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Top 10 Takeaways from Inman Connect #ICNY

February 06 2018

lwolf top 10 takeaways inman connect icnyFor those of you who have not had the opportunity to attend an Inman event, imagine this: Thousands of the industry's vendors, franchises, brokerages, and agents congregating into a couple floors of a hotel for five days. There's more combined influence, brain power, and sheer know-how in a single location than nearly any other event can create.

Now come the sessions – usually set up in 15-25 minute segments rotating through speakers each time. Inman brings in CEOs, trainers, coaches, broker/owners, social influencers, marketers, and agents to facilitate some of the most heavy hitting topics shrunk down into easily digestible pieces.

These are my top 10 takeaways on threats, trends and opportunities discussed at #ICNY last month:

1. iBuyer programs are here to stay

iBuyers are becoming more common than many are aware. These companies are trying to make it as easy to trade in a house as it is to trade in a car. The CEO of Knock and CEO of OfferPad shared some background on what's driving the trend – ultimately, it comes down to convenience, value, and ease.

It's a natural extension of our on-demand culture. While some dispute that the seller is losing money trying to liquidate quickly, both executives shared the costs are nearly a wash when compared to traditional brokerages and the commissions charged in the transaction. In fact, for the majority of iSellers this will not be the first time selling a home. They are choosing the system as an alternative to a traditional brokerage-based sale.

2. Staging is the new marketing – Virtual Staging

Video remains a hot topic in 2018, and one of the core marketing tools for some of the most successful agents, teams and brokerages. Anton Yakovenko, CEO and CoFounder of GeoCV, and Bill Brown, CEO of Matterport, shared that 3D immersive technology is becoming a standard. In fact, 4.5 percent of all listed homes in the US have used Matterport tours since their launch. New tools will enhance the connection with the agent by integrating video and content pop-ups during the 3D tours at certain "hot spots" the agent defines. Additionally, with a new partnership between RoOomy and Matterport, 3D immersive space will now include virtual staging tools to help agents and consumers reinvent the properties they're looking at.

3. Technology and the loss of relationships

While technology provides less opportunity for agents and brokerages to be in front of the customer, technology will not replace agents or the brokerage model. Instead, technology will provide opportunities that are more efficient for the agents to be incorporated into the process at precise moments to maximize their impact and provide greater value to the consumer.

4. A lack of accountability for agents

Brokerages and associations are both struggling with the lack of accountability for their agents, leaving both groups in a risky situation. This trend will force brokerages to implement basic competency expectations and it also highlights why consumers are turning to online reviews and rating sites before reaching out to an agents. The agent represents the brokerage and Realtor® brands, emphasizing the need for accountability and oversight throughout the transaction.

5. Predictive analytics will make us much more effective marketers

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is leading to much more effective marketing tools for agents. These tools will soon be able to analyze CRM contacts against public records, including social media, tax records, etc. to predict the likelihood of someone moving, buying or selling a home. This will help agents communicate with their sphere of influence at critical points in the search process – often before they've even started looking for new homes. It's all in the numbers.

6. Discount brokerages are emphasizing the need to improve service from the rest of us

Discount and flat rate brokerages are competing with traditional commission-based incumbent processes. The value of an agent is not tied to the commission, but rather in the value and quality of services provided. Will it help sell the home faster and at a higher rate? When discount brokerages provide basic level services, like photography, agents and brokerages should focus on exceeding expectations and providing higher quality services to show the difference in execution. Comparing these services side by side will help show that while it may cost less to work with a discount brokerage, they may get lower offers or have to wait longer to sell, leaving agents needing to articulate the distinction between cost and value.

7. The best technology is the one agents will use

Across the board, brokers agree that the best system for their brokerage is one that the agents will use. As many brokerages struggle with agent adoption, more and more brokers are now requiring blanket adoption in their offices. While this may frustrate or alienate some agents in the office, brokerages are seeing that full adoption is required to justify the investment in new technology.

8. Brokerages struggle with data

Joe Rand, CEO of Better Homes & Gardens Rand RealtyBetter Homes & Gardens Rand Realty, shared that brokers in general have barely scratched the surface of what data can show us. Rand also shared that data input is a pain in the butt and there's a full-time person on his team dedicated to fixing duplicate data errors. The industry demands data that flows between systems and that vendors work with brokers and agents to build solutions. All too often, companies build tools without collaboration and the tools don't end up being used.

9. Franchises and brokerages are shifting to agent-centric models

One of the most exciting sessions of the week was Ryan Schneider, CEO of Realogy, speaking with the public for the first time. His message was heard loud and clear: "[Realogy] will be relentlessly focused on our agents. If agents are successful, the brokerages are successful, and that means we are successful." Brokerages are always balancing who their consumer is – the buyer and seller or the agent. Realogy will be focused on the agent as they believe a well-prepared agent will provide greater service to the buyer and seller. I tend to agree.

10. Teams and technology will replace the traditional brokerage model

This was one of the more controversial topics discussed at Inman. Robert Rekkfin, CEO of Compass, shared two comments on stage that made me cringe. First, he shared that "Redfin should not be looked at as a brokerage, but rather as a super team." I'm not sure I agree completely there, but I could understand why he thought that way.

Where he lost me was when he said, "Agent teams will replace the brokerage firm in the future. Teams will become the new brokerage." First of all, many brokerages already work as a large team to provide the best service to the customer. This team approach does not call into question the viability of the brokerage model. Second of all, smaller teams within a brokerage are not going to replace their larger counterparts. Some agents like working independently and will continue needing the administrative and transactional support many brokerage models provide.

I would expect many teams to spin off into their own brokerages, but I firmly believe that teams pose no serious threats to the traditional brokerage model. As there are more levels within a brokerage, each taking a piece of the pie, the commission splits will continue to get squeezed. I believe that this will have a greater impact on the viability of the team model, as opposed to an existential crisis, for brokerages.

Inman has never disappointed with their events, and this year was no different. A huge shout out to every panelist, speaker, vendor and attendee that got involved to make this an event to remember. Hope to see you at the next one!

To view the original article, visit the Lone Wolf blog.