CEO’s Message: Disruption Prepares to Claim Another Tradition

Jim Harrison: MLSListings Inc CEO and President

Jim Harrison: MLSListings Inc CEO and President

It seems that no professional conversation or interaction these days is complete without reference to yet another tradition that is about to fall victim to digital disruption. In this case there was a conversation between a small group of MLS executives discussing a number of technological disruptions that are making their way across the marketplace. At some point in the conversation one of the participants quietly asked another what we were going to do about the rapidly expanding “premium agent” programs being introduced by the portal sector. The previous conversation was immediately suspended in favor of a review about what the group knew about these so-called “premium agent” programs.

A number of factors can be credited with bringing about this “premium agent” phenomenon:

          1. Over the past six months, the prevailing agent attitude about professionally interacting with one of the national portals has changed from abject rejection to enthusiastic acceptance.
          2. This change has, in turn, been driven by the fact that more and more agents have come to realize that portal leads, once seen as junk on a stick, have matured to become a significant professional opportunity.
          3. This change of status has, in turn been driven by the fact that some portal leads are now being delivered with a number of very sophisticated tools that provide participating agents with greatly improved odds of closing on the lead.

None of the above would have given rise to a crisis if it weren’t for the fact that one or more of the portals will apparently, over the next several months, start aggressively advertising their “premium agent” program to the American consumer.

As most of you have already figured out, the problem here is that one of the prized traditions of organized real estate is the idea that once an individual becomes a REALTOR and subscribes to the Code of Ethics they are considered to be a full fledged professional in every way. “All REALTORS® are created equal” is the message that is communicated to the consumer.

Over the past three years the angst of the industry’s highest performing agents has been increasingly focused on this tradition that they view as unacceptable. The rub here is likely to come when the most likely portal message points out to consumers that, in fact, not all agents are created equal and that their “premium agents” are the best in the marketplace. Unless organized real estate’s response is incredibly well researched and perfectly crafted it will likely play right into the portal sector’s campaign.

Perhaps the most important issue raised by these circumstances is the potential damage that could be done to the REALTOR culture by sustained discord between the facilitator and counselor agent sectors. We must all be prepared to positively intervene in any discord with a positive message of REALTOR value.


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