There is a shift toward real estate teams winning the war of power for buyers and sellers against the top brokerages. Brokers aren’t going away, but it’s clear dominant broker brands are being displaced and are losing relevancy.
Teams have taken the main stage when it comes to marketing directly to consumers and now appear to have more influence in the living room, where brokers once ruled. The question is, why? Most brokers spend a dominant share of their marketing dollars and rhetoric focused on agent population and recruiting, not on the consumers on the web.
TEAMS MEETING THE CONSUMER NEEDS
Consumers no longer need to walk into a broker’s office to get advice. Old-school brokers lost the search process to tech companies like Zillow, Trulia, Homes.com, Yahoo and Redfin by losing focus on the consumer. Next wave tech companies, including Opendoor and Offerpad, figured out that some people just want a quick, convenient sale to move from one place to another at a fair price.
This move was followed closely by teams meeting the consumer needs, working their databases, and buying the leads and web presence from these search dominating aggregators. Teams have also created systems and tools for the team members, which may differ from the one their broker provides. Facebook and Instagram make hyperlocal marking on smartphones easy, and brokers now lack the impact and reach in the mobile world. This empowered agents to morph into teams, becoming more successful as entrepreneurial agents connecting with consumers seeking more influence.
BROKERS STILL HAVE VALUE
I think the broker has value, and the brokerage needs to control the education piece, including contracts, to protect the consumer to make sure all documentation is cleared and to make sure the disclosures are met — and more. This is vital, especially as we have many new agents entering the business. This part of the industry is where imbalance comes, with brokers forced to spend their entire time managing risk, and teams are focused on teaching agents how to market and grow.
The question remains how will the growth and role of teams in real estate influence broker models moving forward? Will brokers alter how teams operate inside their culture as the power struggle emerges? It is abundantly clear with the amount of Wall Street and Silicon Valley investment in new models of brokerages that we are on the precipice of significant change over the next couple years.
I believe they are several possible outcomes as change unfolds, similar to what happened with taxi drivers and travel agents. Maybe it’s something in between. Going forward, teams will look for compensation for their market share. Teams will continue to grow larger, leaving traditional brokers to adjust or permanently be left behind.