Brokerage,Value,And Being Champions

Keep K=Calm Becasue we Are the Champions(DISCLAIMER; anyone reading this post should be aware that I find Rob Hahn an interesting intelligent, well read individual with a fascinating perspective on the real estate industry and a keen analytical mind. Under no circumstances should any of the following be construed to indicate that I have anything but the utmost respect for Rob as an individual , and for his views, no matter how much I disagree with him. I will also go on record that the conversations and disagreements that I have with him in person provide me with immense pleasure, and make me think about topics from a point of view that I might otherwise have ignored. One of my best moments at RETSO7 was a hallway conversation with Rob that was almost as fanciful as the latest X-Men movies)

I just read Rob Hahn’s recent blog post in which he suggests that the real estate brokerage and the real estate broker should be the stewards of the industry. The post started out by suggesting that, regardless of the business goals of a brokerage that there might be more value in providing professional photography for a brokerage’s agent population than providing a leads rich environment – a premise that ignores the basic economics of operating a real estate brokerage.

Providing a leads rich environment  is a part of the brokerage value package in today’s world that attracts and retains agents while paying for photos does not enrich an agent even if it increases the quality of their photos and potentially makes the advertising more attractive to consumers. I would posit that until consumers start buying homes from their photos and stop going to see them before they make an offer, professional photos, while valuable, just don’t rise to the same level as a viable consumer contact. Providing a high quality photo service for your agents might be a part of a brokerage value package, but I don’t believe that agents would as attracted to that as they might be to any source of revenue generating business. I believe that we in the industry  may not explain the need for brokerage value propositions well since they vary from business model to business model and from brokerage to brokerage, each firm trying their best to differentiate themselves and seek different ways to attract agents that are compatible with their corporate culture and can help them grow, but it is brokerage value package that attract and retains agents.

However from that little bit of photo fantasy, Rob goes into an interesting proposition about the need for real estate brokerages to see themselves as the stewards of the real estate industry – though I think that the word champion is a better term than steward, Rob makes an argument that Brokers (and I would include agents) need to do more than just work in the real estate industry. They have an obligation to work on the real estate industry, improving it for everyone, including the consumer. He then lists a number of things every broker should do as (in his words) a steward.

I was tickled as I read the post to realize that every challenge he places in front of a real estate broker,  is exemplified in my company and has been for more than 3 decades. We have more past presidents of our local REALTOR association than any firm in our marketplace. Our agents and brokers have held active positions at every level of the REALTOR organization, make RPAC contributions willingly, include major investors to RPAC, advocate individually on industry issues, educate consumers and practitioners regularly, work no consumer hotlines, support political calls for action, and are dedicated to improving what we do and how we do it, not only for our company, but for our industry. I say this not because I want to brag the people I associate with (though it wouldn’t be out of place) but because we are not unique in the industry.

Everyplace I speak, nationally or internationally, I am surrounded by REALTORS whose businesses are filled with similar champions. The NAR meetings in May and November each year, are filled to overflowing with such unsung heroes. People that serve on or chair committees at the local, state and national level. People that may not be beating their chests in Facebook groups or tweeting their discontent, but are donating their time and money to make the real estate industry better. We hear the moaners and complainers in the industry at least partially because they devote some of their time to moaning and complaining and fretting about the state of the industry, but these are not the people that move the industry forward. These are people that talk about the future of the industry while others are actually shaping it. The individuals that go about the business of the industry every day, quietly, and with little fanfare, actually raising the bar instead of talking about raising the bar.

In his post Rob talks about bad MLS photos,saying “I wrote about the crappy photo problem a while back and suggested a new role for the Association, which of course, every Association promptly ignored as they had new officer installation dinner parties to plan.” Putting aside the concept that a Trade Association should respond to a casual suggestion from a non-member (no matter how bright or articulate that individual might be) those installation dinners are a small celebration of the volunteer members he suggests need to be the champions of the industry. Such rituals emphasize the dignity and importance of the service being rendered, and solemnly suggests to the individuals being installed the responsibility of the posts they are taking up. This is the very essence of sending a mixed message – if you want people to make such efforts, we need to recognize them for doing so.

I’m not suggesting that such events should be more important than the improvement of the Association, but I think we too quickly dismiss the positive impact on the individuals that are being celebrated. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of participating at the installation of my friend Joe Sheehan as the Chairman of a local REALTOR Association. Our friend J. Phillip Faranda drove down from New York to participate as well. I don’t think I would be inaccurate to say that all three of us appreciated the task he was taking on and felt honored to be there recognize the importance of Joe’s taking up the mantle of champion for the Association this year.

People do things that benefit themselves, either commercially, socially, or emotionally. I agree with Rob that we would all be better served if we all thought of ourselves as champions of the real estate industry, but maybe one way to do that is to spend more time recognizing the job done by those who are already the chains. Let’s spend a little more time honoring the people who act rather than speak, the ones who value actions more than words, the ones who travel to business meetings and conventions to govern the associations more than the ones who go to the events where networking is the primary benefit (please don’t misread this – I go lots of places just for the people , but that’s typically not where the industry is shaped)

I’m not suggesting that the only people that move the industry forward are REALTORS, but I do believe that the local, state and national associations of REALTORS, and the MLSs and affiliate associations they have are the real core of that effort, and have been for over 100 years. When a broker or agent choses not to be a REALTOR, they are choosing to place their own wants and desires first, and to concentrate on their needs rather than the needs of the industry. Usually because they see no value in paying the dues and participating in the Association activities. But I would suggest that by not participating in the larger organizations, they have chosen not to be a champion of the consumer or the industry or anything but their own business – and that is just a shame, when they could have done so much more. Change in an industry as large as ours, and in the legislation, regulation,  litigation and politics that surrounds it, comes more effectively from a large committed group than it will from some lone voice howling in the wilderness.

I’ve never understood the complaint about the cost of membership. My professional fees wouldn’t pay for a nice weekend away. But since the cost of dues seems to be a rallying point for Non-REALTORS, maybe we should paraphrase Queen and adopt an anthem for the engaged and committed real estate professional (with apologies for liberties with the lyrics)

I’ve paid my dues

Time after time.

I’ve served consumers

And committed no crime.

And bad mistakes ?

I’ve avoided a few.

I’ve had my share of sand kicked in my face

But I’ve come through.

(And I need just go on and on, and on, and on)

We are the champions, my friends

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