A little clean up work can't hurt.

Riding shotgun

I’ve never owned a real estate brokerage.
Never worked the field as an
But I’ve ridden shotgun in this industry by virtue of exposure
to it.

When you ride shotgun, you get to gaze out the side window at the
little things. And you get to wonder what possible treasures might be hidden inside
them. Sometimes you’re in charge of the map. Your eye scans for
landmarks and road signs. You’re assigned to search for turnoffs, exit
ramps and street addresses.

The co-pilot picks up things along the way that the drivers don’t because their eyes are fixated on the big picture — the road.

Lots of eyes lately have been fixated on real estate’s road.
Quarterly sales goals. Driving the team hard. Crushing expenses.
Analyzing the economy. These are critical factors for the drivers in
real estate.

The drivers tend to be visionary. They are looking out that big windshield rather than the passenger windows. In some instances, they don’t notice the litter. As a result, they can’t consider the treasures that might be hidden within.

Allow me to be your co-pilot. Peep this list of some of the things I’ve seen traveling down
highway 2007. Perhaps, if we can clean some of these up, 2008 could be a smoother ride.

Communication. Littering the road in 2007 is the
communication breakdown between frustrated brokers who face diminishing
revenue streams and the ever-increasing cost of vendor products.
Vendors are pushing for more sales and don’t want to hear about the bad
market or brokers’ woes. Conversely, brokers are trying to understand
why they’re paying for things that aren’t living up to their promises
or things they can now get for free such as data, social applications,
CRM, Web sites, and mapping applications. Brokers are reevaluating
vendors and their products and looking to the Web and free applications
to replace things they don’t need, understand or that haven’t proven
their value.

DIY. Brokerages wanting to do everything in-house
are suffering from their own sagging curb appeal. Their programming
departments are never big enough or fast enough and resources are never
deep enough to keep up with the trends. In many cases they are busy
patching, fixing, updating, applying Band-Aids rather than innovating.
By the time they launch something new, it’s past the idea’s expiration
date. This is fast becoming a 10-ton anchor that is going to drag many
underwater. Outsourcing is on the horizon.

Thinking. I’ve attended think tanks, and listened
to many product pitches. While a lot of thinking is taking place,
there’s not enough knowing. It’s one thing to think this is what consumers  like, or think this is what brokers  want or think $19.95 is what agents  will pay for something. It’s another thing to know.
Vendors, brokers and agents will each improve their relationships with
their desired audience by hosting open discussions before things are
cooked and served.

Relationships. We all talk about them; we all want them. Let’s start by asking each other what we each need  rather than telling
each other what we need. Let’s start asking each other how we can be of
service rather than just trying to find out who we are. Knowing my name
and how to contact me is not how a relationship is built. Asking me
what I want and delivering that instantly is how this is done.

Watchdogs. Brokers really need to know what the
next cool new application will be. Vendors really need to know which
brokers are looking for these applications. Matches that could be made
in real estate heaven are kept separated by the watchdogs at the gate.
Pushing vendors off to some kid named Jason in the IT department is not
how you are going to grow your company in 2008, especially if Jason is
too busy protecting his in-house application and his job. Granted,
vendor sales guys can be a handful, but you are better off talking to
them and knowing what’s out there than being tuned out of the loop and
five years too late to the party. 

I know an  executive whose voicemail basically says, "If you’re a vendor, hang up."
My edit would read something like this: "If you’re a vendor, please
proceed to our Web site and click the tab that says ‘Vendor
Submissions.’ "

Brokers: How about allowing all vendors to submit requests to
introduce their ideas, products and services to you? Put someone else
other than Jason in charge of vendor relations, someone who welcomes
ideas, reviews them and makes appointments to learn more. From my
shotgun seat I’ve learned a lot about what’s on the horizon and it’s
why I see a glorious sunrise.

Income streams. Brokers need them. Vendors would do
themselves a world of good if they re-evaluated their pricing as well
as prepared clear ROI programs for brokers who can license applications
below wholesale and distribute wholesale pricing to agents.
Furthermore, it would categorically help if vendors could design ways
to market and distribute their products down through the brokerage
instead of leaving that completely up to the broker whose influence on
the individual agent is not as strong as you think.

Customer Service. So many preach it. Few practice
it. Agents need to stop saying they go the extra mile when they don’t.
It’s time to go there across the board — from inquiry management to
developing long-term customer loyalty programs. Agents should make it
their goal to never let an inquiry go to voicemail or an e-mail inbox.
Vendors also can do better than a 24-hour turnaround on a call.

There is  simply too much innovation out there to ever lose a client because you failed  to respond immediately to their needs.

Interlopers. Let’s put an end to this word. I’ve
changed my own tune on this topic. Real estate has endured 10 years of
outsiders coming in, and the list of companies that have been shown the
exit door reflects poorly on this industry. Here we are, it’s 2008 and
agents have not been replaced, the MLS has not been replaced, and homes
are still priced quite high. The real estate industry is all-inclusive.
Agents, vendors, alternative models, media, consumers — we are all in
this together.

Common sense. It’s one thing to debate an idea.
It’s another thing to slam individuals. I’m disappointed in the online
smear campaigns hosted by real estate people against members of their
own profession. There was a time when you talked behind people’s backs
and there was a chance it stayed private. Today, all this dirty laundry
is lying on the side of the real estate road and it feeds the negative
stereotypes of agents. It’s great to have a high IQ. Bobby Fischer’s
was 181. It’s more practical to have common sense.

Simplicity. Lying on the side of the real estate
road are tens of thousands of agents and brokers who own products they
don’t use or know how to use. Transaction management systems have
become deep labyrinths of complexity that most agents get horribly lost
inside. Web site text editors are clunky and require lots of training
to use. Realtor blogs have become confusing and many use techie
verbiage that mean nothing to a visitor. Broker Web sites are not clean
enough, defined enough or focused enough on the things that matter to
consumers. Map mash-ups are becoming Rubik’s cubes that few know how to
use properly.

Real estate has been made more complex than it needs to be.
"Googleize" yourself. Think simple. At a glance. Short, to the point.

There’s much more

Rely on your own good senses. Start conversing with each other. Keep
an open mind about everything. Invite the challenge. Don’t let anything
keep you from the opportunity buzzing around.

Finally, if you drive, switch seats for a time. Check the
map. Gaze out the window. Embrace the silence. There’s much to learn
from it.

– Davison