REAL Trends Editor in Chief, Tracey Velt Interviews Nick Bailey, President and CEO of Century 21 Real Estate LLC. They discuss where his passion for real estate came from (beginning at age 10!!), the significance behind the number ’21’ and how his past real estate leadership roles with Zillow, Trulia and Market Leader have prepared him for C21.
Tell me a little bit about how you got into real estate. I know you were an agent with Century 21 years ago. So what prompted you to get into real estate and transition into other careers?
Real estate started for me when I was very young. Even to the point of single digit, 10 years old type of thing. I just always had a fascination for housing and real estate and I lived in an area at the time that had a lot of new construction and I used to just wander through new houses. So, I’ve just always had a love for real estate, even from the physical presence of it. But that translated over the years when I had an opportunity to invest in commercial real estate. When I was 17, I bought two commercial properties. After I graduated from high school, before I went to college, I bought my first house at 18. So those were, those initial first steps that really got me hooked. I knew real estate was going to be in my blood for years to come.
From there, I ended up getting licensed at 21 while I was going to college. What’s ironic about that is, I was 21 years old when I got licensed. I started with Century 21, and literally fast forward 21 years to the day, August 16, 2017 I stood in front of the employees and they announced my new role with Century 21. So, just ironic how many 21s were in there and it was probably somewhat meant to be.
You said you were fascinated at age 10, and you lived in a new construction area, but were there any family members involved [in real estate] ?
Not at all. That’s what’s strange is – I don’t know how I got the real estate DNA bug because it didn’t come through the family other than my parents were self-employed and had businesses and they had investments in real estate. But weren’t directly involved from a practitioner perspective at all.
And so, not sure where it came from but for some reason it just caught my eye and it stuck. Being able to start as a real estate agent, and shortly thereafter had an opportunity to work with a partner. We opened a real estate brokerage together. That experience from agent to brokerage was about five years. From there, had an opportunity to relocate and that’s when I went to work at RE/MAX International in a management consultant role. And grew through 11.5 years and had the pleasure of receiving six new job assignments, or promotions and led me into various leadership roles, operating as a franchise, or in regional leadership. And then from there moved into the technology world of Market Leader acquired by Trulia and Zillow. So, it’s been a really neat 21+ years in the industry. To be able to now have the lenses that I can look through. As an agent, a broker, a franchise, or a software provider and also then a consumer technology company. That’s been the coolest part about my journey is being able to experience so many different facets of the industry.
Tell me a little bit about your experience at Zillow and Market Leader and how that will translate into your position at Century 21.
Great question on that. I think both afforded great experience and learnings. They will even help me in this role because what’s in the industry, there’s a lot of noise right now. And I think a lot of brands and brokerages, if you will, have somewhat of a … Are in an identity crisis. And it’s one of these new companies, and you hear the word disrupters, and a lot of things happening in the space. It’s questioning the value proposition of not only the agent, but the brokerages, brands, a lot of different sectors.
So, the first part is the experience at Market Leader was primarily how real estate professionals depend on technology and interact with software platforms. And what we know is the vast majority of agents, don’t go deep within software but they do rely on technology to make their lives more streamlined, easier, and allow them to scale and work with buyers and sellers, save time. So that was critical. I also learned from there on what many agents don’t do, or don’t want to use. And so, one of the biggest challenges in the industry for brokerages is adoption. And they invest heavily in these tools, whether it be time training and dollars. And then have a hard time getting their associates to adopt them. And so, as I look at software and tools and technology in the industry, sometimes we drive so hard in the direction because we’ve invested so heavily that we start to miss what the agent really wants, or needs.
So that was a great learning on understanding the space, number one. But number two, making sure that if we still have the customer, or the agent as the central focal point, you still stay aligned with innovation.
On the Zillow side, what was interesting about that, is the consumer. We’re living it today, the agent wants and consumer demands collide. And I think that’s … A lot of that’s due to many in the industry that have been seasoned veterans have what I call MLS book hangover. Which is the value of what they justified their earnings and commissions were wrapped around data and what’s inside of books. And I started that way. I started with MLS books. At the same time, I think that we are completely on the back nine of the data conversation. And consumers are saying, “We want a better experience when we go to buy and sell real estate.”
Because you look at survey after survey, whether it be formal or informal, even talking to your friends that have recently bought and sold. Generally, more than 50% of the time, people will say it was a headache and they don’t look forward to doing it again. And that tells us that we’ve got a lot of room to improve the consumer experience. Especially in a time when I think we’re in a consumer movement. And what I mean by that is, companies are taking consumer anxiety away. Whether it be shopping with Amazon. Whether it be transportation with Uber. Whether it be how we interact with entertainment via Netflix. All of those things have made people’s lives easier and it creates an enjoyment of use. And there’s still a lot of room, improvement that we need to do for buyers and sellers.
So that’s where I saw that the consumer working with a site like Zillow, like Trulia, and what they wanted to get in their search experience, is sometimes not balanced with what the agent wants to allow the consumer to have visibility into that experience. And those two are still at odds today, in a big way.