At Inman Connect Now, Brad Inman shared his thoughts on how the industry has thrived through a pandemic and what’s next. Read his speech in full.

As a return to normal moves further out of reach, Inman founder Brad Inman on Tuesday challenged a digital audience at Inman Connect Now to leave the expectation of returning to normal behind.

Here’s the full transcript of his speech:

I get coffee and an Irish soda bread most mornings from the BEA Bakery in the Russian River community of Guerneville, California. The area is known for its sky-high redwoods and the quality of its red wines and its pot.

I regularly banter with the owner of BEA, Kerry, who offers mounds of wisdom in a sarcastic, straight-forward manner. We argue all the time.

Recently, she told me: “Brad this is it, this is our lives, I am not waiting for things to get better, or return to normal or be like it was. ‘Was’ is over.”

Is Kerry right? I have no clue. But I do know that unlike our dreams and our hopes, expectations can be a problem zone for human beings.

Life gets better when we let go of ideas about what we expect things to be. Those ideas get in the way of enjoying what we have. And now, more than ever, reality is really a lot more interesting than fantasy.

I start with that story because we must stay focused on what is certain. And a few things are becoming quite clear.

For one, unlike other industries, the real estate business is not only surviving, but it’s thriving in many areas in the country during these crazy times. Why?

You have an easy to get, locally made product — houses — that are not caught up in a global supply chain breakdown, like a crate of paper towels. You offer an experience everyone needs right now, unlike a first-class flight to Paris. You offer something people can actually buy, unlike a great meal in a five-star restaurant in New York City.

You are in an industry that is not littered with bankruptcies, like Hertz, Neiman Marcus and Gold’s Gym. Real estate got lucky, no one shut us down. But was it really luck? No.

Remember the debate earlier this year about essential services?  We all focused on the industry being essential but in fact it’s housing that’s essential. Too often, we try to make what we do more glamorous, more exotic and more interesting. But at its core, shelter is as necessary as the air we breathe and the water we drink. Getting people in and out of homes has never, never been more important.

Not surprisingly, right now, people are struggling to sort out their housing needs. And that is why you are essential. Confusion brings a thirst for credible information and solid advice, which is what you provide.

You make it easy for people to understand the market, explore their options, shop safely and close efficiently. An experience, in part, made possible by incredible technology innovations.

For all of the tech entrepreneurs out there in the audience, never be discouraged. Never let anyone intimidate you, we value and honor your courage, your risk and your ideas, no matter how crazy or disruptive.

Consider at one time, industry icons like Dave Liniger, Rich Barton and Adi Tatarko and many others, began just as you did with a controversial idea, no guaranteed paycheck and lots of critics.

We need your innovations to make almost every step of the virtual experience possible. Without it, this market and this industry would be less vibrant. So where does all of this leave us?

Yes, real estate is essential but it is still a hustle. And while our industry did not collapse, earning a decent living is still tricky. Deals are hard and your clients are anxious and many of them are worn out. Your value, though, has never been more obvious.

Our industry may be on the cusp of getting the respect it always deserved. So, let’s do this right. Don’t associate with the speculators, the discriminators or the greedy. Don’t puff up your chests or overstate your value; it does not show well during these times. Ethics and service are the values rewarded today.

In the end, what matters most is being there for your clients with the best service, the keenest market intelligence and the most useful technology. That is essential and that makes you essential.

Finally, on a personal note.

Last week, I stood on a wooden pier in North Lake Tahoe where 38 years ago this month I sat at the exact same spot with my mother, my dad, my Uncle Jack and my Aunt Marie. I felt a safe and warm sensation come over me as I reveled in the nostalgia of these four very important people in my life — who loved me completely and who encouraged and protected me always. Gone now, they stand behind me every day.

In many ways, life has gotten simpler to understand lately. It has offered us more clarity on what is important, what we value and even what we should do with our lives. We better understand what matters most, who we can count on, who we serve and where we should put our energy, our love and our devotion.

These aren’t expectations. But they are vital to staying strong in one of the most extraordinary moments in the history of humankind.

Email Marian McPherson

Brad Inman
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