Real Estate’s Crystal Ball

Double-dip recession! Recovery! Fiscal cliff! That old joke about how economists were invented to make weather forecasters look good gains traction as market reports become more contradictory. Add to that the constant assertion that “real estate is changing,” backed up only with vague sketches that don’t tell you how and when, and you might be looking for a comprehensive guide to the future of your career. That or a retirement plan.

Thankfully, a collaboration between renowned real estate consultant Christopher Lee and NAR’s Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) has arrived to fill in the gaps. The book, Transformational Leadership in the New Age of Real Estate (IREM 2012) is part career road map, part motivational tome, and part crystal ball.

Lee begins the book with a tall order. His introduction asks readers three questions: What role do you want to take in this changing landscape; are you following or leading; and are you willing to dedicate the time and resources to provide solutions to the difficulties ahead? He then challenges real estate companies to define their very reason for existence and their “role in the growth and prosperity of our country.” The industry itself might as well be asking, “Well, what have you done for me lately?”

Lee then breaks it down into more digestible pieces. After providing some history and background on where real estate has been and where it’s going, Lee takes those three questions and integrates them into a seven-step business planning guide that results in a performance scorecard. His questions and prompts in the strategic business plan chapter are sure to spark the soul-searching necessary to achieve the kind of monumental change to which he refers throughout the book.

The book then shifts to the title track, as it were. The chapter on becoming a “transformational leader” sets up the rest of the book’s more specific planning exercises in how to be an inspirational employer, connect with customers, and set key values that will carry your company now and well after you’re gone.

But not everything is so long term. Lee explains how to create 100-day action plans. He lists questions every real estate pro should ask themselves, such as “What have I done today to bring my company closer to its vision and goals?” He warns of change-killing phrases like, “let’s form a committee to evaluate this” and “we’re too busy.”

While market concerns dominate many industry forecasts, Lee warns that “perhaps [the] most significant future and long-lasting impacts on the real estate industry” are shortages of qualified, experienced talent. In his section on hiring and retention, Lee challenges the old adage of “Location, location, location!” Instead, he says real estate is about the people, insisting that “locations do not just appear—they are created and identified by people.”

This focus on people extends to his chapter on becoming “customer-centric.” To appeal to customers, Lee insists that it’s not enough to come up with a brand and slap it on a page on your web site. Your brand needs to be a story about how you’re different from all the other companies with which you compete. And that story can’t be told with numbers or slogans. Lee outlines five steps to creating a truly differentiating story.

If all this change and forward-looking thought has you looking fondly on retirement, Lee urges you to consider your succession plan in the last chapter. And to orient you for the future, Lee’s book ends with 100 sometimes surprisingly specific predictions. From the ramifications of a wider Panama Canal to how to locate the best long-term, value-appreciating properties, Lee covers an impressive amount of ground in this last section of predictions. And with the practical tools and knowledge imparted in the book’s preceding eleven chapters, you can be ready to meet all 100 of them.

Meg White

Meg White is the managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]

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  1. Stimulating publication; loved it. We are bomarded with press about where the economy is going and it’s overwhelming and information overload. Real estate is experiencing a transformation and IREM’s new publication is provocative and filled with stimulating thought and valuable insight which will lead us into the future. Chris Lee is a master and I will refer back to this publication over-and-over and well into the future. A must have for the real estate professional.

  2. Dane Hooper

    Spell bombarded properly