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So I was going to post tonight, too, but Michael beat me to it (surprise). It would be a soliloquy that I guess I won't drag everyone through, but one thing that has happened professionally and personally in the last year is this intricate network of online relationships. For a really long time I'd been spending my days (and nights) muttering to myself about how things should be. Mike gives us a place to work out what we want our business to be. I'm passionate about what we can do for our clients and I'm really grateful that I found this group of like-minded folks.
Miriam: Every comment from Stefan sticks with me. The guy is brilliant and has the most objective, unbiased view of the industry of anyone I know. He's been in real estate at a high level on multiple continents, and studied trends like no one else. His annual Trends Report is a "must read" in real estate, in my opinion. And I agree with you that the syndicators are uniquely positioned to cause exactly the massive disruption of which I speak. They already have the online traffic. They're already more trusted than the industry itself, in many respects. I'll keep repeating this: I've run into LOTS of people who truly believe that online valuations are solid. I can already here the responses: "they aren't accurate/they admit their inaccuracy/it's easy to turn that positive into a negative," etc. Let's forget that part of the debate and just focus on this: how many people HAVE those valuations in hand when you meet them? That is the key point: these companies are ubiquitous already. And can you imagine if they stopped selling leads and zip codes externally and just offered them to any agent who joined their company? Do you think some agents might sprint in those directions? If that sounds crazy, think about this: if ANY big brand real estate franchise had on online market share like a Z, R or T, do you think that brand would attract a ton of agents? I know it would. The future - no, the present - of the game is largely based on web dominance. Z, R and T have that web dominance, now. If I were running one of those aggregators, I would definitely consider taking another, deeper step toward brokering deals. I think they'd be remiss - and not optimizing value for their shareholders, present and future - if they DIDN'T take a hard look at that. And if that should ever happen, we as an industry will have no one to blame but ourselves. No one. But. Ourselves. Big brands should be making HUGE investments in digital assets, IMO. They should be stepping up their digital game on every level: revamping websites national and local, killing it on SEO, ramping up Social Media efforts, pumping out HD video EVERY DAY, creating their own state-of-the-art lead gen systems, etc. And every time I look at a typical company website - with its myriad of missing agent photos and incomplete contact information - I think, "wow, we still don't get it, do we?" I think companies should either FORCE their agents to complete that missing information, or do it for the agent. What you can't do is have consumers dropping in and finding that. It's an erosion of the brand that you just can't allow. Finally, toward solutions for what ails the industry, I think the ONLY thing that could work internally is if all the states got together and make it dramatically more difficult - and uniform - to get a real estate license. And I just don't see that happening in my lifetime. Or any time soon thereafter...