Recently I took a trip to New York City for the week long Inman Real Estate Conference.
"Inman Connect is a week-long event bringing together more than 4,000 top-producing agents and brokers, CEOs of leading real estate franchises, MLS and association leaders, tech entrepreneurs and marketing executives, to network, make deals and explore the newest technology. It’s where the industry comes to learn about, embrace and leverage the change that surrounds real estate.”
Or at least that is how it was advertised to the masses of Real Estate Professionals flying from all corners of the country. I went in hopes of picking up a few tips and tricks, maybe connecting with some cool agents from other markets, and making sure our team was on the right track moving forward for the year. I tried to stay away from any speaker that started off by saying how amazing they were, or how they spent $40,000 a month on advertising. Those kinds of speakers make me want to leave the industry. That being said I walked out of a number of sales pitches, value adds, and inspirational “look how cool I am” parts of the conference.
Now that I have that out of the way, here is what I took from the whole thing:
1. Big Data has become the new buzz word, the way Synergy used to be
2. No one has found the perfect way to create a team
3. No one is willing to spell out how they honestly get all their clients
4. Industry leaders are comparing everything they do to Amazon and online shopping
5. The top guys from Keller Williams and Long and Foster have different opinions about technology
6. We’re doing something right
What is it? Honestly, I am still not sure, but here is my best guess: Big Data is the conglomeration of all your personal data, search histories, buying patterns, statistics on moving and probably a million different other things thrown together into a pseudo monster of data points. The purpose of using this data had numerous applications during the conference, most of which brought the book 1984 to mind. Not to worry, it is most likely the same info that Facebook and Google have. The presenters who spoke about it are just trying to package it and sell it to Real Estate Agents to give them more insight on buyers’ and sellers’ habits.
As an agent, I think they are probably about 3 or 4 years away from being able to spit out a list of random people from Richmond that are ready to buy or sell their house. I am not sure about the average agent, but I would rather not have a robot telling me when one of my close friends is having a life changing event and needs to sell their house to move. All this data that people are paying millions to get for a specific area could easily be found out over a cup of coffee or a quick phone call with someone you are close with.
A full day of the conference was set aside for topics on teams, ranging from how to start them, how to streamline them, and how to push your agents to get more clients. This was probably the most interesting part to me, seeing that our team is rather different than most every other one out there. I was hoping to steal some ideas on how we could do what we do…just better.
The traditional “Listing agent as the boss and everyone else below them as staff or buyer’s agents” was in full swing. Then there were several agents that started a “Team” but really ended up being a small brokerage that liked to call themselves something that they were not. This to me is frustrating as they lack the infrastructure of true brokerages and I really feel they let a lot of services slide that would help the agents and the clients.
From what I could tell, everyone who doesn’t do the traditional one listing agent and 3+ buyers agents did just about the same thing as this mini brokerage plan. When you broke away from the traditional team, it seemed that everyone had to create their own wheel. With strong personalities, differing work ethics and ways of dealing with clients, it makes sense that a once size fits all model just would not work.
Secrets don’t make friends and no one wanted to make friends
No one is willing to give away their secrets. This was an interesting concept to me. The majority of the speakers had a Q and A section to their speeches. When asked very specific things on either practices or techniques, the agents always gave vague and general answers. It was an odd dynamic when you are used to the open and honest group of agents we have at One South. I can always ask another agent how specifically they do something and am more than willing to give a new agent a few pointers if they ask for them. Inman was not this place. This didn’t make sense to me, because why not have an open conversation about this with non-competing agents in different markets.
Amazon was on everyone’s radar
This was probably the least expected part of the whole conference. Industry leaders are afraid of the power Amazon has. Not only can it fundamentally change the way people buy just about anything, but they have the money to go into just about any industry and immediately become a big player. The idea of having your entire buying experience be digital and online sounds like a nightmare to me. House buying a tactile experience. The idea of buying something sight unseen is far from what I think most people would ever want to get involved with.
Even if I think the idea is idiotic, I can see a number of advantages to the application of an Amazon type buying/selling model. Oversees investors, Land Trust buyers, etc might be more willing to buy if there was a national platform for the mass buying of rental properties and/or buy and hold for appreciation investment plays. But for the average buyer and seller, I really don’t think it’s even worth thinking about, until you can Amazon Build your house.
Old School vs Old School
Keller Williams vs Long and Foster. This was a really fun part of the conference. A number of companies are starting online brokerages, online buying portals and online communities. EXP and Compass are two of the bigger ones you might have heard about. They are young, don’t have a ton of overhead, and are not attracting the institutional agents that produce for companies. Keller is trying to take the cool parts of these online brokerages and turn them into the KW brand. They have rebranded themselves as a “Technology Company.” They are pushing buying on a platform that they have made in-house and want to connect all KW agents and buyers alike. They are spending untold amounts of money on this which I think is kind of a waste when you look at the strong hold Zillow has on the market, the public, and how we look at houses online.
“We are Not a technology company. We sell Real Estate” from one of the heads of Long and Foster. This to me shows that the adage of adapt or die may not work. People like other knowledgeable people helping them to complete a task. We go to financial advisors, tax people, doctors and lawyers in person and this was the argument for Real Estate to stay personal and Local. I really couldn’t agree more, but my thought on it is, why not use the technology to benefit your clients and still keep everything personal and local?
Self-appreciation and congratulations fair warning
I wasn’t completely sure what to expect for this conference, but the plan was to go with an open mind and see what I could learn from others in the Real Estate Profession. It really put into perspective that our team, the brokerage, and we as individual people are doing more or less all the right things. You could tell some of the biggest light bulb moments for other agents were when speakers would say things like: “You have to treat your clients as people and not pay checks.” Well no Sh*t right?? Anyone that works with us knows this, and I would be amazed if any of the people on our team ever did something for their personal gain over a client.
At the end of the day, looking past the new tech, multi-billion dollar agencies, and ego; the point to be made was to treat your people like people. We have a responsibility to connect on a very personal level and provide everything we can to our clients. If nothing else for me, Inman was a confirmation that our team is pointed in the right direction and we are trying to accomplish the right things. It might not be perfect, but we’re on the right track.