Dec 03, 2018 by - Shadd Boucher

Holding a Real Estate Wolf by the Ears

It is an odd saying that you’re “holding a wolf by the ears,” but auribus teneo lupum—a Latin term taken from a work by the Roman playwright Terence—was a popular proverb in Ancient times. Like “to hold a tiger by the tail,” it describes an unsustainable situation and one in which both doing nothing and doing something to resolve it are equally risky.

The Wolf We Hold…

The traditional agent model is under fire from a slew of disrupters whom all believe that to some degree we must go. Disruption is nothing new, but the rate and the scope at which it is occurring is unprecedented in our lifetime. This is the precarious position that traditional real estate agents find themselves in today.

Sadly, the wolf we hold is one of our making, and it is time that we own up to it. We have nurtured it by being complacent for too many years. Relying on NAR and other old idioms to sustain us. We dismissed the migration of the MLS online and other changes as singular events instead of a growing trend. Because of our ignorance, the wolf has just continued to grow in mass, speed, and ferocity. We have ignored our failings, outdated practices and the consumer for far too long. The wolf we hold is large, angry and ready to devour. The question is: what’s our next move? If we do nothing or make minor changes, our end is swift and certain. The only course of action, I believe prudent, will take wide sweeping change and allow us to tame the wolf.

Taming the Wolf…

So, what actions do we take? How do we go about getting the wolf to think of us as a friend instead of a foe? Well, I think that is a multi-faceted answer that most brokers and agents won’t like. It will take a collective effort across the industry, across brands and ideologies. We will need to come together around a common thought, and that thought is VALUE.

 “Price is only an issue in the absence of value.”

Currently, we have allowed ourselves to fall into the trap of becoming a commodity. We are a widget that is interchangeable. We spend so much time putting each other down that the consumer has decided that we are all equal in our collective uselessness. We command steak prices for hamburger quality and justify it with the “Well everyone else is doing it” disregard. We all act typical but demand atypical compensation.

In 2008 Willis Chairman and CEO Joe Plumeri concluded “Value is the gap between what clients can do for themselves and what we can do for them.” Our main issue is we have taken our eye off our “Value Gap.” We have allowed the consumer to build the perception that we get paid for “Finding a house” or “Finding a buyer” and not all the invaluable advice and service that we provide clients throughout the entire process. It is what we put in that “Gap” that defines us, and unfortunately, we have allowed that gap to become empty.

Filling the Gap…

So now that we have identified the issue, what next? What do I believe we need to do, as an industry, to refill our “Value Gap” and make it meaningful again. Well, prepare for a “Jerry McGuire style list of THE TOP 5 THINGS we need to address…

Lab Coat Agents, Nick Baldwin, Tristan Ahumada,, Real Estate, Shadd Bouchet, Changes, Market

1) We need to STOP recycling people…

We need to elevate our profession to a profession. The fact that you can pay a modest sum and “fog a mirror” is not enough qualifications to enter this industry. We need to raise the velvet rope and stop allowing anyone and everyone entry. We need to demand stricter state guidelines for licensing. The fact that in most states it takes fewer hours to become an agent then it does to cut hair or drive a bulldozer is just sad. What we do affect the largest asset in most people’s financial portfolio and we should care who is doing it.

If that doesn’t work, then we need to look to regulatory agencies like NAR to raise their guidelines. Minimum production standards at the very least should be a part of NAR membership. You should need to earn your “R” and therefore wear it with pride. The fact that ANYONE, again, can simply pay and sit through an ethics course devalues the institution almost to the point of mediocrity.

Brokerages also have a part to play. We need to reverse the quantity over quality model under most brokerages operate. Brokers need to take their place as leaders and visionaries instead of just landlords. The office needs to police their group and hold them to a high standard of skill and diligence. Developing them into high touch professionals that are a valuable part of the communities they serve. Of course, this also means that agents will have to accept reasonable compensation models that allow the brokers to do so. Our fates are intertwined, and we need to work as a proactive, intentional team or perish.

Lab Coat Agents, Nick Baldwin, Tristan Ahumada,, Real Estate, Shadd Bouchet, Changes, Market

2) Technology for enhancing the process, not instead of…

Over the past two decades, technology has become a large part of what we do. Unfortunately, most of it has incrementally moved us away from the face to face interactions that are so crucial to any sustainable, relationship-based, business. We spent so much time just happy that we could that we never even thought, for one second, if we should. 

Instead of calling, I’ll just email, instead of email now I’ll just drip email, etc. We have consistently bought into more and more technology that has diluted our ACTUAL contact with our clients. We were happy to outsource our most dollar productive activities to the point that we even gave away our lead generation. We became so hands off that we trained the consumer to accept this lower form of service and it is that very thing that gave birth to Zillow and almost every other disruptor we now face.

3) Experience is Everything…

The great Maya Angelou said it best: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We need to focus on the customer experience if we want to differentiate ourselves from the cold, algorithmic process that the disruptors are focusing on offering. We need to give the consumer a reason to WANT us in the transaction, rather than to exclude us. We need to take a page from the Disney playbook to get this done. The Disney corporation has made experience an integral part of their value gap and, because of that, can command a premium price for what they offer.

Lab Coat Agents, Nick Baldwin, Tristan Ahumada,, Real Estate, Shadd Bouchet, Changes, Market

4) Master and Grow our Skills…

The consumer deserves our best selves. As professionals, we need to be constantly discontent with our abilities. We must live in a learning-based state of mind, consistently seeking to improve our skills. We also need to look to improve others of our profession. Regardless of brand or office, we need to look to mastermind and share with like-minded individuals.

Lab Coat Agents, Nick Baldwin, Tristan Ahumada,, Real Estate, Shadd Bouchet, Changes, Market

5) Educate the public…

We need to regain our place as the trusted source for beneficial knowledge and guidance. I firmly believePeople will trust and follow what we can logically and tangibly explain,” the problem is we do a horrible job of explaining. We misguidedly believe that the public should follow us because of our license instead of focusing on leading them down a path of self-discovery. This is partially due to a transactional mindset and partially due to fear that we will arm the public with what we see as our “secret sauce.” It is again another behavior that has pushed us toward being a commodity instead of a resource. Until we stop being afraid and start sharing what we know, we can’t hope to be anything different.Lab Coat Agents, Nick Baldwin, Tristan Ahumada,, Real Estate, Shadd Bouchet, Changes, Market

Our future…

I don’t profess to have all the answers. What I do know is that we need to all start asking critical questions. We need to start talking to each other. Demanding better of each other. As an industry, we are integral to the communities we serve and moreover a direct conduit to the American dream. It would be a shame for the consumer to lose an independent resource that was built to provide for their financial well-being. I know we can change, I simply question if we will. Is it possible for us to stop holding the wolf by the ears?


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