A House Divided

Curtain call and lights  grow dim Tragedy, love all lie  within Each player takes his  chance to play And lives to fight  another day –The Damned, 1977

Our industry had its heyday. Business boomed. Organization memberships ascended. Buyers flocked. Sellers scored. The economy rocked. Good times rolled.

But that’s  over. And the haze of 10 years of real estate’s sex, drugs and rock and roll  has lifted.

The hotel room is trashed. Many of you are burnt out. Some will never be the same.

And what’s left is…

A house divided

Let’s not beat around the bush. There are deep issues festering in real estate. I’ve addressed some of them: The disconnect between the industry and the consumer. The barricades thrown up against discounters and alternative models. The 100-year war for control.

But brewing deep in the pit, at the bottom of it all, is a “War of the Roses” between real estate agents and brokers. A house divided. Michael Douglas on one side. Kathleen Turner on the other.

I’ve been inside the house. I’ve worked closely with brokers. I have at times worked even closer with the agents. The indignation is pervasive.

The Cause

l think you should hear  the story, though. lt might matter to you. — Gavin D’Amato, “War  of the Roses”

Here’s  how it all looks to me, a guest in the living room:


  • The day you agreed to cave on splits you might have made your agents happy financially, but you lost their respect. Your concessions spoke volumes about your inability to provide equal value. From that day on they began to question your existence.
  • As technology emerged, you failed to pounce. You outsourced it to vendors. They stepped in. Rubbed your agents’ feet and gave them their happy endings.
  • Those hunting licenses you awarded through your affiliate programs were often not awarded to the best or the brightest. But your agents didn’t know that. And after all that money they spent on things that didn’t work, well ” they feel you sold them out.
  • You’ve recruited anyone with a pulse. Hence you became big rather than great. You damaged your brand. And shortchanged your best agents. You forced them to build their own brand. Or leave yours to start their own.
  • You lost location where it now matters most: online.  Others — the ones you now buy leads from — are the local destination of  choice.

There are  more issues. Feel free to continue the list.


  • Your independence is a termite. It eats away at your broker’s legacy. And destroys whatever meaning they attempt to place on their brand — your brand. 


  • You’re addicted to things that no longer make sense. Office space. Paper. Newspaper spreads with vanity ads. These cost your broker a fortune — money they no longer have.
  • You lag educationally. This is not about intellect. This is about knowing your industry and buying into the notion that real estate today is as much about technology, branding, marketing and service as it is about sales. And using it.

Brokers,  you have voiced more concerns. Feel free to add them to the list.

The Cure

Brokerages are not going away. They will consolidate. Agents are not going away either. Especially the really good ones. So in everyone’s best interest here are some ideas for a truer collaboration:


? Redo your corporate Web site. From scratch. Ditch the stock photos and confusing user interface. Get mapping. Get data. Rethink search. Focus on find. Make your site the  destination for your marketplace. Build something that adds value to your agents. Something that’s an advantage to them,  not an embarrassment.

? Get out of the cockpit and into your company’s cabin. Start partnering with your agents. Form advisory councils amongst those with category savvy and allow them to participate in critical decisions that affect them such as vendor selection, listing partners, etc.

? Rethink how you charge your agents. They feel ultra-squeezed having to support archaic processes such as cubicle workspace and 10,000-square-foot facilities that sit empty on Main Street.

? Do something bold. Buy out a competitor. Strike while the iron is cold. Build an internal social network that connect agents with each other where they can communicate about listings, share information and tap into the collective.


? Co-brand with your broker. Especially if you’re part of a still-strong brand. It simply makes no sense to be part of a company and not combine your brand with theirs unless the firm you’re with is trash. Which then begs the question: Why are you with them?

? Stop demanding useless things from your broker — like that office space we talk about above. And buy your own pencils. Free your broker’s profit and loss for new line items that matter. Wean yourself off things that no longer work — that your broker pays for to appease you.

? Attendance. Your broker needs you to show up at office meetings. Conventions. Award ceremonies. Even vendor presentations. From their top producers down to the newbie agents. This is your opportunity to show some solidarity. Lend your voice. Share your thoughts and help craft a culture — the rebar of a brand.

A house aligned

Many of these things above are intertwined, and change will not occur unless these issues are exposed and placed on the discussion table.

Ask  yourself how young firms like @properties with a born-on date of 2000 rose to become the number four brokerage in Chicago with five-year, quadruple-digit revenue growth. The company is but one of several incredible examples of what happens when an operation runs with a house aligned.

It can be  done. It must be done.

– Davison