Real Estate Is A-Changin'

"The times they are a-changin'"

Bob Dylan's words are as true today just as they were in 1964. That makes sense though since we are always in constant change. People change. Neighborhoods change. Industries change. Leadership at the National Association of Realtors (NAR) changes, and here we are with a new CEO, Bob Goldberg.

Change always invites attention and there has been a lot of that on Goldberg with his recent video announcement introducing himself to the Realtor community and his speech at the NAR Leadership Summit. The focus? Change, or more specifically, disruption.

Disruption has become a buzzword in almost every industry and with that is losing it's impact. It's become a catch-all for all of the other buzzwords being thrown around in real estate:

  • Millennials;
  • Educated consumers;
  • 'Raising the bar';
  • Technology;
  • Intellectual property;
  • and more.

I feel like I'm on the same hamster wheel just in a new cage. For years the NAR has identified change within the real estate industry as threats, mostly because the NAR has not been a part of any significant changes over the past decade. While brokers, MLSs, and the NAR sat around assuming that they own the facts and data about other people's real property, Zillow decided to take action and produce a product that consumers wanted. Now add in all the technology companies, venture capitalists, new instant selling solutions, etc., and the old guard is left playing catch up.

I am cautiously optimistic that NAR leadership might now understand this and will take action to become the leading voice driving the positive change in real estate instead of just watching everyone else control the innovation while the association sits idly by. These items that Goldberg highlighted in his speech yesterday will help improve NAR's status:

  • A strategic think tank
  • Improved communication among members
  • New 'Day in the Life Program'
  • Strategic business and technology group

The NAR has always struggled with it's relationship with it's members. Surprising since over 75% of the organization's revenue comes from member dues. Sometimes I wonder why we pay it; and then I realize that if we don't, no MLS for you. The idea of a "day in the life" program is a great way to start this better communication by actually experiencing what is going on day-to-day with Realtors around the country. Combining this and better communication along with a strategic group to stay ahead of emerging technologies can be a great way for NAR to be a part of the change instead of just reacting to it.

I have my concerns though. Goldberg's speech lacked an emphasis on improving the real estate experience for consumers. I understand that NAR exists to serve Realtors so we can then serve our clients but the lack of focus on this key stakeholder is exactly how Zillow became the leading source for consumers.

I'm also not a huge fan of NAR staking claim to the entire real estate industry by saying "real estate is OUR industry." It is statements like this that make us believe that the details about real property are our intellectual property and that services that syndicate listing information for FREE are selling OUR LEADS back to us. We need to get beyond this and focus on the consumers and doing what is best for them.

However, there is new energy at NAR and positive moves are being made. In addition, the individual Realtor is changing too. Competition from outside forces other than fellow real estate agents has encouraged Realtors to step up their game and maintain better, more valuable relationships. Over the next decade, the number of Realtors solely focused on the transaction will get replaced by companies and technology that can do it better but the Realtors that provide true quality service will thrive.

Yes, the real estate industry is a-changin'. It always has been and will continue to change just like everything else.