Let’s get down to some serious industry transformation discussions regarding the “Four Bs.” The Four Bs are the fundamental building blocks that heretofore drove the real estate industry’s models with respect to consumer relationships and Broker/Owner profitability.
Brokers, Boards, Books and Buildings remain the economic blocks that continue to drive our brokerage profit models. Three of the four are still alive and kicking. What are the Four Bs, how do they function and what, if anything, do they mean to us now? More importantly, how do they meet contemporary consumer expectations?
Broker/Owners are literally the financial backbone of the real estate industry. e-Partner and this blog, REALonomics, support the importance of sustaining the roll Broker/Owners play in perpetuating real estate transactions and indeed propping up the industry at large. It is Broker/Owners who literally guarantee the financial stability of the industry. They are real estate’s preeminent risk-takers.
They are almost always the sole guarantors of market presence and it is they who take most of the personal financial risk for the real estate organizations operating within thousands of communities.
Fact: Broker/Owners are losing their ability to produce and sustain profit for their local brokerage firms. The risks now out weigh the rewards, as many are discovering. TWe are facing the financial collapse of many Broker/Owners.
flickr image by revdancatt
President Obama flew into Arizona to announce his blueprint for a $75,000,000,000 mortgage bailout known as the “Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan.”
REALonomics has digested the preliminary outline of this program which claims to “…offer assistance to as many as to 9 million homeowners…” through a combination of loan modifications and propping up of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, support for state housing authorities and financial incentives for lenders to re-tool existing loans for a predefined set of homeowners whose mortgages fall into specific qualifying categories.
How does it Work and who are the Beneficiaries?
Will the President’s plan make a difference and if so, to whom and when? And, is the plan a sound economic model that will actually help homeowners facing foreclosure, as claimed by the administration? Is this another step in the direction of creating a dependency upon the federal government for and on the part of some Americans and lending institutions?
Let’s take a look at the plan and ask some hard questions.
On Friday, November 7, 2008, flanked by some of the most prominent names in the economic and business world, President elect Barack Obama held his first press conference. The central topics, the nation’s economy and of course, the “first mutt.” We will blog about the mutt later…for now, more serious stuff looms.
The Obama news conference was followed this morning, Saturday, November 8, 2008 by a radio address with similar content. These two initial events give us hints about the Obama economic model that will shape America and of course, the real estate industry for perhaps decades.
Attacking the Economy Means Controlling the Outcome
The Obama team is going to attack the economy in laser-like fashion. New rules are going to be written that will impact the private sector and retool the way in which those transactions dependent upon credit and lending work.
REALonomics has believed for some time (years, actually) that the real estate industry needed to redefine itself through sweeping consumer-centric changes driven mostly by standards based brokerage and maximum transparency.
What we never knew and could never predict are the bleak economic factors that now give rise to the transformation of our business models and have fueled a meltdown of home values in such universal proportions. Principle: Economic problems left unsolved by the private sector typically invite government mandated intrusions in order to harness the favor of the electorate.
Can the RE Industry Still Write its Own Rules
It is beginning to look a lot like the real estate industry will be shaped not by factors we control but by the policies and rules created by others. We, under the mantle of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), have, for the most part, missed most of our opportunity to define and shape the debate and participate in the rules that will create a “New Real Estate Industry.” NAR’s mistaken endorsement of the $700 billion bailout program has hurt us and created a dependency relationship with the federal government. In essence, we have been placed in the unenviable position of a reactive industry rather than a proactive force.
Do we still have the clout and the courage to write our own rules? Do we have the will power, discipline, leadership and the creative inspiration to recognize that we are on the cusp of a “New Real Estate Economy” wherein we can control the rules that dictate how the industry operates within a consumer-centric era? Have we become an industry, like so many before us, that will eventually become reliant upon the solutions created by a bloated federal bureaucracy that is more interested in centralizing power than in actually empowering people?
The Key Principle behind Rule-Writing
It’s not so much the rules per se, that govern business matter as it is the economic and social viewpoints of those who pen the rules. It’s always belief that precedes policy. What we believe about our industry is different that what Washington believes. There are principles behind rule-writing, always!
The key principle behind rule-writing is simply “BE THE RULE WRITER.”
Here are but some of what REALonomics believes will be the “new rules” evolving from the financial policies that will be put in place during what will be increasingly defined by the new Administration as a “crisis.” A history lesson…bureaucracies flourish best when set in motion during “crisis.”
NEW RULE 1: There will be a heavy emphasis on creating a bevy of legislation designed to control each aspect of the mortgage lending process. This sounds good until we understand the difference between our and Washington’s definition of transparency and disclosure. The new set of rules will further slow the markets while everyone waits to see and then create a whole new layer of regulations and regulators operating in the basement of every mortgage lender.
NEW RULE 2: Crack down will be the new operative language for not only Wall Street and so-called “overpaid CEO’s” but also those within the real estate industry who are not fully compliant with Rule #1. REALonomics thinks that real estate brokers will become targets for industry crack down and the eventual police force for compliance with new lending and transaction rules. In his website Barack Obama has already pledge to crack down on brokers and lenders.
NEW RULE 3: NAR will become more and more dependent upon government approval for the implementation of our industry policies and procedures that have sustained us for decades. NAR, already reeling from the DOJ debacle, will have a mandated hotline to Washington and will need to use it to check-in, seek approval and help implement the new rules that will be written. In essence, NAR could become an extension and purveyor of brokerage and home ownership policies written by the Obama administration, Pelosi’s House and Reid’s Senate.
Although the housing industry is suffering and the real estate industry is under siege, REALonomics would like to encourage the industry to step up to the plate and position itself under a new set of operating principles that can be sent to Washington as a demonstration of our commitment to operating and policing our own industry. We are still strong enough to influence the outcomes if we are proactive rather than reactive.
Let’s continue to remind ourselves that the key principle behind rule-writing is simply “BE THE RULE WRITER.”
Get the full transcript of the Barack Obama news conference and read between the lines.
The question for the real estate industry to grapple with in the midst of the credit crunch is how can we help struggling homeowners in severely depressed markets such as Las Vegas, Phoenix, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco?
According to a recent Standard&Poors/Case-Shiller home price index of the top twenty metropolitan area home values, we are seeing record declines. Get a copy of the report.
Here’s the breakdown synopsis (source: Standard&Poors/Case-Shiller) (arrow highlights by REALonomics):
In these and hundreds of other markets, home value declines are taking a toll on individuals and families whose financial security is predicated almost entirely on home ownership.
There are at least three things local real estate companies in partnership with mortgage and title service providers could do for struggling homeowners.
- Set up financial support workshops led by experienced brokers/agents designed to coach homeowners with respect to their property values, the current trends, their specific mortgage situation and how to take positive steps to stay in their homes unless they absolutely must sell at this time. Such workshops should utilize skilled mortgage service counselors (not loan officers) who can give them answers;
- Real estate agents in troubled markets should be literally returning to the old practice of knocking on doors, not to get listings but to meet homeowners as “Property Consultants” to discuss specific home values within their neighborhoods and offer advice. In addition, brokerage firms should deliver resource information to homeowners that will advise them about market conditions, refinancing and other information they need;
- Brokerage firms should turn a portion of their print media budget and Internet costs toward creating blogs that are specifically administered by trained “Property Consultants” who can interact with property owners and deliver solid advice in real time.
During the next 24-36 months brokerage firms who want to build and retain consumer loyalty and predisposition should take a serious look at engaging in the creation of a group of “Property Consultants” who engage homeowners who are facing uncomfortable times.
Such an emphasis sends a powerful signal to consumers that we are serious, skilled, well trained, competent and knowledgeable professionals who can and will assist them with any property question they have, including financial counseling.
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