The Real Estate Industry is poised for what is known as the customer service revolution. If you have not heard of the customer service revolution, you can look at the QT gas station takeover as a prime example in the Upstate. The consumer wants the best products or services available in options suited for them in the most convenient fashion. Those that appear to do it best are those that add some customer service flare, such as QT’s unique gas station experience, or the barber shop that offers a shot of Whisky and facial massage. The Real Estate Industry and in turn the business that real estate agents run are a bit more complex, the systems and processes available to them might surprise you on just how much they vary from one agent to the next. Just as the agents themselves are going to vary, as well as their services, experience, systems and fees.
You may be asking yourself why the various brokerages do not always provide the same systems and processes to their agents. Brokerages can vary vastly from one to the next as far as fees, caps, support, systems & processes, ect. Some brokerages are all about training and being involved in the agent’s day to day business, but the cold fact is that most agents are brought into this industry without enough training and left to fend for themselves. This is most likely the reason why we have 87% of agents out of the business in just 5 years from the time they got their license. Teams and Coaches coming into the industry are attempting to change that failure rate. Coaches have been around for a long time, but have become more mainstream in the real estate world in the last few years. Some notable coaches include big names such as Tom Ferry, and new market disrupters like Ricky Carruth who offers his coaching service for free to any agent willing to put in the work. Teams are groups of agents working together often in a brokerage style setting, or sometimes in small tightknit groups meant to tackle the many day to day duties, and then endless marketing platforms as a unit. Teams are a relatively new thing in real estate, and offer the agent a more of a structured setting with like minded individuals. There are typically much more benefits and support than most brokerages can offer, but it comes with an additional required commission split with the team.
One notable brokerage making a difference is EXP, it is quickly becoming the industry disrupter for long standing brokerages. Some are saying by being the first largescale all virtual brokerage EXP will be the Netflix of real estate and forever change the brokerage model. EXP’s offerings are so great that we are seeing many complete brokerages join, and turn into teams instead under the EXP model. EXP was not even in the top ten last year, and have managed to climb to 4th overall top brokerage in sales volume in just one year. By vastly changing the way agents get paid and helping give back to the agents and in turn helping them give the consumer better and more consistent service, EXP’s momentum will most likely change the future of brokerages. This will help put more resources in the agents and team’s control, hopefully in turn, eventually passing on the end consumer in forms of extra support and marketing.
The Real Estate Industry is unique in the fact that one top producing agent might use little to no technology, and the next might have more technology and marketing power than several small business’ put together. Most aspects of real estate are going to vary like that, and in recent history with the booming market and quick home sales it is not always easy to see the difference from one agent to the next. As the market normalizes, and homes last a little longer before selling, the differences between those said agents, teams and brokerages will become more and more apparent. This is not to say that one is better than the other, just to say that the consumer as a whole will be expecting more out of their agents in the years to come as some of the options and extras become the new normal. These expectations can also come in the form of a discount. Which is why several agents, teams and brokerages offer discount services & fees instead of additional services. Typically, these discount services will be limited, and sometimes will requires fees out of pocket.
Where some brokerages aim to discount, select brokerages and teams are going all in and offering options such as drones, video walk throughs, agent lead tours, custom domains and weblinks, 360 degree/VR Video and photography to sell your home. Technology and systems play roles for buying a home as well. Today most consumers are looking for homes themselves on local agent websites, Zillow, Realtor.com and thousands of other syndicated sites. Most do not realize real estate agents can set up automatic searches and get very specific directly from the MLS or their website which is fed from the MLS. In today’s current environment its likely an agent will need to do virtual walk throughs for some potential buyers not willing to risk getting out for every showing. With today’s cell phones it is very possible to get great footage walking through the home for today’s consumer. However, the most innovative agents were testing 360 and VR technology long before the Covid_19 scare.
Virtual Reality, and 360-degree video/photos have come a long way. A program called Matterport has led the industry for several years with 360 and VR technology in real estate. Average agents will not have the buying power for this, and its typically reserved for luxury properties in our area. We see this getting more and more common in all price points. The craftiest of agents are and have been testing newer 360 technology. With 360-degree sport camera’s starting in the $150 range, and VR Goggles as cheap as $15 anyone can now send amazing, life like 360-degree photos with a small amount of effort. The only drawback is without the expensive camera software you cannot get a 360-degree video without the operator in the shot. This technology was very slow catching on in Real Estate until the recent need for virtual showings grew. Where the 360 photos are still gaining traction, Drone shots are closer to becoming more and more the standard with real estate. While also previously reserved for luxury homes, now we are seeing innovative agents take picture and video with drone footage built in, 360-degree shots, and agent guided walk through tours even for all priced homes.
Marketing as a whole for real estate agents can easily become a full-time job. Custom websites are pretty typical to see once agents get big enough, with select agents and teams going a step further by building hyper local sites that the large sites can’t touch. With social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram being an amazing way to spread the word about homes for sale in the area, lots of agents chose to spend time there marketing themselves and properties for sale there instead. Brokerages and teams with pooled resources are available to tackle all forms of marketing together, where as single agents will often run themselves around trying to manage it all. Let us not forget some of the traditional forms of marketing such as Radio, Billboards, and direct mail that all appear to go in cycles, simply meaning those work best when everyone else quits doing them.
We will continue to see more and more big names getting into the real estate market as this customer service revolution is pushed. Not many people these days do not know of Zillow, or Realtor.com, and now soon Amazon will be joining the race. If you notice there are several “Yelp Style” companies emerging specifically for real estate, websites such as Homelite are referring out agents and requiring a referral fee in return. Just like other big industries, there are some large brands being built across the country by teams and brokerages that are poised to spill into other areas and states. It is obviously not for certain where the industry will go, but the changes are already underway. Many like myself believe the days of the single real estate agent are slowly going away. Teams and brokerages that have built scalable systems will be able to help average agents gain traction quicker and help more people than the old method of hire enough and we will get a good one. At the end of the day, it is hard to compete as a single agent when others have a whole team working in unison. This is not to say that there are not some Rockstar single agents, or that a single agent is not a good option. As time goes on the percentages will go towards teams and other systems that start to clearly communicate how they can help the consumer more than ever before! The strongest single agents will join forward thinking brokerages and build support staff around them so they essentially have their own team working just for them. At the end of the day all of this needed to happen for the consumer to ensure their biggest purchase is handled with the utmost care and effort. Real Estate is typically people’s largest investment, and Real Estate agents need to be able to give their clients a great, enjoyable experience buying or selling their home.