Will uncertainty drive agents out? Maybe — but don’t let it be you



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In the weeks since the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) proposed settlement, I’ve seen so many headlines with exaggerated predictions about the demise of real estate agents.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen outlandish claims about the downfall of our profession. Don’t get me wrong, I read the headlines — and yes, even the actual story beneath them — because it’s a pivotal time for our industry.

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Some analysts have predicted that NAR will shed up to 1 million members and that commissions could drop by up to 60 percent if commissions are decoupled as proposed in the NAR settlement. And that’s after NAR’s membership declined by more than 26,000 members in 2023 to 1.55 million.

Amid a climate of uncertainty, it’s critical to remember that we have full control over where we direct our focus. While many agents may leave the industry, you don’t have to be one of them.

An agent’s worth

I refuse to be derailed by kneejerk and uninformed conjecture about the future of real estate agents, especially as I’ve seen (more than a couple of times) our fate compared to that of the travel agent. Buying or selling a home is one of the most significant — financial and emotional — investments in most people’s lives.

Last I checked, booking a flight and a snorkeling excursion was a notch or two lower on the grand scale of major life events. 

Real estate agents are essential to helping people realize their true dreams of homeownership. I know it, you know it, and most people who try to go at it alone figure it out pretty quickly.

What the headlines fail to mention is the true value that agents provide.

Agents are often deeply intertwined in their community. They understand the intricacies of local market dynamics, pricing, and culture so that they can best represent their clients’ wants and needs.

For sellers, there is no one better equipped to help understand the true current and future value of a property. Agents frequently pay for the marketing of each property out of their own pockets, including photography, custom websites, digital marketing and more. 

For buyers, agents are irreplaceable advisers who help consumers understand what they truly want in a home and how to get it. Although a typical buyer may encounter the various steps of a real estate transaction only a few times in their lives, agents encounter them daily.

Whether it’s working through how to structure an offer, negotiating on price, interpreting inspection reports, or advising how to best position concessions, agents provide a wealth of experience that directly protects their clients.

That’s why most of the great agents I speak with at Coldwell Banker Realty are channeling their energy toward strengthening those skills as advisers and allies to the consumers they guide home. In the middle of a media hurricane, they’re the eye of the storm: clear-minded, calm and focused. 

That is the kind of approach that’s going to win the day.

A few things to remember

Here’s what else I’d say to agents faced with today’s uncertainty: 

1. Break through the noise

Out of every market challenge comes opportunity. Also, out of every challenge come soothsayers and snake oil salesmen. Beware of those who claim to have all the answers about what will change and how to approach it.

Everyone has their perspective on the future, but the bottom line is that no one has all the answers today. All you can do right now is show up for your clients as the trusted adviser they know you to be. 

2. Own your value

Now is the time to take inventory of your greatest strengths as an agent.

Think about these questions:

  • What is your area of specialty?
  • How have you helped clients navigate challenging situations in the past?
  • What is your perspective on your local market?

Clients have always had questions about the value you’re providing. This isn’t brand new. The most successful agents are able to listen to their concerns and neatly summarize not only the role of the agent but also their own specific strengths that can help guide consumers to their homeownership dreams.

With a well-defined outline of your value proposition, you can address these conversations with confidence about the mutual benefit of the agent-consumer relationship and how you deserve to be compensated accordingly.

And look, the idea of so-called “discount” commissions isn’t new. We’ve all seen the billboards for 1 percent from bargain brokerages. In my experience, consumers choose genuine expertise over a discount when it comes to such a high-stakes purchase.

3. Don’t stop being dream makers

At the end of the day, you became a real estate agent because of your passion for making dreams come true. Don’t let the ideas of change paralyze or distract you from doing what you do best: helping consumers buy and sell homes.

Yes, consumers may have their antennae up about agent commissions, but I guarantee that their concerns about compensation structures pale in comparison to their concerns about their future homes and the well-being of their families.

Yes, you will probably have more conversations about agent compensation, the benefits to buyers and sellers, and their options. That’s OK. Transparency is good for you and your clients.

But don’t let the need for those conversations eclipse the most important thing: helping people realize their next big life step.

The unfortunate truth is that not every agent is going to take the prospect of change and uncertainty in stride. Of all the headlines out there, one I do agree with is this: The industry will very likely shed some agents.

But, I don’t think it will be any agent who is genuinely committed to their craft.

Having the structural support, a network and expertise in your local market has never been more critical, but those who remain dedicated to authentically helping buyers and sellers will be in a position to succeed.  

It’s about to be an uphill, bumpy climb to navigate change, the lack of inventory, and increased transparency in the buying and selling processes. The landscape is going to continue to evolve and challenge us to be the best advisers we can be, but those who own their role with confidence know how to navigate complex transactions and bring both care and expertise to their clients — both buyers and sellers — are the ones who will stay and thrive. And our business and the entire industry will be better for it.

So, while the mainstream media would like you to believe the real estate agent can be commoditized, the truth is a real estate purchase is one of the most complicated and regulated, and buyers and sellers make it to the closing table with confidence because of agents.

I want to say it loud and clear: None of these headlines can diminish the value you provide to your clients and community. We work in the business of bringing people home — that’s irreplaceable.

Kamini Lane is the president and CEO of Coldwell Banker Realty. She lives in Los Angeles. Connect with her on LinkedIn. 





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