple listing service books, it was the consumer who went to the agent to find a property. Now, the consumer finds the home and goes to the agent.

“The agent and the house have flipped positions in this formula and that’s what’s creating all this noise,” Bailey said.

But sellers and buyers are simply looking for better experiences. “Customer service,” is a dead term, according to Bailey. Take the iBuyer, for example. It’s created a better experience for consumers and pushed the agents to adopt and adapt.

Not every house will be bought for cash, but agents can learn from the consumer experience what iBuyer platforms offer while applying those learnings to houses that won’t be sold for cash.

How leads are handled is yet another area where a gap exists between agents and consumers. The business of leads has changed as lead technology has grown parallel to the internet, Rand said.

Joe Rand | Photo credit: BHGRE

“I’ve said a million times, for 20 years we’ve had innovation in real estate based on the internet,” Rand said. “We brought inventory to the internet — that was a huge innovation, we could look at properties online — but all of the innovation has been about trying to attract eyeballs to websites to convert into leads, not about the experience someone has after they start working with a client.”

“We’ve not put the energy and the money and the thought into improving the consumer experience until very recently,” Rand added.

To that point, according to Bailey, there’s a gap between how brokerages do things and what’s really in the best interest of the consumer.

“We set rules for our business that are not intended for the buyer and seller experience,” Bailey said. “Leads come into your company and we say, let’s have the listing agent have a shot at that lead first and if they are busy we’ll round-robin it to someone else.”

“Is that what the consumer wants today?” Bailey asked. “The consumer wants someone to answer the phone.”

It’s something that would never have been done years ago, when a client came into the office, Bailey added. If someone came into the office to ask about a listing, the brokerage never would have told them to sit and wait four hours until the listing agent got back to them, but that’s what brokerages do now when a client reaches out about a listing online.

To the overall point of disruption in the industry, Bailey was confident in saying agents are, and will be in his lifetime, the most important part of the transaction. That of course, hasn’t stopped them from being worried about the noise of disruption.

“We as agents, if there’s not a boogeyman, we’ll make one up,” Bailey said. “It’s kind of how we operate.”

Email Patrick Kearns

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