Real estate in a pickle: Here's a solution

I was going through the 1000WATT archive last night in preparation for some upcoming speaking engagements. The piece below, first published last July, seemed worth re-posting now, when times are even more challenging. I’d change a few things today. I’d have less money. But I still believe it’s time for brokers to clear the decks and start anew.


All right. We get it. Real estate’s in a pickle. Former NAR Chief Economist John Tuccillo’s recent observation that Realtor competence has fallen to its “lowest point ever”, has got everyone thinking, how much worse can this get?

Some of us are glass half full people. Others are glass half empty people. Me, I just finish the drink. Barkeep, pour me another. So why wonder how much worse it can get? Let’s start thinking how to make this whole thing better.

The small broker

Let’s start here: the local real estate brokerage with fewer than 100 agents. The following is a list of ten things I would do if I owned "Davison Real Estate":

1. Hire the best, not the most. And when I say best, I don’t mean some top producer I’d obsess about poaching then give away the store to. I’d recruit people who are passionate about my vision and give them real training in real business skills: negotiation, property marketing, management and more. No "quick trainings" or "boot camps" for my people.

2.  Create an in-house concierge department, hotel style. Whatever, whenever. This concierge department would be ground zero for anything clients needed locally: tickets to shows, directions, coupons. Everywhere referrals. Why just sell someone a home when you can help them live a life?

3. Retail. People buy homes. As soon as they move in they start shopping. Furniture. Bathroom accessories. Kitchen gadgets. If the Wynn Hotel can house a Ferrari dealership, Davison Real Estate can sell welcome mats, sheets, plush terry cloth robes and aromatheraputic candles. All these things would be offered to my customers at a great price and branded to Davison Real Estate. Far-fetched you say? Note how many T-shirts sporting luxury brands you see on your next trip downtown.

4. Downsize. Remove all of the office cubicles (we’ll deal with the agents in a second). Open the space up. Make it shabby chic with shag throw rugs, oversized mismatched chairs, Mac computers. If my agents and their clients need privacy they can use my boardroom. Or, even better, they’ll cut deals in the outside world, where the client prefers to be anyway.

5. Install a coffee bar. Depending where I was, I might add a wine bar too. Who would man it? At my full service, 6% commission facility every single agent would also be trained as a Barista. As would I. If someone walked in interested in my five-figure services, I’d be more than happy to whip them up a double espresso.

6. Davison Depot. I’d have a shed. Inside would be mops, buckets, painting gear, landscaping tools, light bulbs, etc. (again, all branded to Davison Real Estate). When someone buys a home from me, I’d want them coming to my place to borrow whatever they need to get their new place spiffed out.

7. Go paperless. All Davison Real Estate agents would be required to own a tablet computer. Those who balked would go work for the competition and bleed their profits going through ink cartridges, overnight packages, paper clips, staples and stamps while wasting sales time standing in front of a fax machine. My agents might be steaming milk for a client or serving them an imported cheese snack, but there’s no way I’d let them fish files from a cabinet.

8. The home page would feature an interactive map saturated with neighborhood polygons. Users would drill down to street level to retrieve information about every home — active, pending and sold. The best available local information, school data, and market trends would be fully integrated into the site. It would be completely open to user-generated content. Every homeowner could post home with pictures and video. I’d hold a "best home video contest" and dole out prizes each month. Homeowners could list and sell themselves for all I care. We’re not greedy at Davison Real Estate. We see the bigger picture.

9. Go all-in on online marketing. For one reason, and one reason only: Internet consumers are more intelligent, earn more money, spend more money and use up less time. Those are the clients I want — sophisticated people who appreciate sophistication from their service providers.

10. Obsess on image and brand. If any of my agents have dogs, none of my clients would ever know unless they asked. My people would dress sharply. No Tommy Bahamas, shorts and flip flops. We’d be transacting six- to seven-figure deals, and we’d dress like it. You don’t see lawyers, doctors or talent agents walking around with Bichon Frise earrings dangling from their lobes, shirts with their image silk-screened on them, and 20 stuffed animals lining their dashboards.

Think I’m kidding? I’m dead serious. It’s time to re-imagine the whole deal. Start from the ground up. It’s going to be fun. For those who are game.