BrokerPulse

RealTrends Q32021 BrokerPulse sees brokers still optimistic about the market, wary of competition and wondering when inventory will rise.

2021 RealTrends Brokerage Compensation Report

For the study, RealTrends surveyed all the firms on the 2021 RealTrends 500 and Nation’s Best rankings, asking for annual compensation data for the 2020 calendar year.

Knock.com’s Sean Black on the transaction revolution

Real estate is on its third revolution, from the digital revolution of the early 2000s to the information revolution kicked off by Trulia and Zillow to today's transaction revolution.

Newsletter

The RealTrends BrokerSource and HousingWire OpenHouse newsletters deliver twice weekly information on trends, strategies, analysis, people, and news shaping the real estate industry.

BrokeragePodcasts

REAL Trending Special Edition: Neal Collins

Neal Collins, broker and co-founder of eXp Powered Brokerage LATITUDE, a regenerative-focused, real estate sales consulting and development firm.

 

Want to learn from the brightest minds in real estate? Then you’ll love our REAL Trending Special Edition Podcasts.

Editor in Chief of Content Tracey Velt interviews, brokerage leaders, top agents and teams, and industry experts, on leadership, recruiting, marketing, and more. Subscribe today at realtrendsinc.podbean.com.

Tracey Velt:

This is your host, Tracey Velt, Editor in Chief of Content for REAL Trends. Today, we’re speaking with Neal Collins, broker and co-founder of eXp Powered Brokerage LATITUDE, a regenerative-focused, real estate sales consulting and development firm headquartered out of the Pacific Northwest.

Tracey Velt:

Today, we’re going to talk about Neal’s unique approach to his real estate brokerage. So welcome to the REAL Trending Special Edition Podcast. Neal, good to have you here.

Neal Collins:

Tracy, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, so we’ve talked before, and when we last talked, you told me a little bit about how your real estate brokerage came to be. I would love to have you share that story with our audience, because I thought it was very interesting. So tell me a little bit about how you, how and why you started your brokerage.

Neal Collins:

Yeah, Tracey, that’s a great question, and it starts a little bit, even before we started the brokerage. See, my wife and I, we came out of the nonprofit world where we’re working in South Asia, doing climate change, adaptation work, threatened species conservation. And I just, I loved that mission driven field.

Neal Collins:

However, whenever you’re making $750 a month, it just doesn’t really support the lifestyle that you really want. And so, I was introduced to real estate originally through a podcast, very similar to this, and it just lit my brain on fire of, “Wow, maybe I could get passive income, build a real estate business, so I could then go do good over there, and doing something different.”

Neal Collins:

So we jumped in, we started buying small multi-family apartment buildings, doing value add. We incorporated our own property management company to help manage our properties. Other people started soliciting us for management services. And then, that always leads into, “Hey, can you help me buy or sell more properties?”

Tracey Velt:

Right.

Neal Collins:

That really kicked off our trajectory to building a brokerage in Portland, Oregon with about 20 agents and several hundred residential and commercial properties under management. And that’s great. I think that could have been the life that we wanted to live, in the business that we wanted to have.

Neal Collins:

However, it was really about 2019, that we started to realize, we’re just not getting fulfilled in what we’re doing. It’s just single bottom line thinking, it’s systems building, it’s, how do you find deals? How do you, how to get more profit out of this? And there was no impact.

Neal Collins:

The real wakeup call came to us whenever all of our elders, like my dad and my mother-in-law and my father-in-law, they were getting cancer diagnoses. I thought, “Let me research this,” because when your dad has terminal cancer, you’re like, “What can we do? What caused this? He’s healthy, he’s 64 years old.”

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, definitely.

Neal Collins:

That’s what was so startling. It’s such a catalyst for us, that we realized that it’s our internal air environment. It’s the food that we’re eating. It’s the building materials that we’re using.

Neal Collins:

Whenever you realize that you’re in the business of transacting habitats, and you’re building buildings, and you have no idea what the scientists are actually talking about in this day and age, and that you’re actually contributing towards a degenerative way of living.

Neal Collins:

You see these statistics, is that at the beginning of the century, one in 20 people are getting cancer, and now, it’s one in two. It’s mind blowing.

Neal Collins:

We took the opportunity to say, “You know what? We really care about sustainability. We’ve never really been able to incorporate it into our business.”

Neal Collins:

Because in the real estate world, it’s always, “Hey, let’s talk about sustainability.” That leads into solar panels, energy efficiency, and electrification. What we wanted to talk about was, how do we create environments that are healthy, and they contribute to our wellness? And let’s bring in sustainability, and let’s bring in community and ecology. That’s really what triggered us down this path of what we call regenerative real estate.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, that’s great. We kind of connected through Dr. Zach Bush’s videos and podcasts. For those in our audience who doesn’t know Dr. Bush, he’s a triple board certified doctor, and he specializes in human health as it relates to our microbiome. He’s done a lot of cancer research. He’s worked with hospice and hospice patients.

Tracey Velt:

You’d think, “Well, what does that have to do with real estate?” He’s talking about people who are sick, or the microbiome and the immunity, how to keep your immunity up, have a healthy gut. So you said you went to one of his, or you listened to one of his Biology BaseCamp programs?

Neal Collins:

Yeah, if anybody-

Tracey Velt:

And that informed your decision. So tell me a little bit about that, and how that relates to real estate.

Neal Collins:

We first got introduced to Zach Bush through Rich Roll. And Rich Roll kind of runs that line between ultra endurance athlete, and self-development and performance, something that isn’t, the real estate world has really caught on to.

Neal Collins:

But whenever I was introduced to Zach Bush, for the first time, I was, “Wait a second. Here’s somebody actually talking, linking the health of our spaces and our soil with human health.”

Neal Collins:

It’s like, “God, if I want to perform better, if I want to live in a healthy environment, what does that really look like?” And so, he’s over here, really demystifying what sustainability looks like, what a healthy habitat can look like, from, “Hey, what are the building materials that we’re using, that are known carcinogens and the thousands of chemicals that are going into our homes,” to, “What, where’s our water coming from?”

Neal Collins:

If we’re destroying our gut and our microbiome, are we really firing on all cylinders? We just started to run with that, to realize, we can do things differently from the roof to the soil, and where we’re going with connecting it with the soul, so that we can give better counsel in our real estate business.

Neal Collins:

I honestly think it’s a bit of a timing issue, that these voices, like Dr. Bush’s, are starting to rise up. Because of that, we’re able to really just step onto the coattails, and ride with it, and continue to pioneer that, because it’s these perspectives that I think are so critical. And right now, really, the real estate space is wide open to incorporate health and wellness into that message.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, definitely. You mentioned this before, when most people think of sustainability, they think solar panels, wind farms. So explain it a little better to our audience, about what that means for you and your brokerage. How are you living that, through your brokerage?

Neal Collins:

Great question. First of all, with our agents, what we realized is that, we really want to portray, or we want to give them education, in what kind of regenerative world that helps people and planet thrive.

Neal Collins:

What does that look like? What could that look like? So everybody’s got to go through getting a Living Future Accreditation with the International Living Future Institute. And that really enables them to be better facilitators.

Neal Collins:

Whenever we’re transacting property, a lot of our expertise comes down to, “Okay, we’ve got to get good financing, that most of the people that we’re working with, they might have a little information on that. But they don’t understand the myriad of options that are out there.”

Neal Collins:

Whenever we go into a transaction, a lot of times, a conventional transaction, we’re squabbling over interesting things, like, we have an old hot water heater. And the buyer’s agent puts on a repair addendum saying, “Hey, seller needs to replace hot water heater.”

Neal Collins:

And the seller will replace it with the cheapest, cost effective route, and not taking into consideration, “Hey, what is this buyer really want? What is it, what is the sustainability metrics for it?”

Neal Collins:

Where we can really shine is that we can work with these clients, starting at 0.1 to know, “Hey, what is your vision? What does life look like if you’re thriving? And we’re going to work as a guide to bring you through that process, to not only get the right financing, to find the right property, but then, to find the right vendor partners.”

Neal Collins:

NAR, I might be getting this wrong, but they put out a statistic, saying that, on average across the US, $80,000 of work gets done whenever a house is transferred ownership. What I realized is that, if I’m building out my own ecosystem of vendors, from the home inspector to the trades, I want those people that are mission- and purpose-aligned with me, that can equally give their expertise to our clients. That’s really the mainstays of how we can practice real estate differently.

Tracey Velt:

Okay, great. And I love that. I think finding the sustainable features of a house, or helping people purchase those, is so important, because I think there’s a lot of confusion around that. And you mentioned the National Living Future Institute. So explain to me what that is, and how it relates to real estate.

Neal Collins:

The International Living Future Institute, we originally learned about them in 2014, whenever we are going to do a new development. Our architect was talking about, “Hey, if you heard about LEED,” which is, kind of at the time, the preeminent Green Certification for buildings. I said, “You might want to check out the Living Building Challenge.”

Neal Collins:

And that is hosted by the International Living Future Institute. That is now arguably the most aspirational and a rigorous green building designation out there. So it means, “Hey, if you’re going to build a Certified Living Building, then it’s going to have local materials that are nontoxic. It’s got to generate 105% of its own fuel, from the sun, or geothermal. It’s got to capture all its own rainwater, and treat it through gray water and black water.”

Neal Collins:

It’s got all these different elements that are so rigorous, that you’re, “How on earth could a building actually meet code, or be permissible by code, to do this?” That’s really where we want to align ourself, with an organization that’s been around for 20 years now, that are just breaking all the rules and saying, “You know what? This is what a regenerative property looks like.”

Neal Collins:

This is what the architect community and the urban planners and the landscape architects have been talking about this for a long time now. It’s just, the real estate sales part of the industry has been so slow to come around, because we are, our business model is predicated upon transactions.

Neal Collins:

We start this entire process, where the clients come to the salesperson first, and then it goes to the architect. And we realized, “You know what? We can be a value add to this whole process of, it’s the same client. We just catch them at a different point in time. And we can really bring people together, from architects to builder, to real estate agent to financier, and have such a seamless process, to create change that much faster.”

Neal Collins:

That’s why we really ended up going with the International Living Future Institute. It’s just, “Hey, these people have been pioneers in this field. They are truly around the world now, and talk about some of the best and brightest minds, to really align yourself with, and get inspired by.”

Tracey Velt:

Yeah. Do you work with new builds a lot, or do you work with pre-existing homes? You mentioned their green building. How much of that are you able to see firsthand in the houses that you sell?

Neal Collins:

This is the interesting thing, is that everybody is trying to figure out, where’s the most impact going to be? And realizing that 80% of all of our building stock, that we’re going to see in our lifetime, Tracy, it’s already been built.

Neal Collins:

You’ve got a lot of people that are trying to figure out, “Oh, how do we, how do we adaptively reuse these buildings? Or how do we retrofit them?” And knowing that it’s never going to quite get to that full extent, meaning that it might be too expensive, or it’s just not possible.

Neal Collins:

But I do think that underscoring that, this is a process. You can move into a conventional house, and you can’t just go full living building in six months, or a year, or maybe it’s never even possible.

Tracey Velt:

Right.

Neal Collins:

So our work really focuses on, okay, the bulk of our clients has traditionally been home buyers, and sellers of existing properties. A little bit of that does entail people that want to build new.

Neal Collins:

Now we’re what we’re doing is, we’re bending our reality of, we’re shifting the kind of clients that are coming to us, that are saying, “Hey, I really liked the values that you’re putting out there. I’m really seeking this kind of counsel.”

Neal Collins:

And they’re doing phenomenal projects, up from, “I want to go buy land to start a farm, or I want to have a community of tiny homes, or a pocket neighborhood,” up to, “Hey, I want to go build a state-of-the-art institution. And I need an agent that can really get on board with our program, and they’re well capitalized. They’ve got a ton of development experience.”

Neal Collins:

We’re really seeing clients emerge out of this process, that has taken us in a couple of different directions, that’s just so fun, to be on that end, to see what people are also thinking about, that are very much value aligned.

Tracey Velt:

Now let’s take a quick break, to hear some exciting news from REAL Trends, and our sponsor.

Ready to sell your firm? Over 760 leading firms have entrusted REAL Trends with the sale or purchase of their most important asset, their brokerage company.

With a deep knowledge of the real estate industry and current market trends, REAL Trends President Steve Murray and Vice President Scott Wright can represent firms of all sizes, models, brands, and locations, in the United States and Canada.

Tracey Velt:

Now, back to our podcast. So let’s talk about your brokerage culture.

Tracey Velt:

Tell me a little bit about the culture and how it works with your brand, as far as recruiting, and that. Because obviously, there’s a specific type of agent that would be interested in working for a brokerage like yours. So talk to me a little bit about how that works.

Neal Collins:

Yeah, great question. I think that’s one of those questions that every real estate team or brokerage needs to really understand, because when we are an independent brokerage, we were going out and trying to find agents.

Neal Collins:

Our pitch was, “Hey, we’re here to help support your real estate goals. We want to be the accountability partner, and create that kind of environment, where you’ve got no ceiling to your potential.” That’s a great message. It really is.

Neal Collins:

It just happens to be that 99% of the other companies out there are saying the exact same thing. And they’re all amazing companies, right?

Tracey Velt:

Right.

Neal Collins:

We had our brokerage in Portland, Oregon, and we were trying to out-Portland every other Portland brokerage and agent. And that’s just, I mean, there’s way better brokerages out there, that I could never compete with.

Neal Collins:

They’re phenomenal at marketing, they’ve got better systems than we do. Whenever we really started to put out there that, “Hey, we want to incorporate regeneration into our sales business,” we had someone from Hawaii reach out.

Neal Collins:

And they’re like, “Hey, I care exactly about the same thing that you care about, but my brokerage is not talking about this. I’m pretty sure there’s no brokerage in Hawaii that is really supportive of what you’re doing, or they’re at least not marketing themselves in that way. Can I join?”

Tracey Velt:

Hmm. Yeah.

Neal Collins:

“No, you can’t. You can’t join. We’re at based out of Portland, Oregon.”

Neal Collins:

It wasn’t until we had other agents from across the country, in New York, and Denver, and Vancouver, BC that are, “Hey, we really want to join. This is the direction that we really want to take our business.”

Neal Collins:

We started to realize, “Hey, we need a model that not only makes complete financial sense, but can also give us the fluidity, across borders, that an independent local brokerage doesn’t have.”

Neal Collins:

That’s why eXp was such a good fit. Even before COVID, it was, “Hey, we don’t have to have an office. It’s very easy to have digital meetings. And to really create that culture of, it doesn’t matter where we are, what unites us isn’t that we’re real estate agents, it’s that we’re change agents.”

Neal Collins:

And if we can get people in that are masterminding from Seattle to San Diego, to Texaco to Toronto, and we’re all working on, “Hey, how do we incorporate this into our business? And how do we get better at it? And how do we tweak our message, that it hits more people in the mainstream,” it’s just gotten better and better and better, the more that we get into it.

Neal Collins:

For the first time, what is incredible is that I’m not going out and seeking agents. I’m not seeking clients. I mean, that, that keeps our world running, but it’s, we’ve built a magnet, that is an alignment of what we’re passionate about, what feeds us, and keeps the roofs over our heads, and what we think the world really needs right now.

Neal Collins:

That is an intersection, that I just, I can’t even tell you how good that feels. I wake up in the day, so energized, ready to get on the calls with our team, really excited to hear about the deals that they’re working on. And I didn’t have that, for the previous seven years being in real estate.

Tracey Velt:

Okay. Yeah, and so, tell me about your agent population then. I know you mentioned how many agents you have. It escapes me right this moment, but, where are they located, outside of Portland?

Tracey Velt:

So you’re, basically, from a business perspective, you are licensed in those different states now? Or country? Well, the country, sometimes, the licensing is different, but …

Neal Collins:

Yeah, this is where the model matters.

Tracey Velt:

Right.

Neal Collins:

And eXp, what it allowed us to do is, we’ve got several agents out of our local market, where we’re headquartered, in Portland, Oregon, and the surrounding areas. We’ve got a presence in Vancouver, BC, and Denver and New York, and a couple other cities.

Neal Collins:

What our whole model is, hey, we want to find those agents that are thinking about sustainability. Maybe they’ve gotten the NAR Green Designation, and they’re trying to figure out how to incorporate this into their business. We want to at least know about them.

Neal Collins:

Our role is really shifting from, “Hey, we’re doing transactions,” to, “Hey, we’re the marketing company. We are the ones that are really trying to go out and find that demographic of people, and attract them towards us.”

Neal Collins:

So that, if we’ve got someone in Jacksonville, Florida, that wants to buy a home, or to sell a property with these kinds of features, then great. If we don’t have an agent there, we at least know of an agent that is, has got these similar kind of values.

Neal Collins:

If they want to engage further, then they can come on board the team where they get our branding, they get a lot of support, and we can really, we can provide that culture of, “Hey, let’s take the best of the real estate world. And let’s take the best of our mission- and value-aligned world. And even the non-profit world. Let’s take the best of that, and combine these two endeavors.”

Neal Collins:

That’s why, at the beginning of our story, whenever we are working out of the multis, it’s, “Hey, loved the work, was not getting paid to do it.” And now, for the first time in our lives, it’s like, “I love the work.” And where we’ve actually got a very powerful real estate model, that can enable it.

Neal Collins:

Right now, eXp is, I believe, in 14 different countries. We’re just focusing on North America. So we’ve got Canada, the US, and Mexico representation. We have had interest outside. It’s just, whenever you’re getting up and going, and we’re in year two of really putting our, dialing our compass in this direction. We’re trying not to get over our ski tips, and just really focused on, “How do we cover the US first?”

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, definitely. You had mentioned your work, pre-brokerage. Are you doing any work on, currently, that’s not affiliated with your brokerage? Any sustainable or regenerative work, or farming, or any of that?

Neal Collins:

I’ve got personal goals, right? Okay, yeah. Maybe it’s COVID, maybe it’s the work that we’re doing, but I want to go out, I want to buy a farm.

Neal Collins:

I want to find the graded land, and really bring it back, and really live the example. I mean, we took our house in Portland, Oregon, and just completely removed all the grass, made it an edible and perennial landscape, based on permaculture principles. We’ve done a lot inside the house, so it feels great, to be living those values. But now, I’m, “Man, I’m so inspired by our clients, to really …”

Neal Collins:

I mean, some of them are a really big landowners, or development people, that they’re giving me the confidence to say, “You know what? I could go out there and buy 500 acres to do this.”

Tracey Velt:

Yeah.

Neal Collins:

So we’re headed in that direction, and we’re starting to really understand, “Do we want to be an advocacy arm, as well, and take a stance on some of the law, the powerful lobbying efforts that are going on out there, that we think are pushing the built environment, in our industry, and in the wrong direction?”

Neal Collins:

But just on a personal side, it’s mainly, I want to go out and really be the builder, and the developer, in a new way that I just, I feel really good about.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s all fascinating, and I’m really excited. I think that there’s so much opportunity for our future, to really be more sustainable, and increase the health of our soil and our food. And it’ll be interesting how that gets done. So yeah.

Tracey Velt:

I know there are a lot of brokers and agents out there, who are really hoping to build a more sustainable future, a sustainable building, and in order to sell green homes.

Tracey Velt:

And I know NAR has a Green Home Designation, but what do you recommend they do, to really embrace this lifestyle, and build a business at the same time? What are some strategies?

Neal Collins:

I recommend that they start communicating what they care about to their community. It’s as simple as that. Start saying, “Hey, this is what I’m really curious about, or this is what I’m passionate about.”

Neal Collins:

Because what you’re going to find is that the community filters itself, and they come to you, and they’ll go tell their friends. If you’re interested in sustainability, start talking about sustainability.

Neal Collins:

Even if you’re not incorporating it into your business, you could at least do a poll, and tap your sphere of influence of, “Hey, how many people would be interested in this?” Or, “What are you doing on your property, to incorporate health and wellness, or sustainable features?”

Neal Collins:

Then, if they want to continue to deepen their practice, because that’s what we should always be doing ,as a professional, is going out and developing our craft, and getting that kind of education. They can go get an NAR Green Designation, or they can go get a Living Future Ambassadorship.

Neal Collins:

There’s just a lot of ways to engage, and a lot of things that they can advocate with their clients of, “Let me look into what we’re advocating, for the kinds of financing that we’re going to get, or the kinds of assistance that we’re working in all the time, from hot water heaters, to furnaces, to routes.”

Neal Collins:

All of this matters. And they have an opportunity to make a difference in every single decision that they’re making.

Tracey Velt:

Yeah, definitely. Well, this has been really great, and I love the concept, and I love what you are doing, and the education that you’re getting. Thank you so much for joining the REAL Trending Special Edition Podcast.

Neal Collins:

It was my pleasure. And thanks, Tracy. I appreciate the opportunity.

Most Popular Articles

Where is the housing market headed?

Rising incomes, low interest rates and all other factors, including the balance between families looking for housing and the availability of housing, point towards a continuation of the strong housing market of the last 15 to 18 months.

Oct 18, 2021 By

Latest Articles

Abortion, marijuana laws play a role in relocation decisions

People take the politics of a place into consideration when deciding where to move, but other factors including housing affordability and access to jobs and schools take priority, Redfin study shows

Oct 19, 2021 By