Game Changers: The View From the ‘Summit’

By Brian Summerfield, Online Editor, REALTOR® Magazine

Yesterday morning, a panel of real estate experts that talked about the notion of “game changers” — that is, disruptive ideas that will completely change the way things work in the industry — at the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® 2009 Leadership Summit in Chicago. With NAR CEO Dale Stinton moderating the session, each speaker offered a brief take on what trends might be game changers in real estate.

John Tuccillo, a business and economic consultant and a former chief economist for NAR, kicked off the discussion with advice to “change the game before the game changes you.” He cited Sony’s release of the Walkman in the early 1980s, around the same time that running as a form of exercise started to catch on, as an example of a game changer. This transformed the music industry by emphasizing portability and transferability, which ultimately led to Napster and iPods in this decade. Sony managed this sea change because it hit two sweet spots:

  • Demographics – young baby boomers, many of whom were into active, healthy lifestyles.
  • Technology – cassette tapes, which were small enough to be played in a device that could be carried around easily, but also could work in a home stereo system or car.

Tuccillo added that the two main game-changing factors during the next few years would be the replacement of baby boomers with Generations X and Y in the workforce, and the social Web. The key, he said, is to be at the nexus of those two trends.

Stefan Swanepoel, CEO of RealtyU Group, agreed that social media had the potential to completely change the game in real estate. He also noted that if the past is prologue, we can expect that transformation to come rapidly, perhaps in just a year or two. The three most important elements of the social Web are communication, collaboration, and multimedia, he explained.

Finally, Jeremy Conaway, founder of RECON Intelligence Services, a consultancy for real estate brokerages and REALTOR® associations, warned attendees not to wait for the economy to improve to start improving their business or area association. Changes in the real estate industry are coming whether we see a recovery in the next couple of years or not, he said. Consequently, you should be learning and developing your organization right now (even if it’s an organization of one) so you can be prepared for the upswing whenever it comes.

What do you see as something that could change the game in real estate in the coming years? What are you doing to prepare for it?

Brian Summerfield

Brian Summerfield is Manager of Business Development and Outreach for NAR Commercial and Global Services. He can be reached at

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  1. Buyers and Sellers expect more and more from their Realtors.

    – Technology (view homes on phone, email flyers, online contracts)
    – Expert negotiation
    – Advice on best real estate investments (which house will be a better investment in the short and long run, sell easiest for most return)
    – All homes to be immaculately clean, updated, and staged

    – Advice on how to prepare their home for a quick and profitable sale
    – Intensive marketing
    – Technology
    – Professional photography
    – Intensive online marketing
    – Expert negotiation

    Myself and another agent have just teamed up to provide the best service possible on listings. She lists the property, handles all the contracts, schedules the Obeo photographer and is the expert negotiator while I evaluate the home pre-listing, provide pre-listing home prep advice summary, stage and market the property. This way the Seller gets two experts working to sell their home.

  2. I think Facebook is “it”. FB has so many users now that that I find it hard to imagine a real competitor showing up. Keeping your profile active and participating regularly will put you in front of your SOI more frequently and for *free*. Commission structures seem to be changing too. Advertising online isn’t as expensive as print media and it’s SO much more effective. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the “standard” commission rates start to fall – especially for listing agents.

  3. I’m personally finding that most generation X & Yers don’t even call a real estate sales agent until they have extensively researched homes on the internet. The downside to there being so much information on real estate out on the web is that some potential clients might have more knowledge of a specific property than you do. So when you finally get the call from a younger person to take a look at a few properties, they are interested in, make sure you really know those properties before you show ’em.

  4. Too often real estate agents can invest a lot of time and money into new trends that do not pay off. Unfortunately a lot of the social media that is discussed so much on the Internet as the wave of the future has no number to quantify its success and investment. Does anyone have any real data on how social media results in leads and closed transactions?

  5. We have a dichotemy in our profession. We are always in competing businesses when it comes to real estate.
    We elect our local, state, national, and international representatives from the competition and ask them to lead us, when; really, their business is to compete.
    We rely on our association staff to support our business and have found that they will pull for the REALTOR (or do they?).
    If your job were challenged by new ideas, would you support the idea?
    I see one problem with this Game Changer! It wasn’t presented to the REALTOR, it was presented by those that sometimes are looking out for themselves and not our common goals.
    We have more or less, lost trust within our ranks – when did it happen? Who knows – but maybe if we start to show ourselves as having no secrets from our membership, we can build inner trust and confidence which would increase the public confidence in our ranks. How? I don’t know. . . every time I try to bring new ideas to my local and state association, I’m slammed with “It won’t work, we don’t need to tell you why, thats up to the president to decide on, our AE knows better”.
    I give up! How many others (Boomer, Gen X, and Gen Y) have run into the same thing?
    I’ve given up!
    The view from Mount Olympus was always great for the Gods, Land Barons never saw problems for the serfs, and NAR cannot see the forest for the trees!