The real estate market is hotter than ever, which has caused some unique challenges for both brokerages and agents from coast to coast. Historically low inventory and record-high demand mean a dozen offers are the norm and some houses are selling for way over asking. This is stressful for everyone, especially buyers, their agents, and the brokerages that support them.
As part of a recent RISMedia panel moderated by real estate coach Cleve Gaddis, panelists Shawna Alt, President of First Weber, Inc. a brokerage with 70 offices and 1,400 agents in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, Will Grewal, Founder and CEO of HomeStack, a white-label real estate app developer based in Los Angeles, and Kim Koraca, Vice President of Marketing at Constellation1, talked about current market trends in a post-pandemic landscape and five of their top tips for succeeding in this challenging market and beyond. Read on to learn what these thought leaders from the brokerage, tech, and vendor spaces say is driving success this year and how brokerages and their teams can seize the opportunities that are right in front of them.
Global consulting firm Accenture recently called customer experience one of the top trends to watch. As it rightly points out, “to remain relevant and compete in today’s ever-changing world, customer experience strategies need to be top of mind for every stakeholder in your business.” What does that mean for brokerages?
“Our customers are our agents,” said Shawna. “They have the needs we have to meet.” When First Weber made this their core focus, they solidified their business and the rest of the pieces fell into place. Cleve observed that when brokerages take care of agents’ needs and provide impeccable support, they actually have time to add value for consumers, their end customers. This chain of high-value support is what will keep agents engaged and leads flowing—even when times are tough.
As Shawna pointed out during the panel, “culture is everything,” and she wasn’t referring to ping-pong tables and espresso machines. The building blocks of any corporate culture, the what, why, and how of what you do, must be the roadmap for every business decision. First Weber’s culture centers around helping their agents build their business. If something they’re doing isn’t helping their agents, they think about what they need to change so that it does. Instilling the right culture has a huge impact on business, and First Weber attributes its remarkably high retention rate in large part to the way it supports its agents in everything they do.
Will added that an empowering culture is ultimately what gets team members to walk through the door in the morning and win the day. Culture can’t be seen, but it can be felt, and it boils down to creating an environment in which team members can thrive and, ultimately, provide the best service to customers, be they internal or external.
If pandemic was the buzzword that defined 2020, the buzzword defining the real estate sector today is lifestyle for both agents and consumers. Why?
The pandemic has forced many people to put their lives into perspective, and the (possibly permanent) transition to remote work has opened up a world of possibilities. As Kim pointed out, consumers used to be guided by their needs (“I need a 4-bedroom house for my growing family in this neighborhood with this school and a doable commute to work”). Now, they can be guided by their wants and buy in markets with the amenities they want or where they can get more bang for their buck. This has created a shift towards lifestyle brokerages, or brokerages that put their clients’ lifestyles first.
And it isn’t just buyer lifestyles that have taken the front seat. For a brokerage like First Weber, their agent-centric model means operating from a position of understanding their agents’ lifestyles, too, and helping them find their unique definition of success. The result is an individualized roadmap for reaching their goals and tailored support along the way, resulting in higher satisfaction, better retention, and better performance.
If it seems like there’s a new tool for everything these days, you’re right! Brokerages and agents alike need to create the perfect suite of tools to take low-value tasks off their plates, from digital marketing and lead gen to sales enablement and streamlining the transaction process from start to finish.
Consumer expectations are also changing at the speed of light. The rise of mobile means that buyers and sellers expect near-instant reactivity and answers from their agents, and agents need the support to make that possible. Trends like customized mobile push notifications, real-time listing syncs and chat features, and virtual open houses are all gaining a firmer foothold in the industry.
Will observed that some agents are still sending their leads to third-party sites or apps to search for properties because they might not even know that these platforms are pulling out all the stops to steal those leads away, while brokerages are unaware that there are alternatives like customized apps that can help them improve the customer experience and their brokerage marketing at the same time.
Tech tools are an investment, but one that generates a massive return. The companies that make the investment soonest will see the biggest returns, while those that wait until the last minute will be playing catchup for years.
Will put it perfectly during the panel, citing an expression his dad used to say: “You can go quick by yourself, or you can go far with others.” Today, partnerships mean everything, and when there’s mutual alignment, you can go farther faster.
The partnership paradigm works at every level of the organization. Brokerages and agents should see each other as mutual partners who, by helping each other, help consumers buy and sell homes. In the same vein, brokerages should seek out meaningful and productive partnerships with their vendors, for example, a company like HomeStack. In turn, real estate tech vendors need partners on their team to make their products the best they can be, like robust data services from the data experts at Constellation1. The result is an entire partnership ecosystem with mutually beneficial relationships driving value every step of the way.
“Constellation1 has been an excellent partner,” Shawna said. “They customize their services to First Weber the same way we customize our services to our agents.”
No one knows what the future holds, but brokerages must prepare by working towards resilient business models that keep them at the top of their markets. Following these five tips will help brokerages and agents create their own markets as time goes on so they can weather even the most challenging periods.
Many thanks to RISMedia for hosting this engaging panel and to Cleve Gaddis for moderating. If you’re interested in learning more about these trends and how Constellation1 can help, get in touch with us today.