Did You Hear the Gun Go Off?

The 19th annual Real Trend’s Gathering of Eagles conference was held in Dallas last month and once again it was the only place to be for those who really want to know what is happening in today’s American real estate industry. The “Gathering,” as it is known, is a by-invitation-only industry institution that attracts the industry’s top thinkers and most dynamic leaders. It is three days of non-stop intellectual challenge and collaborative thinking.

With 246 brokers in attendance, this was the largest Gathering since 2005. The program was relevant in design and tight in execution. The information was well reasoned and focused on the unique interests of the audience. The lessons learned represent critical information for firms that wish to lead the new industry.

So What Lessons Were Learned?

  • The good news is that the recession and the down market may be over and that a new “normal” has arrived. The sobering news is that this new era in the history of the industry will be one of learning, reengineering and reinvention.
  • The important news is that the real estate consumer is now in total control of the market and the transaction.
  • The financial news is that controlling costs and overhead has now morphed from a business skill to a survival skill.
  • The sharpening news is that the events of the past five years have created a whole new real estate services practice environment in which the consumer is in charge.
  • The sobering news is that a significantly evolved brokerage business model will be required to succeed in this new business environment.
  • The exciting news is that the experience that lies ahead will be more exciting, stimulating and rewarding that that which has brought us here today.
  • The defining news is that leadership will be the defining skill set for the brokerage moving forward.

Interestingly enough, many of these themes were repeated again during the NAR Mid-Year meetings in Washington a week later. In this case, however, the performance of local and state REALTOR® associations over the past eight years was brought into question. The issues of innovation and creativity were discussed, especially after the NAR Game Changer presentations were made. The Game Changer competition seems to have answered the question of whether or not REALTOR® associations can be innovative. However, it seems to bring into focus the question not of whether or not they can be innovative, but rather why are they not exercising innovation. One could not help but be impressed with the amazing results of the Game Changer program. The effort gave rise to 10 fully functional programs, all of which have the potential of helping move the REALTOR® association into the new era. This was yet another example of how NAR CEO Dale Stinton is quietly providing the executive support and guidance necessary to take REALTORS® into the future on a positive and competitive basis.

What lessons did both the Gathering and the Mid Years provide to the industry? Perhaps most important was the almost universal acknowledgement that, in fact, a new era has arrived in the industry. At both sessions, even the most experienced and anchored participants gave due notice to the fact that everything is now different. However, reports from a number of other industry meetings have noted that many senior leaders are now adopting a rather combative attitude regarding all things X and Y.

A second observation would focus on the fact that in both spheres, a whole new brokerage and association leadership cadre is emerging. It was interesting to watch the attendees’ discussion struggle with the concept of whether the term “new leaders” was a synonym for “younger” leaders. While it was not possible to determine whether a definitive resolution was reached, there did seem to be a consensus that senior leaders were not paying attention to the needs and expectations of those under 45 and that if this situation is not resolved, further changes could be expected.

A possible indication of complications to come was the fact that the leadership “chairs” for many organizations seem to be packed with senior boomers trying to have their consummate leadership experience before it is too late. In some cases, leadership positions three and four years out are already spoken for.

The solution for this dilemma is quite simple. It is philosophy and leadership style rather than chronological age that makes the difference here. Older leaders who have taken the time and demonstrated the respect to learn and exhibit the values of Generations X, Y and the trailing Boomers are doing just fine. On the other hand, “younger” leaders who demonstrate a lack of respect for traditional thoughts and processes are not succeeding. Both brokerages and associations would do well to provide real “leadership” rather than “governance” training for their leadership teams.

The third observation that rises from these meetings relates to how exactly the industry, marketplace and transactions themselves will be different than in the past. Much of this transition will be driven by changes in how the American real estate consumer feels about the marketing, ownership and/or possession experiences of real estate. The events of the past few years have clearly impacted how today’s consumer approaches each of these events. Their responses are well documented and offer easy learning for all who are interested.

In conclusion, we return to our original question. Did you hear the gun go off announcing that the new era in real estate has arrived? Please note that the word “future” did not appear in this article. We are no longer talking about what could happen but rather what has happened. As soon as possible, get a handle on this new era. Learn its challenges and its opportunities. Figure out its do’s and don’ts. Appreciate its joys and be prepared to live with its downs. But most of all, take the time to celebrate its arrival and the contributions it will make to the rest of your days.