5 August 2009

The Brokerage of the Future

The real estate industry has many detractors. Reporters, consumers, pollsters, bloggers — so many eyes inside our business, so many fingers quick to point out flaws. The volume of commentary is extensive. It dates back long before I took on the challenge of bringing a new brand to real estate.

I take the criticism to heart. But given my tenure in this industry, given the many positions I’ve held, the roles I’ve played and the two countries in which I have served the real estate industry, based on what I have witnessed, I have to admit I understand it. In fact, on many levels, I agree with it.

I know many of you do as well.

Lately, members of the real estate industry have begun to speak up on issues. We are the new composers of criticism, insiders frustrated by the past and inspired by the future. We have swept our baggage under the rug for too long. It haunts us. And prevents our companies from progressing forward.

The issues are many. But what stands out clearly for me is the reason why this particular industry has been the subject of so much controversy. It’s simple really. At the core, what we do is important. Real estate is vital to our global economy.  And it affects lives profoundly.

We have portrayed ourselves as experts. Caretakers of the most important financial decision ever. And then what? We’ve run our brokerages poorly. We’ve diluted our brands. We stood by while others outside our industry ran circles around us technologically.

Today, because of the many factors surrounding us, we recognize that change needs to happen.  And it needs to happen now.

There’s been so much talk about the brokerage of the future and its various incarnations. As a member of the “traditional industry” I wanted to do something about it. I accepted a position with the largest real estate franchisor in the world, was offered the opportunity to launch a new brand from the ground up assembled a completely different type of executive team and took steps to create a version of what a future brokerage would look like.

For us it was a mixture of convention and tradition mixed with transparency – and a healthy dose of risk.

Think about it: A real estate brand CEO blogging, Facebooking, attending Barcamps and Twittering with agents, sharing ideas, doing everything to learn about things I did not grow up with. Who would have imagined it five years ago? To be honest, not even I. And that’s the point. It’s doable. It’s real. And it’s working.

We are thinking here, out loud and publicly, about what the next steps may be. We’ve learned there are many paths, many possibilities. It is not going to be a one size fits all future. So we decided to create a place where others can join us in this thinking. It seems right. It tends to the collaborative spirit we feel the future brokerage will be about.

In the ensuing weeks and months we will be blogging about the brokerage of the future and I invite you to share, comment, borrow, question and use this information as you will.

We’re in this together.

View Sherry Chris’ Inman Presentation: Next Generation Brokerage

10 thoughts on “The Brokerage of the Future

  1. Sherry, you did it again, I cannot express how fantastic it is to see you, your young executive staff, and company moving forward over the past year. All the above that you have written is not a fad. Thanks for helping to educate our industry. They only need to remember, networking is nice when it’s real & used 2 build relationships, it’s an unnecessary annoyance, & nuisance when it’s fake. Keep bring it on. Mike

  2. The Brokerages of the Future will need to be focused on the Consumer (Client) and not on overpaying “Show Ponies” and building up the “Top Producer” mentality of the agent centric companies of days long gone. The brokerage of the future will have to be profitable.

    Those brokerages that turn their attention to the Client (Consumer) will be the successful ones in the future – they will be both large, small, and alternative in structure with that one common focus being consumer centric.

    Sherry, for a large franchise I give you a great deal of credit for thinking outside those traditional outdated methods of the past – it is very refreshing!

    I hope to meet you in the upcoming San Diego barcamp.

  3. I’ve been in this industry for about a decade on the technology side of things, and it’s given me an interesting perspective. I spent the first couple of years frustrated by what seemed to be real estate’s refusal to “get with it”. However, spending a decade working with people genuinely wanted to make things better, but who felt they were handcuffed to more traditional ways of doing things has opened my eyes a bit. It’s entirely too easy to throw stones at the establishment for those of us who aren’t the establishment. It all looks easy from the cheap seats, and transparency is just lip service until the important people start becoming part of the conversation.

    When one of the big names in RE, running one of the most traditionally important brands, starts having a frank discussion with the people reading her blog (!)–then I know things are changing, and for the better. For my part, I’ll definitely be following along and I promise to contribute where I can.

    Sherry…you got guts. I hope we get to talk a bit at one of the upcoming barcamps. Cheers.

  4. The new brokerages of the future are going to cater to the needs of the buyers by providing the internet tools that they never had before, as well as the instant communication that is now available to agents who tote the right technology. I feel that better customer service through technology is going to make our buyers happier as well as us.


  5. James, I doubt that any of the large brokers will opt for single agency over dual agency. While my Company only does single agency – either represent the Buyer or the Seller, but never both on the same transaction, it would be a huge change for large brokerages – doubt that we will see it happen. There will be smaller brokerages that make this brave choice, and it is up to the consumer to decide that it is an important consideration for them to have their own advocate.

  6. Look forward to your ‘brokerage of the future’ posts. Very refreshing and encouraging to see your aggressive entry into ‘today’s’ marketing and business models, and I hope you clean house on the brokerages waiting for things to go back to the way they were. One of the most important aspects of brokerage that has been consistently overlooked over time, IMHO, is protecting the client.

  7. As an old timer (18 years) I think the Brokerage of the future will be a melding of Old School and New. Certainly there are tremendous opportunities in technology, instant information, instant communication touching complete data bases by pushing one button…. To be ignore them would be foolish.

    I’m very active on Twitter (actually made $$$ on this year), do individual property web sites complete with video for each listing, have a network of real estate web sites optimized for different SEO in my market.

    The last 2 years have been the best I’ve ever had !!! YES

    Because I have the new tools ..

    But more importantly because I have old school service habits, old school communication (read selling) skills, I’m customer oriented and have strived to develop a business model that will be profitable.

    The brokerage of the future will have to be quick to identify and embrace innovation when there’s potential for profit … while at the same time not forgetting to continue the habits that have always worked.

    1. I think Dave makes a telling point. I’ve seen a lot of brokers spend a ton of time and money on technology while ignoring the fact that they weren’t delivering on a promise of service. CRM is just an advanced way of doing what brokers (of house, boat, nations, whatever) have done since the dawn of commerce. A website is just a functional billboard, and virtual doorway into your brokerage. Ultimately, though, these are merely tools in the bag and the success you have using them is ENTIRELY dependent on the sensibility you use bringing them to bear.

      Dave’s absolutely right about the edge that (the right!) tech can give you–it can’t be ignored. However, speaking as someone who primarily makes his living building and selling new and better tech, I’m telling you flat out that I’ve seen too many very “tech-savvy” agents, brokers, and organizations fail to make an impact in their market because they became infatuated with the tools at the expense of the more time-worn and dependable business principals of service, direction, differentiation, and integrity. Think of it this way, if you’re in a war would you rather have bigger, better gun, or smarter generals and sound tactics? All things being equal, I want both–but I know which one I ought to have first.

      Still, never hurts to have the bigger, better gun :-).

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