There is a future that exists without Realtors. We must be cognizant of this fact and contemplate other possible futures, which see the role of the Realtor different than it is today.
We often hear about the profound changes that the real estate industry has experienced and Realtors regularly comment about their difficulties in keeping up with the vast changes. Though change may be prevalent when all aspects of a Realtor’s day-to-day business is considered, I wholeheartedly argue that organized real estate has not undergone any change at all in the past couple of decades, and very little change prior to that.
Appreciating this may not be a popular opinion, I’ll put some context to it.
Realtors have gone from pagers to flip phones to smart phones. From sending contracts, to faxing contracts, to emailing contracts. Brokerages have become more efficient. Franchises have leveraged technology to offer more tools and better business environments for the Realtors who fly their flag. Regulation continues to evolve to accommodate a changing business landscape. Consumers, having access to more information, continue to demand more information.
What has changed relating to the role of real estate boards and associations across the country? Organized real estate was founded on the function of a central organization, designed to manage listing data so brokerages could work in a co-operative environment to sell each other’s listings. This started with collecting information and redistributing it back to the brokerages in printed form, typically catalogues.
With the introduction of the business computer, these catalogues were digitized and moved to an electronic format. Then came the short-lived fad known as the internet that created a new opportunity for the data to become interactive. Boards could now share the data with brokerages and Realtors in real time, allowing for the system to become more interactive and consumer friendly.
Organized real estate is built on managing property data. What has really changed?
Leadership within organized real estate across the country needs to accept that the evolution has been close to non-existent. We cannot be distracted by a false sense of progress because our members have experienced change in their environment. We must be visionary about what the future role of the Realtor is, where organized real estate fits into that role, and start to change to ensure relevance of both in the future.
So, what is our next move? We can agree that the role of the Realtor five to 10 years from now will look vastly different than it does today. This change will be predicated on the way the consumer will navigate a real estate transaction in the future.
I see the consumer gaining more control of their experience. Empowered by information and technology to support the security and flow of that information, the consumer will be in the driver’s seat and be far less dependent on outside participants (appraisers, mortgage brokers, conveyancers, lenders, insurers, notaries and potentially even Realtors). It is time to consider the Realtor as part of the entire real estate transaction continuum, rather than just filling one gap out of many.
This is only possible if organized real estate begins building the infrastructure necessary to create this future. Rather than waiting for the development of such systems, which could be less focused on the Realtor as part of the transaction, we need to lead these conversations, to ensure the continued viability of the Realtor.
There is a future that exists without Realtors. It is our job as leaders in organized real estate to ensure that is not the future that is realized.