October 15, 2018 posted by Bruce Gardner

Reflections on the 2018 CAR REFresh Conference

Last week, I attended the CAR Refresh event at the Colorado Convention Center. There were a variety of speakers, both local and national, and I liked the faster moving format of shorter sessions. There really is a lot going on in the industry, with Consumer and technology trends and disruptive influences.
It really caused me to contemplate what’s happening, and I think there are some important questions to consider today:
How will blockchain technology and digital currency affect real estate transactions, and when will that impact be felt?
How will the explosion of the iBuyer models like Opendoor, Knock and others impact the industry, and what percentage of Consumers will be attracted to using one of these companies to sell their home? And what can an Agent or Brokerage do in response to this disruptive model?
How will flat-fee and no-fee real estate companies fare if the market cools down? Will it affect their success? Will they adapt and change their value proposition as the market changes?
How will self driving cars impact real estate? Will they massively shift Consumer demands for home design and commuting distances? Will they impact urban planning? How about a simple thing like parking in an urban area or at an airport? If you can summon your car with your digital device and have it arrive at a desired time to take you somewhere, does it need to be parked at your residence or left at the airport while you are traveling?
Can AI driven robots really replace real estate Agents? The technology exists to build robots that can perform many service related functions and eliminate those jobs, so can that happen to us?
Transactions involving a real estate Agent have seen a steady rise in the last two decades to over 90% of all transactions today. Will that continue, flatten out, or start to erode with the advent of technology assisted transactions?
What does the phrase, “Full Service Agent” really mean? Is that really just a label designed to justify the commissions that we charge? If we re-thought “Full Service”, would we offer a different value proposition to Consumers, like different options or a menu of services?
Practicing real estate Agents need to be good at the “sales” part of the job, which involves “selling” ourselves to Consumers to acquire committed Buyers and Listings. They also need to be good at the “technical” side of the business that includes the legal and contractural elements of a transaction, understanding the limitations of usage, title insurance issues and environmental influences and considerations. They also need to have skills in marketing and interpersonal relations and negotiations. As transactions get more complex, and Consumers have access to much more property specific data and information that needs to be “interpreted”, are we as an industry doing enough to ensure that the typical Agent really has the technical expertise to properly guide and protect Consumers going through a transaction?
Generation Z is coming. The oldest members, born in 1995, are just at the verge of the home buying age. These are fully digitized humans for whom technology has always been a part of their lives. The average real estate agent is 58 years old. What could possibly go wrong? How will they and their expectations change the industry?
Since everyone and everything today is researched online before Consumers are willing to purchase or even engage with a Company or a service, are individual Agents and we as an industry really well positioned for these “Digital Interviews”? What do these Consumers want to know before they’re willing to even talk or communicate with us?
I personally can’t imagine what our world will look like in 2040, but I think we as an industry and individual Agents should be thinking about what our industry will like in 2020. How different will things be in a year? What about 5 years from now in 2023? For perspective, the “smart phone” is only 10 years old. How has the world we live in changed in those 10 short years?
The wave of change is coming faster than we might be aware. How can we ride that wave and continue to succeed and remain relevant and not get hit by it and wiped out?
Are we, as an industry, having the right conversations about what is happening? Are we thinking about what the Consumer wants? Are we even asking the Consumer what they want or how they feel about their experiences going through a transaction, what they liked and didn’t like? What they would like to be different?
As I pondered these questions, I started to think about what I could do to move these conversations forward. I decided that I am going to craft a number of new and different topics that I will speak on. I want to explore these issues and help committed professionals and brokerages think strategically about adapting and succeeding as the digital age of real estate continues to evolve. I think that there are several clear opportunities that these changes offer us, but we will have to think differently than we have in the past. We have to really know what the Consumer wants. We have to have a better understanding of what we actually do, what our real value proposition is, and how to express it to Consumers. We have to improve our “technical” skills to deliver better service to our Clients. It will be challenging and it’s possible that the number of Agents will shrink, but I remain convinced that a talented and skilled professional real estate Agent will always be in demand. What we do for our Clients is often amazing and has a lasting impact on them. What we do is not just about the real estate transaction, we help people move from one chapter of their lives to the next. That’s important. It takes skill, passion and a commitment to helping others. And that never goes out of style.
So more information about new topics and presentations will be coming soon. I’m excited about the opportunity to be a part of the conversation about the future. Together, we can explore these coming changes and opportunities and discover new ways to make a difference for our Clients.


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