The new year is a time for reflection of the year past and setting goals for the year ahead. 2018 was a big transition as I moved from the software side of real estate into operations. I’ve watched the ebb and flow of our brokerage and agents throughout our distinct markets, and just as I thought I had a handle on things, things begin to change.
It started with a call from a referral in California talking about how their market is getting more and more competitive. Then, we started seeing some local brokerages move to franchise models. We’ve seen new agents coming into the market and seasoned agents looking to make a change. In every recruiting interview, agents started talking about something new—marketing and advertising spend. Across the board, new or seasoned, they were concerned about the costs associated with buying their leads, branding themselves, paying transaction fees and administrative support. The word that comes to mind is risk.
As we begin to see the initial signs of a cooling real estate market, agents will also start to think about how these conditions will affect their business and how to minimize risk and maximize their income. I’ve pulled out my crystal ball to share three predictions for 2019 and the years ahead:
Prediction 1: Agents, as well as small brokerages and teams, will shift back to full-service brokerages where they can focus on what they’re great at—helping people buy and sell real estate. These agents and teams will let the brokerage spend the money on generating leads, branding, marketing, and administrative and transactional support. There will always be room for the agents and brokers who want to have full control of their branding and marketing, but I predict we’ll see a reconsolidation of these individuals within full-service brokerage models as the real estate market gets more and more competitive. Additionally, more agents will leave the industry or join larger agent teams within their brand.
Prediction 2: I also see a change in the way both brokerages and agents are buying leads. When big players like Zillow start adjusting their Premier Agent program, it’s easy to see industry-wide changes following close behind. At the National Association of Realtors® Annual Conference in Boston, more call center companies were pitching their lead qualification tools. OpCity is a great example, and it’s owned by Move Inc., the owner, and operator of Realtor.com. OpCity takes on the risk of lead generation for your brokerage with no upfront fees. They call, filter, and continually follow up with inquiries until the lead is ready to speak to your agents. Instead of paying upfront for the lead, the brokerage pays a referral fee if, and when, a transaction closes.
This is a similar modal that we’ve seen with Rocket Mortgage and InHouseRealty. I predict that lead generation models are going to shift more to referral fees than upfront costs per lead. It’s all about the conversion rates. If you’re nine times more likely to convert a lead if you respond within five minutes and a call center has an average response time of fewer than 10 seconds, the conversion rates will quickly show that referral fees can be a more efficient solution for lead generation.
Prediction 3: This is less a prediction than the belief that history repeats itself. As real estate markets begin to slow, both agents and brokerages start watching their marketing spend closely. They look at what’s working and what’s not in a more granular way. While technology can be used to enhance the day-to-day for an agent, it’s also an additional expense many agents can’t justify when times are tough (all part of Prediction 1 and the move back to full-service brokerages).
What successful agents do in response to trimming technology is impressive–they focus on the basics. They focus on the quality of their relationships more so than the quantity of their new leads. They make more phone calls. They send handwritten notes. They write and send newsletters. We like Service for Life which has been helping agents do for over 15 years. We’re going to see more back-to-basics classes at every conference. We’re going to see more on understanding and articulating your value proposition. We’re going to see more negotiation classes. However, most importantly, we’re going to see traditional sales skills, focused around the relationship, shine through. Real estate is a relationship business, and I think we’re all ready to create some intentional, well-meaning connections in all facets of our lives.
I see 2019 as being filled with agents who need to make hard decisions about the tools and support they need and want to pay for. I see full-service brokerages providing more value than ever before, just by absorbing the risk on behalf of their agents. However, most importantly, I see a year filled with agents focusing on the quality of their relationships and the real value they bring to their transactions. All good things!
Warren Dow is the VP of Business Development at Peabody & Smith Realty based in New Hampshire. Warren has over a decade of leadership experience in real estate software and services. With a degree in behavioral neuroscience and a background in technology, consumer engagement, and marketing strategy, Warren offers a unique perspective in brokerage efficiencies with a client-first mentality.
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