From the introduction of the iBuyer movement to the monotony of big box brokerage marketing materials, we may believe we’re witnessing the death of differentiation. It seems as though brokers and agents have all but given up on the wave of autonomy and fallen victim to the tide. Does this foretell the future of real estate? Are we turning agents and brokers into order takers who are merely being told where to stand and what to wear, or are we opening the door to individualism and personalization?
Let’s begin with the iBuyer movement. The consumer is being taught that they don’t really need an agent to buy or sell a home. In fact, they’re taught that it’s costing them more time and money to go the traditional route rather than this new wave option. The movement touts an instant offer on their home with no showings and no stress. While the first two may be true, the stress consideration is up for grabs.
What they don’t share with consumers is the fact that they will not receive a full value offer for their home, and furthermore, they often end up paying more than a standard real estate commission when you consider all the service fees and repair costs. Truthfully, sellers need to understand that they should be prepared to lose money. And once the deal is done, what do they think iBuyers do with these properties? They turn around and sell them for a profit, which means your clients are not the ones receiving the profit.
Now, what about the big box brokerages? Frankly, their job is to hire as many agents as possible to get their brokerage brand out there. And the larger and more recognizable they are, the more agents feel that they can rest on the laurels of the brokerage brand to grow their business. While some big brokerages do allow agents to utilize their own personal brand in their marketing, others dissuade them, and provide them with the typical one-size-fits-all yard signs, business cards, and websites that are so prevalent today. In doing so, this act downplays an agent’s expertise, strengths, and point of differentiation. In the end, this can harm the brokerage, because it forces everyone into the same box.
Real estate is an entrepreneurial industry at heart. Agents enter with big dreams and ambitions, a semblance of the American dream which includes flexibility, freedom, and infinite income. Only the strong survive in this ecosystem, which is made of microcosms pairing ‘like with like’ in an effort to provide smooth and seamless experiences. And furthermore, consumers tend to gravitate towards a person versus a logo.
So, is real estate headed in the wrong direction? Not necessarily. It depends on your own preference for autonomy and growth. There will always be shepherds, and there will always be sheep, and both fulfill important roles. As an agent, broker, or team, if you feel more comfortable conforming to the big box brand and its offerings and goals, there will always be a place for that. On the flip side, if you want to stand out among your peers and attract the type of customers that are the best fit for you, you must differentiate yourself. You haven’t spent all this time preparing, training, and working hard in your profession to be ignored or cast aside as an order taker.
The truth is, consumers need your expertise now more than ever because they don’t realize that they, themselves, are being viewed as a commodity in the world of real estate. With large investments at stake, they’re being led by wolves into the pasture with no protection. You could be the only thing standing between them losing money and making money for their family. You are the soldiers on the front lines of their investment, and only you have the industry and local knowledge they need to make an informed decision and avoid costly mistakes. However, your customers will never know these things unless and until you educate them.
Agents and brokers alike are at a crossroad, and it’s time to make a decision. Do you conform or do you compete? Do you blend in, or do you boldly stand out? Do you follow, or do you lead? Is it the death of differentiation? Only you can decide.