The speaker chosen for closing session at the 2008 VAR Convention was Douglas Rushkoff. And what a great choice it was. Why? Because he told it like it is and the blunt truth is exactly what the doctor ordered.

Rushkoff spoke about the current economic turmoil, the changes going on in and outside the real estate industry and the effect it’s having on our profession. Here are some of the highlights:

  • the current method of doing business began 400 years ago
  • the current business cycle is coming to an end
  • lending business model is set up expecting businesses/people to fail (hence interest to cover losses)
  • money is only a medium (check out a related post on Agent Genius)
  • outsourcing stops us from actually doing something and makes us managers
  • a return to core competencies is coming (and necessary)
  • focus on “self-interest” is shifting to the “experience of life”
  • the more educated a consumer is, the more value they will find in an expert
  • being a community expert is more important to consumers than you being a “top producer”
  • Rushkoff told a story of how he thought one person’s blog showed they were the community expert and how he later found out they were a REALTOR® – (community expert first, REALTOR second)
  • personally reaching out to your community builds bonds large companies can not
  • be on the side of people and not business/your own self-interests
  • the contraction occuring due to market conditions will separate the real RE professionals from the fake ones

The two things that really stuck out for me personally because they most directly relate to a REALTOR’s® business success were:

  1. Be the community expert.
  2. The real RE professionals will separate themselves from the fake ones. 

Consumers are now looking for community experts, not just “top producers”. They want someone who knows the ins and outs of a local area, knows what the builders are up to, where the ammenities are, future development plans, upcoming infrastructure changes, etc.

More importantly, they’re looking for someone who is connected to the community on a personal, not just a real estate level. Consumers want someone who knows the people, the businesses, key contacts, etc. They want someone who knows that the produce section at the local mom-and-pop market is better than at Harris Teeter or Safeway.

In regards to how the real RE professionals will separate themselves from the fake ones, I say “AMEN!”. Too many shady and inexperienced agents and brokers who were only looking out for their own self-interests (one of Rushkoff’s points) gave the industry a bad name. A huge number of agents and brokers jumped into the profession thinking they could make a ton of money by doing very little. They didn’t bother to equip themselves with the knowledge and tools to be great REALTORS®. Too many agents and brokers didn’t take their jobs seriously nor did they realize that they were dealing with people’s livelihood’s, their family’s well-being and thousands of consumer’s dollars.

Those agents and brokers are quickly dissappearing while the agents and brokers who take their jobs seriously, know what they’re doing and do it well are the ones rising to the top. And more importantly…these are the agents and brokers that will survive.

There’s a reason why real estate agents are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to trustworthiness in the eyes of the public. And there’s only one way to get that trust and credibility back - earn it. This shift in the market and the weeding out of those who thought real estate was an easy-money gig with few responsibilities is a first step. Personally, I’m thrilled to see it happening.

These are things that some of you may not want to hear. But I believe that they are the truth and must be heard. The economy, real estate market and consumers have all spoken and we have to adapt and respond.

IMHO, Rushkoff’s session was as much of a wake-up call as it was inspiring and we all needed to hear it.