Changing the Game, One Chapter at a Time

Dallas Hancock, CEO of the Peoria Area Association of REALTORS®, only needed to see the table of contents of Game Changers—The Unfounded Fears and Future Prosperity of the Residential Real Estate Industry to know that it was something her board could really dig into. Authors Steve Murray, Lorne Wallace, and Lon Welsh (in partnership with REAL Trends) used extensive research to tackle the many issues facing the real estate industry today, from agent ratings to MLS consolidation to third-party listing portals. Hancock ordered a copy for each of the 15 directors and officers on her board, and the book became a jumping-off point for their discussions about the future of their board and real estate in general. I recently spoke with Hancock about the ongoing discussions the book has helped to foster and why real estate professionals across the country should consider cracking open their own copy.

Credit: hotblack, 2012. Morguefile.

Credit: hotblack, 2012. Morguefile.

What initially grabbed you when you looked at the topics in this book?

I looked at the table of contents and I said, “These are key issues that we need to be discussing and are discussing to some degree already.” We have been taking on one chapter each board meeting. We open each one of our board meetings with industry issues. So I ask members to read it prior to the meeting and then we considered the reading as part of that opening discussion dialogue.

Have you been following the book in chronological order?

We started with chapter eight, which is on listing portals locking up the consumer relationship. We actually had something on our agenda that month where we were considering the issue, and I figured that information could assist people in their thinking.

Now they have the book in their hands and we’re going to be encouraging them to read further ahead. We will still use a chapter in each board meeting to discuss, because that interaction and exchange of information it is very valuable. But we want them to try to read ahead because I have scheduled a webinar with Steve Murray in September to talk about the book. Again, I think the interaction and discussion is important, but I want them to hear from the author.

One of the things that intrigued me about this book is all of these topics are things that we’re talking about locally, state-wide, and nationally. But it also is not overly dramatic. Not all of these issues are five-alarm fires. Each of the chapters lists the title and then the probability of whether or not it will happen like that, as well as the potential impact on the industry.

What is one issue that resonated particularly intensely with your board?

The issue of agent ratings is one of those. We were one of the associations selected about five years ago by NAR to look at the development of an agent rating program in our area. It’s been really hard to get off the ground. And so looking at that chapter brought that issue back to the forefront.  In this book, the idea of ratings and reviews entering our business strategy is listed as a high probability, with a moderate impact. A lot of the resistance was fear of the unknown. But this book is showing that many real estate professionals are scared of something that probably won’t have as big of an impact on them as they think. So hopefully this chapter is going to help push an initiative that we believe is important.

Some of this stuff is not new but it helps. You’ve got the officers and myself who are attending lots of great programs by NAR and in our states so we’re hearing a lot of these things. But for the directors who are not going to all of these meetings, they don’t hear as much. This book provides the data in black and white. It’s not just someone’s opinion. The authors did surveys and market research.

You also mentioned that some of your staff has been reading along. What kind of impact has it had on your association from a strategic mission standpoint?

It’s a good way for staff to understand where the industry that they’re working for is going. It helps them when we’re considering programs, products, and services. And it’s not just me trying to explain to them where the industry is going. It’s not just, “Dallas said this is what’s happening.” They’re reading and learning about this through these publications so they have more informed input. They can discuss it; they can debate whether or not it will affect our market. They like being a part of the process and having an opinion based on what we’re reading here.

At the very least, when something comes out of the board of directors, they are on the same page. The understand why the board wants to try this agent rating thing again, for example. One of the chapters has to do with the competition and the gross margins and it talks about brokers’ profitability. That helps staff understand why brokers might get upset if we are rolling out a program that is in some way competing with them.  There’s better buy in when they understand firsthand from our discussions. Finally, it’s just a little more interesting to talk about some of these big picture things than it is to talk about what meetings are on the agenda for the week.

What do you think the average salesperson or small broker might get out of reading this book?

I think it would be a tremendous value to them. I have a couple of copies in our REALTOR® store, but I will probably do more promotions on it and encouraging broker-owners to read the book. I think it’s really important for them because it’s not an alarmist viewpoint but it does give you a lot of really good facts and there are a lot of interviews with industry leaders. Small brokers can better see what they’re needing to do to survive and what they need to be doing regarding accountability to their agents. All of these things are important whether you’re a large broker or a small broker. It’s also so affordable that they cannot afford to not at least take a look at this book.

One of the stumbling blocks right now with some of the members is fear. It’s fear of the unknown, fear of change. Nobody likes change. If the leaders of our organizations are more informed about some of these things then maybe they won’t fear the future quite so much. They will be able to embrace what’s coming. And some of it is very positive—you know, not all change is negative! It’s all about being prepared for it. Maybe some of the people who are resisting wouldn’t resist so much if they understood better what the impact of change might be.

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]realtors.org.

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