Will Uncertainty Drive More Agents Out of Real Estate? Maybe – But Don’t Let It Be You.

“Real estate agents are essential to helping people realize their true dreams of homeownership.” – Kamini Lane, president and CEO, Coldwell Banker Realty

A version of this article was seen in Inman, published March 29,2024: https://www.inman.com/2024/03/29/will-uncertainty-drive-agents-out-maybe-but-dont-let-it-be-you/

Written by Kamini Lane, president and CEO, Coldwell Banker Realty https://www.inman.com/author/kamini-lane/

I have read enough headlines over the past couple of weeks that I hardly blink when I see the exaggerated predictions of the demise of the real estate agent. One of the reasons is that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen outlandish claims about the downfall of our profession; the other is that we have full control over where we direct our focus amidst a climate of uncertainty.

Don’t get me wrong: I read the headlines – and yes, even the actual story beneath them! — because it’s a pivotal time for our industry. But I refuse to be derailed by kneejerk, uninformed conjecture about the future of the real estate agent, especially as I’ve seen (more than a couple of times) our fate compared to that of the travel agent. Buying or selling a home is one of the most significant – financial and emotional – investments of most people’s lives. Last I checked, booking a flight and a snorkeling excursion was a notch or two lower on the grand scale of major life events.

Kamini Lane

Real estate agents are essential to helping people realize their true dreams of homeownership. I know it, you know it, and most people who try to go at it alone figure it out pretty quickly. What the headlines fail to mention is the true value that agents provide.

Agents are often deeply intertwined in their community, understanding the intricacies of local market dynamics, pricing, and culture so that they can best represent the wants and needs of their clients. For sellers, there is no one better equipped to help understand the true current and future value of a property. And, agents frequently pay for the marketing of each property out of their own pockets, from photography, custom websites, digital marketing, and more.  For buyers, agents are irreplaceable advisors helping consumers understand what they truly want in a home – and how to get them just that. The various steps of a real estate transaction a typical buyer may encounter only a few times in their lives, but an agent encounters on a daily or weekly basis. Whether it’s working through how to structure an offer or price negotiations, interpreting inspection reports, or advising how to best position concessions, agents provide a wealth of experience that directly protects their clients.

That’s why most of the great agents I speak with at Coldwell Banker Realty are channeling their energy toward strengthening those skills as advisors and allies to the consumers they guide home. In the middle of a media hurricane, they’re the eye of the storm: clear-minded, calm, and focused.

That is the kind of approach that’s going to win the day. Here’s what else I’m sharing with agents affiliated with our company:

  1. Break through the noise. Out of every market challenge comes opportunity. Also, out of every challenge comes soothsayers and snake oil salesman. Beware of those soothsayers and snake oil salesmen who claim to have all the answers about what will change, and how you should be going about it. Everyone has their point of view on the future, but the bottom line is that no one has all of the answers today – all you can do right now is show up for your clients as the trusted advisor that they know you to be.
  2. Own your value. Now is the time to take inventory of your greatest strengths as an agent. What is your area of specialty? How have you helped clients navigate challenging situations in the past? What is your perspective on your local market? Clients have always had questions about the value you’re providing – that isn’t totally new. The most successful agents are able to listen to their concerns and neatly summarize not only the role of the agent, but also their own specific strengths that can help guide consumers to their homeownership dreams. With a well-defined outline of your value proposition, you can address these conversations with confidence about the mutual benefit of the agent-consumer relationship, and how you deserve to be compensated accordingly. And look – the idea of so-called “discount” commissions isn’t new. We’ve all seen the billboards for 1% from bargain brokerages, but where are they today? The proof is in the data: consumers choose genuine expertise over a discount when it comes to such a high-stakes purchase.
  3. Don’t stop being dream makers. At the end of the day, you became a real estate agent because of your passion for making dreams come true. Don’t let the ideas of change paralyze or distract you from doing what you do best: helping consumers buy and sell homes. Yes, consumers may have their antennae up about agent commissions, but I guarantee that their concerns about compensation structures pale in comparison to their concerns about their future home and the wellbeing of their family. So yes, you may have to have more conversations about agent compensation, the benefits to buyers and sellers, and their options, and that is OK because transparency is good – for you and for your clients. But don’t let the need for those conversations eclipse what’s most important, which is helping people realize their next big life step.

The unfortunate truth is that not every agent is going to take the prospects of change and uncertainty in stride. Of all the headlines out there, one I do agree with is this: the industry will very likely shed some agents. But, I don’t think it will be agents affiliated with our company – or any agent that is genuinely committed to their craft. Having the structural support, network, and expertise in your local market has never been more critical, but those that remain dedicated to authentically helping buyers and sellers will be in a position to succeed.

It’s about to be an uphill, bumpy climb to navigate change, the lack of inventory, and increased transparency in the buying and selling processes. The landscape is going to continue to evolve and challenge us to be the best advisors we can be, but those that own their role with confidence, know how to navigate complex transactions, and bring both care and expertise to their clients – both buyers and sellers – are the ones that will stay and thrive. And our business and the entire industry will be better for it.

So, while the media would like you to believe the real estate agent can be commoditized, the truth is a real estate purchase is one of the highest consideration purchases there is, and the reason buyers and sellers make it to the closing table with confidence is due to agents.

I want to say it loud and clear: none of these headlines can diminish the value you provide to your clients and community. We work in the business of bringing people home – that’s irreplaceable.

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