Tough words, army mentality, but could it be true? “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” —General Eric Shinseki retired Chief of Staff, U. S. Army
When it comes to Real Estate, and planning for the future, you can either throw your professional tea leaves in the air- or you can proactively try to predict what lies ahead based on past evolution and the current state of Real Estate.
There is much in this dynamic, swiftly moving industry that is changing, and continuing to evolve. The industry over the past several years has been characterized by vast changes, from the opening of the marketplace to new players who have changed the way that REALTORS® must position themselves, to ongoing industry challenges from the Competition Bureau, to a shift in client demographics and tastes to the explosion of technology and social media that has completely reshaped and rebuilt the way in which an industry functions, from the inside out.
The question is how to stay ahead of the curve, and remain competitive? Part of the answer lies in the ability to read the professional crystal ball, and adapt. Michael McCann, Royal LePage Connect, hangs a quote on his desk to remind him that, as a REALTOR®, standing still while things move around you not only challenges the laws of physics, it doesn’t make good business sense: “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”—General Eric Shinseki retired Chief of Staff, U. S. Army
Fact: More than 80% of home searches now at least have some interaction of the internet. For all the changes that have taken place in the industry, no more than this heavy influence of technology, drives home the truth that when it comes to technology and Real Estate, you’re either in, or you’re out- and watching your competitors snap up your market share.
It’s not just about staying abreast of new technologies either; being tech savvy, and fully leveraging things like social media is more than effective marketing and distribution of information- it has become a base line expectation for the consumer, and is likely to evolve even further in the years to come. The inclusions of technologies like social media, visual experience and video technology are quickly becoming industry standard. Just like the market ultimately will determine the value of a property, so will the requirements of the consumer dictate the way in which REALTORS® interact with them.
This is where planning for the future can be beneficial to the REALTOR®, as McCann suggests: “Segments of my business plan for 2012 includes a strong social media platform, technology updates, expanding online marketing strategies and updating information delivery systems.”
As McCann says too, technology is only useful if it is relevant- to the marketplace and to the client; as REALTORS® evolve their usage of technology to address client needs, it is important to consistently look at themselves through the eyes of the client. Some common themes in the future will likely be an increased immediacy in the access to information, as well as in increase to the visual component to marketing and property sales.
“As REALTORS® it's critical that we communicate with buyers and sellers via the messaging vehicle of their choice. Clients are now mobile and their expectations are that we are as well.
For today's buyers and sellers text content represents a small fraction of their needs. Over the next couple of years we will be sending more data, pictures, video and links tailored specifically for their criteria.”
These new technologies that are gaining popularity- through things like video blogs, digital floor plans etc. represent a real opportunity for REALTORS® on many levels, like strengthening client relationships through more personalized technology, but also provides an opportunity for REALTORS® to really add value, and give them supporting reasons to compel consumers to choose to do business with them, especially with an increasing For Sale by Owner presence in the market.
Although the idea of incorporating new technology can be daunting, there are several compelling reasons to get on board, and the key, according to McCann, is to commit to tackling technology with training, a little bit at a time, both to find out what is current, and what is expected. “So REALTORS® don't get lost in the forest of technology, my suggestion is every year learn one new social platform and one technical device. Commit and be good at one thing rather than fumble through a dozen platforms.”
More Players, Same Space
While there is some truth to the old adage, ‘change is good’, there have been some challenges for Real Estate Professionals in opening up the marketplace to For Sale by Owners.
The fact is, this may be the new economic order for Real Estate, although the jury remains out on exactly what the future will look like in this regard; will there be a number of private sellers or will several companies merge? The strategy here is to include some sort of co-existing marketing strategy, not so much to overcome the ‘other’, but to more clearly define the space that belongs to each player.
Again, consumers and their perceptions of the industry are a factor in driving this change, and in ultimately setting up territories in the marketplace, and it is up to the professionals to verbalize their position proactively. The difference is not with commission, as is often the centre of the debate, but with service.
Robert J. Morrow, Editor: www.HamiltonHomeReview.com,Sales Rep, Chase Realty Inc, Brokerage, says that, for those that plan to continue their success, it may be worthwhile to take a look up once in awhile to see who is standing next to them in the workplace, and tap into their sense of the future: “As with any industry, the veterans resist change and due to their current success (based on referrals and reputation), they continue to have a strong voice within the industry. But the boomer generation is aging and the x and y generations are entering the industry more and more each day. These young, smart, and technology-savvy professionals not only accept change, they embrace it. They take for granted that what worked last year might not work this year. As a result, the pace of change will increase in coming years. The "new" consumer will demand a fairer way to buy and sell a home. And the "new" agent will have a solution. When those two voices become stronger than the voice of the veteran, the industry will change. Better for the consumer. Better for us.”
Location, Location, Location
In years gone by, the picture of idyllic living involved an expansive property with lush lawns in a suburban setting. Propelled both by the beginning of the Baby Boomer migration towards retirement and property downsizing, and by a re-evaluation of professional and living needs, increasingly, the urban centres are where it’s at. This is evidenced by the surge in condominium development in urban cores around the country, which may be a sign of things to come.
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative, Bosley R.E. Ltd (www.urbaneer.com), says that this is more than just a change, but that there is a buyer role-reversal in the works, that could have widespread impact on the marketplace. “As commuting times increase our residential differentiation will experience a cultural role reversal of sorts, as white collar suburbanites will increasingly flock to inner city neighbourhoods- many of which were once the nuclei of the ethnic working class, whom in turn will relocate to the suburbs to be closer to production centres.”
For demographic evidence of this shift, one need look no further than the Baby Boomers, and the ample statistical data from across the country to suggest that, as they near and enter retirement, are fleeing the suburbs and returning to the city centres en masse, as Fudge observes: “Baby Boomers- an aging affluent mass, prefer having their principal residences in the City- rather than in the country, as the proximity of healthcare facilities and services quickly move to centre stage.”
Modern housing has increasingly become a commodity that included a certain degree of obsolescence in its’ trappings, but as Fudge suggests- there is a rebirth of love for tried and true quality a-comin’ that will effectively change buying habits, for many of those moving towards urban centres, as well as the physical landscapes that will emerge from the shift: “Canadians who have once too often renovated over budget - and with time delays, will desire for high-quality, low-maintenance, and more efficient move-in space in the city centre. City politicians, pressured by demand, will loosen zoning restrictions downtown - and embrace and then celebrate live/work zoning enabling the creative, entrepreneurial and financial service consultants to legally operate their small firms out of their dwellings which may even have separate work quarters at street level. When city residents travel locally, pro-urbanites walk, cycle and use public transportation because it will soon take less time than driving.”
“With growing collective public pressure on behalf of the environment, influence by media value and consumer buying patterns, the housing industry becomes cognizant of recycling waste- the result of which is integration of housing with natural and urban co-systems, as well as the inclusion of green materials and construction techniques; there is an acute awareness of the impact of healthy housing environments on productivity that results from battling late twentieth century hazards, like the sick-building syndrome, created by the noxious gases of synthetic materials, and sponsoring research on the psychological benefits of good design on the human psyche.”
Client: Past, Present and Future
While the industry itself is in a state of flux, one thing remains front and centre- as an invisible anchor: The client.
Although the industry continues to evolve, one thing does remain constant- that real estate is first and foremost, a client centric business built by developing relationships. To understand the future of the business, one must know your clients, and know where they are heading, in terms of demands, tastes and expectations. Furthermore, you can’t follow them there; you must be waiting for them when they arrive.