Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with Sherry Chris, CEO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate (BHGRE) and Advisory Board Member of Zillow.com. I had every intention of grilling her on the state of the market locally, more specifically hyper-locally, and concluding that just like Zillow, the CEO at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate is more concerned about the national picture than the hyper-local reality that is San Francisco real estate. I was wrong. Chris knows a lot about San Francisco real estate. The conversation then quickly turned out to be like all of the others I have with so many people regardless of where they rank in the world of real estate knowledge and forecasting…the market is going to do what it does, San Francisco is stronger than the rest, and we, as agents, possess nothing in our bag of tricks that can change the way the market ups and downs are going to play out. We have to adapt, roll with the punches, embrace technology, listen to the consumer, and become “collaborators of information” rather than the “gatekeepers we have been for so long.”
Chris agrees with me that, the “real estate industry missed the boat by not creating a central place for MLS listings”, and she congratulates Zillow and Trulia for doing so. She’s quick to point to their success in aggregating data the National Association of Realtors failed to aggregate themselves. As a result of our own missed opportunity in that regard, “we need to look long and hard at what is happening with the next generation of buyers”, who Chris calls the “echo-boomers” (80 million strong or roughly 1/3 of the buying population). “They are buying property based on recommendations from their friends and circles, and turning less and less to those in the industry for advice and knowledge about when and where to purchase. Echo-boomers have been raised with social networking and if the real estate industry doesn’t get into the game of creating a social platform that will engage these buyers and sellers, MLS and industry gatekeepers are going to continue to be left behind while the boat full of buyers and sellers sails off to sea without them.”
Thinking along these lines, Chris has championed a new kind of iPhone App for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate…one that doesn’t feed MLS listings! Gasp! Yes, they have come out with an app that allows users to take photos while they are at properties, arrange them into albums, share them with friends via Facebook or email, and easily refer to them later. The app allows users to search schools in the area, sites of interest, and refer to BHGRE website for more general information about buying and selling a home. And of course, you’ll be able to easily “contact an agent” and get in touch with a BHGRE real estate agent to put pen to paper (virtually of course) on that deal. Chris sees the process of buying and selling a home becoming a much more “social” process. Much less about receiving data (listings), hopping in a Realtors car, and making a decision based on this complete strangers recommendation, and more about searching property on their own, getting recommendations from their friends and family, collaborating with trusted “inner circle” friends on price and photos, and pulling the trigger based on social recommendations, not pushy Realtors looking to earn a commission. (Sounds a bit like where a certain company of mine is heading.) She went on to talk even further about a potential world of buying/selling real estate where price is less important than location, amenities nearby, WalkScores, and ultimately their friends’/family’s recommendation on whether to purchase a property or not, but we both agreed that although that is great, it’s a long ways off.
Sherry Chris has been in the real estate world for about 30 years, and so I was expecting to sit down with someone that is like so many other agents/brokers that have been in this industry for so long and still think farming, mailers (yes, actually through the post office), and cold-calling are the way to do business these days, but boy was I wrong. I’d even go so far as to say Chris is thinking further ahead than I am, and she happens to be at the helm of the third ranked well-established franchise in J.D. Power and Associates’ recent fourth annual Home Buyer/Seller Study. So she’s big-time, and she’s thinking ahead. This is refreshing.
I thank Sherry for inviting me to have a conversation with her, and I’m excited to see the direction the industry heads, because as many of you readers have known for a very, very long time I’ve considered the system marginal at best with TONS of room for improvement. Baby steps…baby steps.
For more information:
-The rise of consumer-centrid real estate [Inman News]
-J.D. Power and Associates’ recent fourth annual Home Buyer/Seller Study [J.D. Power & Associates]