The star broker said at Inman Connect New York Tuesday that the industry hasn’t fundamentally improved enough, which makes him fear the past’s mistakes will be repeated.

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Real estate has a problem, broker and reality TV star Ryan Serhant proclaimed Tuesday.

“The real estate brokerage business follows trends,” Serhant said while on stage at Inman Connect New York.

To prove his point, he brought up a powerpoint slide showing a host of buzzy-but-generic terms that have proliferated in real estate lately. A moment later, he showed a slide cluttered with technology platforms that promise to make real estate better — though the point seemed, in fact, to be the clutter itself.

“As long as others are doing it, we like to white label it,” Serhant added at another point.

He went on to contrast real estate with other industries. Medicine, for instance, has grown far more capable of diagnosing and curing diseases. In aerospace, Serhant noted, “We have reusable rockets now.” Even the automotive industry is better these days and is creating cars that remember the preferences of their drivers.

The real estate industry has tended to be reactive, following trends but not fundamentally changing or improving in the way other fields have in recent years, Serhant added. He said real estate’s failure to make deep improvements actually scares him, given the array of challenges such as low inventory, commission lawsuits, affordability problems and the like.

“I’m afraid we’re going to continue to make the same mistakes,” he said, adding at another point that, “We jump on trends, but we don’t actually push the industry forward.”

Ryan Serhant

Ryan Serhant at Inman Connect New York. Credit: AJ Canaria Creative Services

Serhant presented at Connect for about 20 minutes, and the first part of his speech mostly focused on diagnosing the industry’s problems. From there, however, he did offer some solutions, one of which was a new technology product that his brokerage, SERHANT., is building. The platform is called S.MPLE, and Serhant said that, among other things, it is “using AI in ways that I think everybody else is missing.”

Serhant went on to show off several screenshots of the tool’s interface, though he acknowledged that he “doesn’t know what happens tomorrow,” and there could also be other ways to push the industry forward in meaningful ways that other people will come up with.

The presentation also included some history of Serhant’s career, which he said began the same day financial firm Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy — a critical event in the march toward the Great Recession. Later, in 2017, Serhant began interviewing at brokerages to see if any would be a good fit. They weren’t, however, because all of their pitches basically boiled down to, “Come to us and we’re going to make you great,” he recalled.

“My response was, ‘I already think I’m pretty great,'” Serhant said. “I don’t think I need you to make me great.”

He explained that many brokers didn’t understand what it was like to be an agent and have empty open houses or months without a closed deal. What he wanted, in other words, wasn’t a brokerage that would make him great, but a brokerage that would be great for him.

“I was meeting with all these people who don’t actually do what we do, who aren’t actually agents in the field,” Serhant recalled.

In the end, Serhant launched his own brokerage in 2020. He said that, at the time, he asked numerous people if branching out on his own was a good idea. Some mistook him for famous media presenter Ryan Seacrest, and the responses were generally that starting a brokerage was a bad move — something Serhant opted to interpret as a “hard yes” that his idea was a good one.

Looking forward, Serhant expressed some optimism about the future — fears about a lack of innovation notwithstanding — and argued that “markets should never dictate your outcome, markets should dictate your strategy.”

He also predicted agents would stick around for a long time.

“Until a house sells itself to another house,” Serhant said, “we’re going to be here.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

Ryan Serhant
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