For several decades, the real estate industry has focused its attention on emerging technologies, and more recently the benefits of digitization. In 2020, that pace of change moved faster than ever, and the growth of digitization in the real estate process grew exponentially. So, too, did the growth of virtual real estate agents.
For brokers, powering digital experiences and partnering with the virtual agent of tomorrow presents many challenges. In fact, Harvard Business Review recently reported that 40% of managers have low self-confidence in their ability to manage workers remotely, and more than a third (38%) believe remote workers usually perform worse than those in an office.
Contrary to the Harvard findings, and anecdotal evidence from conversations with others in the business of real estate, my experience building a brokerage behind one brick-and-mortar office proves there are opportunities for value creation, stronger relationships and a more effective team of virtual agents. Of course, there have been some learnings, and together with my partner, Brenda Mandel, we have overcome numerous challenges. To follow are three things brokers should focus on in order to turn virtual agent challenges into opportunities.
Personalized Communications and Fewer Offices
I started my company 22 years ago and quickly grew to nine offices. Flash forward to today where I have only one office. A major benefit of getting rid of most of our physical spaces and working with fewer offices was the ability to offer higher commissions with the cost savings and move as fast as any one member of the team.
This personalization of speed and convenience is driven by communications. We know people learn in different ways, so offer a comprehensive approach to communications for agents to connect and engage with you. Choose apps, bots and online chat support as well as the more traditional phone call conversations, texting and an office number that rings central to all phones.
Hire a Director of Agent Experience
After implementing a comprehensive communications strategy, the next best step is to hire what a “Director of Agent Experiences.” With about 500 agents statewide, we learned that this role is necessary to level out expectations from us to them and them to us. We get rid of that ‘messy middle,’ you know, the time it takes to complete tasks that seem longer than they should or that change inherently a part of the transaction process. It’s a great way to serve virtual real estate agents.
Let’s face it, most agents don’t want to call the broker or owner, but when they have a direct line to a professional they can rely on and trust, and who addresses and supports their unique challenges, it’s a win-win for everyone (and a value proposition in our recruitment efforts). Be proactive. Don’t sit idly by. Schedule regular touch points and one-on-one discussions. Get to know your agents personally and professionally, and share knowledge and research that addresses their pain points or those of their clients. It saves them time and heartache.
Customize Support For Each Agent
We’re a “big, small company”, a juxtaposition that defines our culture and helps us to attract and keep top sales professionals. As leaders, it’s not our role to tell virtual real estate agents what to do but to show them, via our daily actions. We must live up to that ideal every day. That way, they have the support they need to reach their individual real estate agent story and success.
No two agents are alike. They are all at a different phase in their careers so, accordingly, you can’t provide a one-stop shop where everybody must do the same thing at the same time. There are five of us headquartered here in the office who are 100% involved in partnering with them on a personalized level. Our mission is to individualize our culture for each agent based on what they want from us and our office.
Both Brenda and I wake up every day loving the work that we do to get agents to that next level, however they personally define it. We are excited about changes in the business, including the growth of virtual agents. There are challenges, but by personalizing communications, services and our culture, we can turn them into opportunities.
Tony Geraci is president and CEO of CENTURY 21 HomeStar in Solon, Ohio.