By Trevor Koot

There is a future that exists without Realtors. We must be cognizant of this fact and contemplate other possible futures, which see the role of the Realtor different than it is today.

We often hear about the profound changes that the real estate industry has experienced and Realtors regularly comment about their difficulties in keeping up with the vast changes. Though change may be prevalent when all aspects of a Realtor’s day-to-day business is considered, I wholeheartedly argue that organized real estate has not undergone any change at all in the past couple of decades, and very little change prior to that.



Appreciating this may not be a popular opinion, I’ll put some context to it.

Realtors have gone from pagers to flip phones to smart phones. From sending contracts, to faxing contracts, to emailing contracts. Brokerages have become more efficient. Franchises have leveraged technology to offer more tools and better business environments for the Realtors who fly their flag. Regulation continues to evolve to accommodate a changing business landscape. Consumers, having access to more information, continue to demand more information.

What has changed relating to the role of real estate boards and associations across the country? Organized real estate was founded on the function of a central organization, designed to manage listing data so brokerages could work in a co-operative environment to sell each other’s listings. This started with collecting information and redistributing it back to the brokerages in printed form, typically catalogues.

With the introduction of the business computer, these catalogues were digitized and moved to an electronic format. Then came the short-lived fad known as the internet that created a new opportunity for the data to become interactive. Boards could now share the data with brokerages and Realtors in real time, allowing for the system to become more interactive and consumer friendly.

Organized real estate is built on managing property data. What has really changed?

Leadership within organized real estate across the country needs to accept that the evolution has been close to non-existent. We cannot be distracted by a false sense of progress because our members have experienced change in their environment. We must be visionary about what the future role of the Realtor is, where organized real estate fits into that role, and start to change to ensure relevance of both in the future.

So, what is our next move? We can agree that the role of the Realtor five to 10 years from now will look vastly different than it does today. This change will be predicated on the way the consumer will navigate a real estate transaction in the future.

I see the consumer gaining more control of their experience. Empowered by information and technology to support the security and flow of that information, the consumer will be in the driver’s seat and be far less dependent on outside participants (appraisers, mortgage brokers, conveyancers, lenders, insurers, notaries and potentially even Realtors). It is time to consider the Realtor as part of the entire real estate transaction continuum, rather than just filling one gap out of many.

This is only possible if organized real estate begins building the infrastructure necessary to create this future. Rather than waiting for the development of such systems, which could be less focused on the Realtor as part of the transaction, we need to lead these conversations, to ensure the continued viability of the Realtor.

There is a future that exists without Realtors. It is our job as leaders in organized real estate to ensure that is not the future that is realized.

27 COMMENTS

  1. My take on this article, isn’t that REALTORS will become obsolete, but that technology will continue to make the Agents job more streamlined, as it will for the adjacent industries. If the upper echelon of organized real estate took the lead in organizing new technologies, that streamlined the complete process, the REALTOR would continue to remain at the centre of the transaction.

    Organized Real Estate as an organization, has the opportunity, through technology, to bring the entire process together from beginning to completion. This may effect Mortgage Brokers, Notaries, and others the way Uber affected the Taxi business, but shouldn’t we be taking the action in making sure OUR industry directs the evolution, and not leave it to chance.

    As a former REALTOR, now in the Real Estate technology sector, I can assure you that if the conversation gets started, and the right questions get asked, the technical solutions will present themselves. As an industry, why don’t we create and own the disruption we all know will come, and be the drivers of even greater value the consumer at some point will demand.

  2. Impressed that someone actually gets the plot. Having been previously involved at all levels of Organized Real Estate since 1984 I can both observe and verify that we have been the followers of change and innovation but never in front of the game and ORE has simply embraced technology and new methods of communication. Without doubt in the early stages the cost of development and not having the skillset had been a disadvantage. The irony is that in most countries outside of North America the consumer engages in the transactional process including the financial aspect with minimal outside involvement, and at a lesser cost, on a daily basis without direct assistance with the only downside being that the initial contractural process has no immediacy and takes much longer. Trevor, your comments will never penetrate the vacuum that has always existed in the Realtor world……your comments will be perceived as disloyal and intrusive. Take cover!

  3. One big problem is that the public has better access than Realtors. The different boards need to share all data between them instead of keeping it to their board. It is making it difficult for us when a client tells us they saw a house on Realtor.ca and we have trouble finding it as our MLS doesn’t show it as it is listed on another board.

  4. Over the last few weeks I have heard “please tell us what to do (in prepping for sale, in understanding a first time purchase, navigating retirement property, calling just to say hi and touch base with the person who helped them spend what is likely their greatest expenditure)
    I could go in of course but I think you get the gist. I have had a very long day helping my clients determine how to navigate an offer whilst also being able to sell their current home.
    Bottom line- we were very glad we could use a smart phone and Docusign to communicate. Of course the warm relationship had already been built through years of leading extended family through many other real estate endeavours :)

  5. If this comment is too long, please excuse yourself and don’t bother to read it…
    
    Question please… as EO, bringing your business expertise to the BC organization, were you ever a hands on sales rep or broker? Not meaning to sound disrespectful. Your articles are always interesting but I confess they seem to be from an outsider’s point of view, possibly.

    The curiosity is that through no fault of anyone in the direct real estate business is that there is no given choice in such matters in reference to the portion of your article in quotes, below.

    Money transference is involved in the buying and selling of real estate. Not always of course, but more often than not that money is borrowed in the form of a mortgage, either using the financial services of a bank or mortgage broker.

    Enter, the appraiser, lawyers, notaries, conveyancers (whoever is responsible in any given domicile for the purpose of registering change of title and all relevant documentation), public demand to not must have insurance coverage stating the likelihood it would never be needed, possible thought train from Mr. John P. Public.

    Part of the root of having the public understand the operational procedures in the trade is knowing that these parts of any transaction are completely outside the control of anyone in the real estate business.

    Although it is necessary for those in the industry to have a general working knowledge of what other participants in the trading procedure are required by law to do, it in no way is a requirement of anyone in the real estate business to understand or account for what the others must do. The other operations are controlled and governed by their own industries within the field of their own expertise.

    Relative to the future of real estate it would be circumspect to think the other relative parts of the procedure would also be tied to massive changes within the industry.

    I spent decades writing consumer education articles, posted on my website and printed in my corp newsletters, with the hope of engaging in active conversation about various industry related topics, articles that have literally travelled the world as they still appear in searches for real estate information.

    The old adage “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink,” doesn’t just apply to the public. The key for us all is in the education field relative to the public, in order to maintain some sense of order and decorum.

    I would suggest that a world without our own professionals being the base hand-holders in any transaction, a huge impact would be felt within the support continuum. Beginning with the public and the flow of the money and all the government inflicted proclamations, stipulations, rules and regulations there seems to be a suggestion that the need for those operating directly within the confines of our own part of the sphere will go the way of the high-button boot, in no small way impacting related industries.

    If the public doesn’t need us, is the next step that they get their own finances approved completely, borrowing from whomever (ideally with no mortgage documents), talk to neighbours and search the Net to eliminate the need for appraisers, and provide AI generated data to the apparatus providing the funding, demand from the government the right to register their own documents at LRO, and as their own insurer, they would collapse the need for the insurance industry relative to real estate.

    In your paragraph, in part, FRIDAY 13 March 2020 at REM

    “. . . and be far less dependent on outside participants (appraisers, mortgage brokers, conveyancers, lenders, insurers, notaries and potentially even Realtors). It is time to consider the Realtor as part of the entire real estate transaction continuum, rather than just filling one gap out of many.”

    ===

    Business acumen and related education speaks well from an HR perspective, but there simply is no parallel business model to mirror our industry, therefore it must be a giant undertaking for an EO to be hired to run the institution as such and or advise those in the real estate world.

    Of course such a person likely has a wealth of expertise in the pubic realm that undoubtedly is a good thing. But maybe not sufficient to field what is required from the corner office perspective. Forgive me, I don’t mean to sound negative. It can be a job with big, sometimes outrageous expectations. I can’t imagine that anyone in the real estate upper echelon would be permitted to have an EO position for example in the auto sector or the coal mining or ocean oil rig management sector.

    Respectfully
    Carolyne L

  6. Realtors will always be advisors for sellers and buyers in the future. You just don’t need 150,000 of them.

  7. Excellent thought-provoking article. Those industry members who believe in ‘business as usual’ are on the endangered list…

  8. Hi Trevor,

    Like Dennis, I never respond to articles. But you couldn’t be more wrong if you were the mayor of Wrongville. As Executive Director, you should be ashamed of yourself. You are ill prepared for the role.

    Your premise is like a person googling symptoms of chest pain and then going to a hospital to have a surgeon perform open heart surgery. Short sighted at best and myopic and naive at worst.

    You definitely have never been face to face with a client as they work through the largest single financial transaction of their lives. As a 41 year veteran in the industry, you are right that the mechanics of the transaction may have changed, but the role that the realtor plays will never be deminished or downplayed. We are professionals and provide advice to our clients during one of the most stressful times of their lives.

    I would suggest that you do a “ride along” with one of your agents so that you better serve them in your role as Executive Director. As well, do your research about Microsoft, one of the largest corporations in the world, and their attempt to dominate the real estate market in the U.S. and what a dismal failure it was.

  9. Well Trevor, I normally don’t comment on stories printed in the REM but this one as you can see has caught my attention. The comments you’ve made as a Executive Officer tells me you don’t get out much from behind your desk in the board office. I’ve been selling Real Estate for 25 years now and my experience tells me it has always been, “Boots on the Ground.” Buyers and Sellers want the comfort, experience, knowledge, confidence and expertise we bring to the table whether it be in the Coffee Shop, in the Mall, or at a Personal or Family gathering. The truth is we all have our strengths and weaknesses. People rely and trust us to give them the best of what we can to make their life decisions easier with the professionalism that we have to offer.
    Computers to my knowledge don’t sense emotions or care about people making wrong decisions. Computers only know the data you put in is the data they spit out. People rely on us to keep that data accurate and up to date. Imagine if Sales Representatives disappeared for five years how accurate would that data be? The data that we put into the system every day that everyone digests is the wealth of information that gets transferred all around the world thanks to technology. No Computer will ever take the place of the hearts and emotions of people who trust in us to bring their dreams of home ownership to life. Put that in your Computer and Smoke it. Sales Representatives keep up the great work you do for our Communities and the People you love and serve.

    • I agree Dennis. A home purchase is still an emotional and very personal transaction. That is something that as Realtor’s we must always continue to do. The Realtor’s that think that you can sell a house from their couch will not last, and the buyer’s that start to get stung by buying from their couch will also start to figure out that they may want more information other than statistics.

  10. Do you think stock brokers who used to charge a 6% commission on trades ever envisioned the day that regular consumers would be able to trade for a couple of dollars with complex computer programs guiding their every move? I think as a Realtor of 47 years I am an invaluable resource for buyers and sellers. However perception is reality I have to question in the future if the perception will be just like in the stockbroker case. Yes it’s a lot of money involved in some stock transactions as it is in real estate but if the perception is no you don’t need a realtor then that will become the reality. Lots of examples in the commercial world. Beta was better than VHS but again perception became reality.

  11. Trevor….Trevor … you haven’t really learned anything here. Sounds like you want to hear yourself speak. The sale of a home is one of the largest transactions one will make. People will always look to professionals for professional advise. This will not change. Our advise should reflect this ever changing environment. The sales person will become a more important advisor in this quick changing world. That is why we strive to keep ahead of the curve. Power to the Realtor. Strength to the people who use Realtors. All is well.

    • Very good reply Fred and all the other Realtors who stand up for what we really do.
      So we’ll described.
      Realtors do alot more than show houses.
      Evaluation is the biggest to make that informed decision.
      Anyone buying without the knowledge of an experienced realtor is looking for a let down and most likely a bad experience

  12. Hi Trevor, with over 30 yrs in the business the biggest change might just be the people we deal with, Loyalty, Honesty, Trust worthiness and greed seems to be the way of the future. Governments are trying to over regulate and over tax us. MLS including local boards are stepping more and more onto the arena of marketing our listings and trying to take more ownership of the property information we give them. The Zillows will continue to take advantage of us by making money off the clients we bring to the table. But all that will not change the value of a great agent that has great sales skills and people see that.

  13. What has really changed? A lot has changed in terms of the technology and tools that are available to to both realtors and the consumer. And yet one could argue that nothing has really changed!

    A conscientious and professional realtor 40 years ago would have done his/her best to inform and educate their clients by showing them as many properties as possible, going over the information on the printed listings, and helping them to decipher the information, putting them in touch with mortgage brokers, inspectors, and other professionals. In other words the role was to educate and make them aware of as much information as possible so that they could make an informed decision. And even when equipped with all of this valuable information they sought our advice.

    Fast forward 40 years later, and we now have information overload. Has all of this information, readily available to consumers, made it any easier for them to make an informed decision? I respectfully suggest that it has not. Looking at photo-shopped virtual tours is not a replacement for actually inspecting a property up close and personal. Looking at data, that is often misleading, does not enlighten the consumer any more now than it did in the past. Fact is they still need, and will always need, the conscientious and honest advice of a realtor, no matter how much information they are presented with.

  14. A Realtor will always be needed in some way shape or form, for this very reason. The majority of Buyers and Sellers might only do 1 to 4 real estate transactions in their lifetime. How schooled can you be at anything in life only doing it 1 to 4 times?

  15. I have been hearing our job will be obsolete..for over 30 years…I continue to have many happy clients who are grateful we are there in person. I make a good living and enjoy doing what I have done for many years. Some clients are well informed and some misinformed..yet for the most part they are glad we are there to assist , hand hold and negotiate on their behalf.

  16. Great article! …perhaps ten years from now your job will be eliminated as well? A robot can write the next article because we don’t really need people like you who dump all over everyone else’s job! Wouldn’t that be nice?

  17. hi Trevor. Sounds like you want to say something and fall short of clearly saying it. Sounds like part one of a soap opera. I presume there is a part 2 coming stating your complete view. I agree with Mark Walsh, in 30 years of Real Estate I have seen all these changes and all the times a new innovation made some realtors feel like:”oh, they won’t need us anymore”. Except for a very few on the buyer side, our knowledge of the inventory (where to find what, what to stay away from, what to watch for in their particular category of housing to name a few) is immense and can only be learned on the ground, the interaction. After of the contract, the follow up and / connecting them with other players ( quality of inspector, mortgage representative, and yes sometimes the right lawyer for their needs), and the complexity of dealing with a change of residence with all the details of what needs to happen next can all be stressful , can be full of pitfalls or can be smooth. Already for most of them at a moment full of emotions be it they do it alone or as a couple, my experience is always rewarded with a heartfelt thank you. That speaks volume i say as to the usefulness of our role and what we bring to the table.

    As for the listing side, clarity on what is best to do ( repairs , updates etc) get the best money, the market analysis and negotiation, it has already changed but I notice many people still don’t feel comfortable doing all this, or some of it. Again many pitfalls can be avoided with a realtor here again as we have all experienced.
    Private deals issues are always the same, does the buyer / seller even know which question to ask or what infirmation to point out to the person in the phone or their lawyer when the there is no realtor in situ involved. Risk management it is. Too much risk for most and I agree. Everyone has a specialty and most don’t want to delve into learning all that we know and learn/ experience as realtor.

    If you mean change as in, some entity is contemplating moving the whole industry to a digital and virtual form? If that is true it will be a great loss , yes we must be vigilant as only one person will loose really and that is the consumer, no doubt in my mind.

  18. Really? Consumer’s will be less dependent on lenders and insurers? i think I know the point you are trying to make but who will finance their purchases? What lender will finance a purchase without insurance? it’s the broad statements I have a problem with.

  19. I attended a meeting where Stan Albert, yes the Stan Albert that wrote for REM magazine for many years, stood at the front of the room and proclaimed that in 5 years the real estate industry would look nothing like it does today. That was back in 1995! To summarily suggest that the real estate business has not changed since that time is naive. Not to the extent that Stan imagined. However to suggest that the flow of information is not a major change is bizarre. The information highway is what has changed everything in our society. And it can now be accessed anywhere. Years ago a sales representative would have had to go into their office to access the internet, get offers prepared and post a new listing. Today a sales representative can perform these tasks anywhere. Now I can easily communicate with someone on the other side of the planet in real time, I can have documents signed electronically in minutes all while sitting on my back porch or having a coffee at the coffee shop.The ability to post multiple pictures of a property on one platform for buyer’s to view, virtual tours and floor plans is a big change. What has not changed is that technology cannot replace a service.Technology may have reached a plateau, after all, all Apple can do now is make a better cameras for their iphones. My smart phone is is getting onto to seven years old but it can still do everything a new smart phone can do today and it really looks no different. So where is the progress? Do you think that because large companies are basically re-posting realtor information that they will replace a realtor? The fact that all this information actually comes from Realtors is largely forgotten in this conversation. It seems everyone thinks they can do the job of a realtor better. Then why have they not done so? Most of this technology has been around long enough at this point in time to have taken over the industry and enacted these changes you write about. But it has not. People have proclaimed that technology will replace the realtor and I do not agree. Technology does not really present anything new it is just a different way of doing things. Does a Doctor, teacher or accountant have time to become a home inspector, mortgage specialist, lawyer, surveyor, appraiser, insurer and any other service required to buy one property? And have time to search out and view properties they are interested in? No they do not. I can go on line and get information on how to drill and fill a cavity, does that mean I will by pass the dentist and do it myself? I used to go on line to book trips. It would take me hours scrolling through different packages,flight time etc. Now I just call a travel agent. Five minute call and everything is done for me. Saves me hours. Why because the last trip I booked the accommodations looked good on line but they were crap. A travel agent has the knowledge and experience to know things I could never know. To say that a consumer can go online and somehow become immediately empowered is fantasy. As they say a little information is a dangerous thing.

  20. I wholeheartedly agree with Trevor that organized real estate must change. Our organizations have served us well over the past years, decades and century, however the “organized real estate” today is anything but “organized”. I believe there are too many boards with too many boundaries, restrictions and lack of data sharing. Some significant progress has been made in data sharing and consolidation in various parts of Canada but there is much more to be done. This has to start with changing the very structure of “organized real estate”. If you feel differently ask yourself one question: “If we were to structure the real estate industry from scratch would we end up with what we have today?” I dare say the answer is a definitive “NO !”. That being the case, let’s restructure it to what is should be for today’s environment.

    • This is an accurate, clear insight into the present state of our present industry. We need to simplify, stop duplication, and condense. The problem is that many of our boards and associations are making tremendous amount of money from our board fees and dues, inter board fees, association fees, etc etc
      Perhaps we need to have 1 vote for every 1 member on major issues. That will give paying members what they want.

      • In addition to my earlier comment:
        Once we conduct an audit by a third party, all members should be given an outline of where the redundancies, deficiencies and waste of funds were identified, not just the directors and a handful of people at the associations. Only than can our industry best move forward to evolve and be prepared for the future.
        I also want to acknowledge that I am very aware of the tireless time our directors and associations give to implementing changes, and we should be thankful to them.

    • In addition to my earlier comment. This industry was built and paid for by the realtors. Perhaps we need a third party to audit the financials,and the technologies to identify duplication and waste of the paying members money. Hiring a third party eliminates conflict of interests and bias.

  21. Interesting article. Yes buyers and sellers are gaining better access to property info, especially here in Nova Scotia, yet they remain incredibly ignorant of the legal, contractual and risk issues involved in a real estate transaction. Contractual law is not changing and buying a house is certainly more complex than people realize. The Realtor is essential in protecting people from pitfalls.

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