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Although the real estate industry — and the world — have recently been through a period of significant upheaval and change, M. Ryan Gorman, CEO of Coldwell Banker, told Clelia Peters during a session at Inman Connect on Wednesday that, at its core, the industry is still the same people business it’s always been.
“Going into the pandemic, it seemed to many, I think, like everything was going to change,” Gorman said. “And to an extent, a lot did, but a lot of the fundamentals stayed the same. This is kind of true in every crisis.”
Although agents and consumers alike have potentially had to learn how to use new digital tools, the way that agents and their clients interact at a human level with one another remains the same. At the end of the day, agents are still just trying to employ thoughtfulness, empathy and listening skills in order to understand a client’s needs.
“[The] fundamentals, I think, are really sound,” Gorman said.
Because the nature of the industry has remained relatively stable over the years, Gorman added that onlookers from tech industries in Silicon Valley might see real estate professionals as resistant to change.
“It can seem sometimes like those of us in the industry are just hide-bound and we don’t get it,” Gorman said. “And yet, when they go to purchase a home, they inevitably they look for a great, trusted advisor who seems to know their stuff and seems to fit well with them.”
Peters added that the technological advances occurring in the industry have largely developed with the real estate agent still playing a central role in facilitating the use of new technology to the consumer.
“The different models that are coming to market right now that are successful are all things that basically surround a human advisor with different services,” Peters said.
At Coldwell Banker, Gorman said a primary focus of the company is to raise expectations at multiple levels, and part of that process is agents working to future-proof their business by learning the ins and outs of new technology as it becomes available so that they can present new options to clients in an effort to serve them in the best way possible.
“Those who are trying to future-proof their business really need to think about what’s on the horizon,” Gorman said. “Now suddenly you took someone who was scared of an industry evolution, and you positioned them as the subject matter expert who can take the world and put it into context for their client.”
“I now trust that [my agent] knows everything on the horizon and will be able to guide me no matter what comes up,” he added.
Rather than erasing the agent’s role, Gorman said, new tech offerings in the industry may amplify the agent’s role as a guide to the consumer.
“The more movement and dynamism seems to exist, the more consumers can appreciate having that advice,” he said.
In terms of preparing for whatever kind of future may await, Gorman said savvy agents should focus on two primary things: 1) Adopting tools that “truly give you greater efficiency” and give you time back, and 2) using tools that will delight clients with their ease or surprising elements.
As every aspect of the real estate deal becomes more seamlessly digital, more companies may be trying to find ways to make every part of the transaction available through their own platform. But Gorman said that’s not Coldwell Banker’s goal.
“I care less about someone completing every aspect of the process on Coldwell Banker’s platform, and more about it feeling to the consumer as though it’s one fluid experience throughout,” Gorman said.
“We are a true and deep believer in the open ecosystem.”
As technology continues to develop over the next five or ten years, Gorman said plenty of industries stand to be disrupted significantly, but real estate professionals who choose to future-proof their business now will continue to thrive, even if changes in the industry lead to “defragmentation” and “more consolidation.”
“I think that’s going to make the winners win even more,” Gorman said. “It’s not going to be a winner take all, but it’s going to be a winner take most.”
“It just reinforces to me that the future is bright, but you gotta pay attention and you can’t expect nothing to change — you’ve got to future-proof your own business,” Gorman added.