First Person: 3 Real Estate Brokerage Trends Emerging

If 2019 was all about disruption, 2020 has been marked by “disruption adaptation.” And how that is playing out has created some seismic shifts in the industry. The good news is that the adaptation is happening on all fronts, reflecting a realization that we’re all in this together, and that together, it is possible to do more.

I have seen three trends evolving in our industry—brokerages turning iBuying options to their advantage, the portals embracing their referral models, and the power of full-service.

iBuying Now Part of our Approach

The arrival of iBuying set the traditional brokerage community on fire. A disruptive approach to the selling of homes, iBuying was hailed as a way to relieve some of the pain points associated with the transaction.

While attractive to a subset of sellers, the brokerage community has quickly adapted and is now utilizing the iBuying option to welcome potential sellers. This makes sense. When it comes right down to it, consumers still want a trusted advisor to guide them through the process. That realization has led to a 2.0 approach.

In the iBuying reboot, agents have asserted themselves in the lead role, but in a process that encompasses a number of new players. From the likes of Opendoor, Offerpad, Zillow and Realogy’s RealSure program, to local brokerage’s own iBuying programs and the conventional approach of listing on the open market, consumers have as many as SIX ways to sell their home! Agents can now educate clients about ALL of the options available to them, underscoring their role as a trusted advisor – not someone who is just out for a commission. In this scenario, iBuyers are no longer a disrupter. Instead, we have the opportunity to show all sides of the picture and help sellers find the best option for THEM.

This is where we really see a shift from thinking about it as either iBuying or listing on the open market to considering both options.

When Opendoor first entered the Jacksonville market, they supported their launch with heavy advertising. While obviously much of it was geared toward educating the consumer about iBuying, it also benefited the entire industry as more became aware of the seller’s market we have today. We found the overwhelming number of sellers, while interested in what they have heard about iBuying, still wanted our agents. We created our own program which allows us to present the iBuying offers from multiple outlets along with what we can do to support the sale in a traditional market.

Once again, the industry got rattled with a new idea but quickly adapted.

Portals as Referral Sources

It’s impossible to think about real estate today without considering the impact of the portals, most notably and Zillow. In this brave new world of “BOTH,” the portals have also moved to an adaptation mode.

Traditionally, the portals operated as pay to play marketers. Brokers and agents paid a monthly fee to market homes to a wide audience – essentially buying eyeballs. The prevailing philosophy was that you had to be “in it to win it,” meaning if you didn’t pay to have your calling card on a portal, you might miss out on leads. But brokers and agents began to understand that lead quality on these portals was poor, leading to the development of lead incubation programs and engagement with third parties that could provide highly qualified leads.

In turn, the portals realized they needed to update their offerings with a shift from “pay-to-play” to a “success fee” model– essentially referral fees paid to them when agents closed a portal lead.

But the only way portals would get paid in this model is if they provided quality leads with a higher likelihood of closing. That led to another “BOTH” development when bought the lead capture company Opcity. And, just like the other major referral groups, they are going to rightfully want their leads awarded to proven brokerages to increase their opportunity to generate revenue.

Full-Service is About Partnerships

One of the things that has been interesting during the pandemic is the number of agents from other brokerages—many from 100% shops—showing an interest in our full-service model. Not only have they recognized that they need the ongoing support and training, but they also are realizing we have the relationships, brand recognition and networking to bring them more business.

As a brokerage, we have the power to engage with the new revenue streams including the iBuyers. We can attract buyers and sellers through our sophisticated marketing channels, through our ERA brand and relationship with Realogy. We are constantly presented with new relationship opportunities including AARP and Realogy’s RealSure program.

As the industry morphs and Zillow and become true referral sources (which we always knew was coming) and our brands really enter an age of partnerships, only established agents and brokers are going to qualify for that business.

As full-service brokers, we have the unique advantage of our tools and systems that will help our agents truly be the best in the market to earn and close business. We view the relationship between a broker and agents as a true partnership. An example of this our investment in new platforms, like OptionMove, sharing in referral fees and offering free coaching/training.

I’ve been in real estate for a long time. For as long as I’ve been in it, there are two things that stand out. One is there will be disruption. The dollars associated with our industry are just too large to not attract new ideas. But the second is even more prevalent. The brokerage community has always quickly adapted to ensure that the buyers and sellers are always best positioned with us ensuring our agents are always the trusted advisors.

As our company embraces distraction adaptation, I’ve learned a few things worth sharing.

  1. Get out in front. Educating your team on iBuyers and their different value propositions is critical in supporting the agent’s role as trusted advisor.
  2. Understand iBuyers’ impact in YOUR market. They could have less than 1% market share or 20% market share. Understanding the competitive threat helps better formulate how you will respond. Is it a polite nod to acknowledge the new player or is it a full court press to protect market share—the numbers will be your guide.
  3. Understand the “Buy Box.” Most iBuyers have a sweet spot when it comes to price. By being ahead of them entering the market and knowing what price point they will target gives you a great head start.
  4. Focus on relationships. Company generated business that demands excellent service is the fastest path to future referrals.
  5. Invest in Referral Quality Control. Ensuring that your entire team is performing to the same set of high standards underscores the agent’s value as a trusted advisor and allows your company to stand out to consumers and referral sources. If you haven’t already, make sure you have a dedicated referral team, along with proper training and accountability systems in place.

Andrew Linn is of ERA Davis & Linn in Jacksonville, Florida. Linn has been a successful real estate professional since 2005 and has listed and sold more than $200 million in real estate. Prior to that he served as a Project Manager for a larger residential and commercial developer. After graduating from Wofford College and prior to earning his real estate license, he gained experience as a project manager with a large developer in Jacksonville, Florida. Once securing his real estate license, he quickly found that the brokerage side of real estate incited a passion and it was something he loved. He joined ERA Davis & Linn in 2006 and now serves as the broker of ERA Davis & Linn, along with his father and mentor, Jim Linn.