Breakdown of Inman Real Estate Connect New York City 2013
I just returned from a week in New York City at Inman Real Estate Connect New York City which took place from January 16-18, 2013. It was good conference with lots of powerful insights.
- General market bullishness from ALL CEO's in the industry
- Increasing focus on mobile, social/collaboration and design across the board
- International markets are a big opportunity – foreign buyers looking in the US
- Young aggressive tech savvy brokers are the new top producers for each company.
- Investors appear to be a key buying segment right now. Lots of hedge funds and individual investors looking for real estate opportunities.
I was lucky to be invited to the Inman News CEO Summit on Wednesday January 16th morning. The CEO's of every real estate and mortgage company joined Brad Inman at the New York Times headquarters to discuss the current real estate market and key changes in the market. There is universal acceptance that we are in the midst of a real estate recovery and there is sector wide bullishness. Shadow inventory is down. Investor participation is accounting for a large percentage of 2012 home purchases. Increased lending standards are the main risk to choking the real estate recovery.
The CEO of Century 21 Rick Davidson lead a discussion around how demographic changes in the US are affecting the real estate industry. Majority of household formation in the US is being driven by Hispanic and Asian populations. The real estate industry does not reflect these demographic changes as Hispanic and Asians are a small percentage of the industry today, though growing. Each of the major real estate companies is pursuing new recruiting strategies to diversify the agent base.
We are in the midst of a “once in a lifetime” shift to mobile devices, very similar to the Internet in the last nineties. Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins published a good presentation on the impact of the smart phone. More than 1 billion smartphones were shipped in 2012 which is 3x more than the PC's shipped. So, most companies are adopting a “mobile first” product strategy and mindset for their products. From an agent to consumer perpsective, companies like Trulia, Zillow and Realtor have developed strong and growing mobile audiences. Very limited viable B2B solutions were present at the conference. Wearable mobile technology had a strong presence at the conference, especially when Move CEO Steve Berkowitz showed the audience how he uses FitBit to lose weight. Adam Tratt of Seattle's own HaikuDeck talked about the future of real estate presentations. HaikuDeck enables agents to create presentations on the fly using an iPad. Cool stuff.
Brad Inman has prioritized creating the “latte” real estate transaction, i.e. making buying a house as easy as buying a latte. I personally think this is a "nice to have" discussion for the real estate industry. Yes, there is a lot of paperwork in real estate. Yes, there are major improvements in e-signature and transaction management. Given how infrequent the home purchase or refinance is, does it really matter? I spent an hour filling out paperwork for my recent refinance. But I am saving $300 a month, so I would do that all day long.
There were a very interesting series of panels on finding and working with international buyers. Agents working in marquis cities like NYC, Las Vegas and Miami have up to 25% of their transactions from foreign buyers. The conference was focused on foreign buyers in large cities, but foreign buyers are also buying property in every American city. The Chinese seem especially active given some recent immigration law opportunities if foreign nationals invest several million dollars in the US. Working with international buyers is very complex due to the tax and banking rules for foreign investors. It is a big opportunity, but needs to worked carefully. The first step with any international buyer is making sure they have a US banking relationship. Referrals come from networking with personal bankers, jewelers and luxury car dealers etc. in the foreign country. Immigration attorneys are one of the best lead sources. All marketing must be localized and translated. There is no one size fits all strategy. But there are significant social media opportunities if you speak another language on FaceBook, Youtube, local social media networks, and invest in SEO on Google.
The "Beta Brokers":
Better Homes & Garden CEO Sherry Chris spear-headed a panel on the best practices of cutting-edge real estate brokers. Common themes of top real estate brokers include the aggressive use of technology and social media, the elimination of offices or use of small offices, & focus on exceptional service. In the top real estate franchises, the top producing agents and brokers are 25-35 years old and have been in real estate less than 5 years, which is shocking. Web site search is core technology focus. Other brokers are trying to use lead scrubbers to qualify leads and hand off only qualified leads to agents, making it as easy as possible for the agent.
All in all a good conference. No big announcements from Zillow, Trulia or Move/Realtor.com at the conference, which is interesting in itself.