TO: NAR Board of Directors and Committee Members | FROM: President Steve Brown and CEO Dale Stinton
The Fault Lies not in the Stars ….
Much has been made of how technology has and will affect our lives and chosen vocations. Technology speeds things up. Technology provides instant access. Technology feeds the insatiable demand for more and more meaningful information. Information wants to be free. Technology and ‘change’ are often used interchangeably to remind us that our world tomorrow will be very different than it was yesterday. Then you throw in a healthy dose of ‘who moved my cheese’ and all those other consultant driven mantras about adapting to the new world order and quickly your head is spinning and you just want it all to stop. But it doesn’t and it’s not going to!
The legendary Steve Jobs was described as mercurial, a little crazy, and passionately driven. But one of his favorite quotes tells us everything we need to know about him: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life”.
So what’s all this got to do with you and your participation in organized real estate? Let’s go back and connect the dots. An industry that’s come together for over one hundred years. Inventors of cooperation and compensation. Inventors of self policing through a strict code of ethics and professional standards. Inventors of MLS. Inventors of RPAC, the countries strongest political force. Inventors of yes, Realtor.com, the first viable real estate portal, the traffic leader in the space for the first 15 years.
Here are a few Realtor.com dots. The business case for Realtor.com, now 18 years ago, was summarized in the popular “lions coming over the hill” speech which has been repeated many many times. In its’ rawest form it said – if others harness the ability to aggregate data from your listings, and capture the consumer upstream, you will be disintermediated. Therefore, in exchange for using your listing data to make commerce, we will cause to be created a Realtor-friendly, accurate, time sensitive, site with explicit guarantees not to threaten your commission or disintermediate you. To this day, Realtor.com has kept its’ promise and it will continue to do so.
But as in any business, where there is a vacuum, the market will move to fill it. This is a good thing. We need to embrace competitive forces, learn from them and adapt. Competition should strengthen us because of the healthy tension it can create but we must also strengthen our resolve and stand up for ourselves.
As Realtors®, data does not define us; our insights, experience and expertise run much deeper than that. So as the industry moves forward, we have to look at ourselves – and better define our value proposition.
NAR believes that a highly skilled and professional Realtor® is and will always be integral to the process of buying and selling real estate. The association and its leadership is committed to promoting and supporting the Realtor® brand and Realtor® value proposition to consumers. In the internet age, consumers are going to go online for real estate information, but they will continue to rely on local experts when they buy and sell property. NAR is committed to ensuring that Realtors® are those local experts.
So just as data does not define us, nor should we allow service providers to become too comfortable in defining how you conduct your business. In practical, actionable terms – this is what you can do:
- Demand the brokers and the listing agents identity be prominently displayed
- Demand timely, ‘fresh’ listing display
- Do not allow your listings to be modified
- Do not allow co-mingling of your listings with FSBO’s
- Demand preservation of copyright notices on your listings
- Demand that your provider highlight and promote the term Realtor®
- AND – NEVER, EVER let any provider threaten your commission!
This advice is provided as a way to emphasize that your listings, your data were acquired by you through tremendous work and effort, and a heck of a lot of money is being moved around in the marketplace predicated on you continuing to provide it. It’s seed corn – don’t squander it.
Now comes the hard part – we must be brutally honest – you must change and quickly. Your value proposition is not data – it’s YOU! You must be the best and you must be the most professional and ethical. For too long we’ve allowed the term Realtor® to be bandied about as a low ranking career choice. Your future lies in upgrading and elevating our profession to make you absolutely indispensable to the real estate transaction. Do not fall in the trap of thinking if we just regain control of the data that everything will go back to the way it was. It won’t. A quote from the NAR Strategic Plan says it all – “We need to be totally consumer centric – not what we want but what they want – and be able to adapt quickly.”
With over 1 million members it’s time, as Steve Jobs said, to trust in something, and that something is a history and a future of which we all can be proud. Connecting a million plus dots is never easy, change can be excruciating – but if not now, when?