Warren's Corner: Who is Your Consumer?

Warren Dow
Who is Your Consumer?

Who is your consumer? It seems like a simple question...

Over the last few months, I noticed that a lot of brokerages refer to consumer behavior when talking about their agents. I’ve always thought of buyers & sellers as real estate consumers, but yet many brokerage models support agents as the brokerage’s primary consumer. After all, without agents a brokerage can’t survive.

On my trip home from Inman Connect a few weeks back, I started thinking through the constant battle brokerages experience in defining who their consumer is. Ultimately, brokerages serve two distinct sets of consumers – their agents and their buyers & sellers. So who takes priority?

An increasingly common occurrence is popping up with marketing agreements between the brokerage and industry portals (Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com), where their agent’s listings are shared and marketed but not necessarily with the listing agent in prime location on the page – in fact, other agents may have preferred placement. These situations prioritize the buyer and seller with greater access to listing data and exposure, respectively, leaving the agent questioning why they aren’t getting the leads on their own listings. However, when brokerages prioritize the agents with preferred placement on the agent’s listings, it can lead to another type of scenario that puts agents and buyers/sellers at odds – dual representation. There are inherent conflicts of interest with dual representation in which the agents from the same brokerage could work together to keep a sale price higher, which would lead to higher commissions. Here the buyers & sellers often question whether the brokerage and agent(s) have their best interests at heart.

In these scenarios, one group has priority. The brokerage is putting the agent first or they’re putting the buyer and/or seller first. Do you prioritize your talent or your client?

The most interesting session at Inman Connect was Ryan Schneider, Realogy’s new CEO, in his first public speaking engagement since joining the Company. He made it very clear that their top priority is their agents and giving them the tools to do their job well. His rationale is that if the agent succeeds, the brokerage succeeds, and in turn, the franchise succeeds. I love the sentiment and I can get behind it, but nowhere in his talk did he mention the buyers & sellers. It left me wondering where they were in the equation. Would it be the agent’s responsibility to put them first? What happens when there’s a conflict between and agent and their client?

The more I’ve reflected on that presentation, the stronger I feel that what’s good for the buyer & seller will be good for the agent, and ultimately the brokerage and franchise as well. Making buyers and sellers the top priority will increase the likelihood of a positive transaction. A consumer-centric model will instill trust in both the agent and brokerage brands and it will help reinvigorate the trust in our industry.

As professionals, it’s our responsibility to put our clients first. Improving the experience for the buyer and seller will help improve online reviews and increase referrals, leading to the long-term success of your agents and brokerage.

So... who is YOUR consumer?

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In Warren’s Corner I share my thoughts on new real estate technologies, events, industry and market trends, and everything in between. I invite my readers to reach out to me with feedback, questions and ideas for future posts! The views and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Wolf.