Big Ideas from the Big Apple – Inman Connect New York 2019

Part 1 – Brokers, Agents and Disruptors

Inman conferences have a history of good discussions on timely topics, and this year was no exception due to recent changes in the market. While it’s impossible to cover five full days of wide-ranging discussions in a single blog post, here are the highlights that directly reflect trends we see among the major players – brokers, agents and disruptors:

Brokerages Bet Big

Though disruptors are working hard to change the game of real estate, there are still plenty of brokers who are working to play the game – just better. Every traditional broker wakes up in the morning thinking about their two main goals, recruiting and retention. Seemingly there is still room for every conceivable brokerage configuration, and most were discussed (sometimes heatedly) at points throughout the conference: Should a brokerage have physical offices or go virtual? Offer graduated commission splits or move toward the employee model? Provide technology and leads or offer higher compensation so agents can choose their own? Stay traditional or offer instant offers? And what if they encounter a discounter in their market? Do they cut commissions? Decisions, decisions.

These discussions came to the spotlight with some lively sparring between the CEOs of two brands that approach brokerage in very different ways. In one corner was Compass, the VC-funded start-up. In the other corner was Realogy, the long-time, multi-brand stalwart. Each CEO gave high-level outlines of their respective strategic approaches, but both wanted to be seen as acquirers of premier brands and innovators in tech. Where they did find common ground was in the belief that the real estate professional is, and will remain, at the center of the transaction because it’s a local business built on relationships – and will never be a push-button transaction.

Agent Connect

While the brokers talked about changing the business, the agent sessions focused on doing the business. “Brokers rise and brokers fall, so my personal brand must say it all,” was the refrain of one agent in a marketing session. Today’s first requirement for agents is authenticity, and it must be core to your personal brand. Engagement has upstaged reach (or followers) as the metric that matters in real estate social media marketing.

One of the best sessions brought some high school and undergrad students on stage to share what they will expect as they look to become homeowners in just a few short years. What will these kids expect? Authenticity, transparency, visibility, expertise on the local market and impeccable reviews (plus great word-of-mouth recommendations). The takeaway: Be expert, but be personal. As the 15-year-old high school sophomore said, “Tell me something I can’t find out online. That’s how you provide value. Show that you care.”

Disruption is the New Normal

The good ‘ol days are going, going, gone. The traditional business of real estate continues to see greater competition from all corners. Teams have changed the dynamic, and expansion teams have made their way to the mainstream. iBuyers have changed the game, so brokers are now bringing their own iBuyer or instant-offer models. On the final day, one expert said iBuyers could garner up to 20% in just a couple of years. The biggest news may be the institutionalization of the rental market, which has done a lot to improve the consumer experience.

What’s Next?

Real estate technology, or Proptech, is being fueled by the continuing influx of venture capital, and it’s now changing the game for brokers and agents alike. In the next installment of Big Ideas from the Big Apple, I will share the takeaways from the Hacker Connect and Capital Connect sessions and introduce some of the new players with some great new offerings.

Until next time,


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