The chatter on the streets of San Francisco last week was a little bit less about the comings and goings of one America’s most expensive housing markets and a little more about real estate agents themselves, thanks to the National Association of Realtors Conference and Expo 2019 being hosted downtown at the Marcone Center.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) Conference is always a big deal; tons of great conference sessions, a huge expo, and amazing opportunities to network with real estate professionals from across the country. But this year it was even more special, since The Close was representing on the speaker scene with our very first NAR-featured presentation.

We attended as many sessions as possible, spoke with nearly every vendor, and had a fantastic time bringing The Close to the NAR stage. Here’s what we learned from the experience.

1. If You’re Not on LinkedIn Yet, Don’t Walk, RunNAR 2019 Conference

We’ve been watching this platform change from a basic online resume to a full-blown social network for a while, and the sheer volume of content at NAR this year confirmed it: you need to be present and active on LinkedIn.

Our Big Takeaway on How LinkedIn Can Boost Your Business

LinkedIn is currently connecting community members like Facebook was 10 years ago. Organic reach is still powerful here; you don’t need to pay for your content to reach the right people. But, LinkedIn is on the move, and this opportunity won’t last forever. Get on the site and strike while the iron is hot.

Here’s how you can post on LinkedIn effectively, according to LinkedIn expert, Christy Hoskins:

Christy Hoskins - NAR 2019 Conference

“Just because you sell real estate doesn’t mean that’s the only thing you can talk about. Mix it up so you’re not just posting about the homes you’re selling. Post things like time management tips—things that will help people be better at their jobs.”

2. If You Measure Your Social Media Success in ‘Likes,’ You’re Doing It All Wrong

NAR 2019 Conference
Image Courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS

I know it’s hard to let go of, but the number of likes you get on a social media post just isn’t as important as you think it is. If you get a thousand likes on a particular photo but no interaction or click-through to places like your website, why do those likes matter at all?

We heard over and over in various sessions like “More Than Just Likes: A Blueprint for Online Success” by Marki Lemons Ryhal that you can’t take heart or thumbs-up emojis to the bank or your customer relationship management (CRM) tool, so we need to stop considering them measures of success.

Our Big Takeaway on Making a Real Impact on Social Media

The more interactive platforms like Facebook Messenger, Stories, or even live broadcasting are great places to measure your return on investment (ROI) on social media because they are the places you are most likely to interact directly with your clients and potential clients. So, if you aren’t utilizing the major social media platforms’ most directly interactive features, get familiar with them and start connecting with your followers. Instead of looking for Likes, focus on places where you can drive action, like website visits, whitepaper downloads, and actual conversation.

Here’s some advice from social media speaker, Katie Lance:

Katie Lance - NAR 2019 Conference“Stand out on social media with memorable interactions. Anyone can write ‘Happy Birthday’ on someone’s Facebook wall, but have you thought about leaving a voice memo with Facebook Messenger? I could be one of the 50 people who writes on their wall or I could be the one person who leaves them a personal voice message.”

3. The Buyer’s Market Is Coming Whether We’re Ready or Not

NAR 2019 Conference

The real estate industry has enjoyed a long summer in the form of an extended seller’s market, but winter is coming. Early indicators in bellwether markets like Chicago, Miami, and Austin are already starting to show that buyer urgency is dropping, aggressive multiple-offer scenarios are slowing, and it’s taking more and more to get buyers to bite on a particular property.

We heard a number of presenters make mention of the same thing, and it’s also clear from the fact that NAR actually offered the Accredited Buyer’s Representative designation course on-site that they believe this is coming down the pipe too.

Our Big Takeaway on the Impending Buyer’s Market

With buyers in the driver’s seat, the listing agents who will survive will be the ones with the best marketing strategies, strongest brands, and the ones best tapped into their personal sphere of influence. If you’re feeling shaky in any of those fields, it’s time to shore up before it’s too late.

For buyer’s agents, although the market is about to shift in your clients’ direction, the tide of real estate agents looking to work with buyers is also going to turn, so be ready for some renewed competition. Firm up your strategies for maintaining constant contact with your personal sphere, step up your referral requests, and show your local market why you’re the best choice for someone looking to purchase a home.

4. Building Your Brand Is as Important as Building Your Leads Database

NAR 2019 Conference
Image Courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS

As real estate agents, we know that our business is about more than numbers on a spreadsheet—it’s about people and community. Our clients are asking us to handle the most important financial moments of their lives, and in order to develop the trust necessary to make that happen, agents need to create a brand that their clients can identify with.

Our favorite session on this topic was from Andrew Fogliato, presenting “Brand Building in the Digital Age.”

Our Big Takeaway on Brand Building

Building a brand is about building trust. If you want to succeed as an agent, especially in competitive markets, you have to build a brand (both online and offline) that your clients can identify with and see themselves in. The best way to do that is to share who you are through your stories, experiences, and expertise.

5. If You Want to Stay Ahead of the Competition, Look to Those on the Bleeding Edge of Technology

NAR 2019 Conference
Image Courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS

Our industry is constantly evolving to include new and exciting technologies, many of which were on display at the expo and in another favorite session of ours: “REACH Demo Day: Meet the Hottest New Technology Companies of 2019.”

One of the innovators in this space that caught our eye is Curbio, providing a platform for sellers to complete necessary or cash-positive home renovations and then pay their contractors from the proceeds of a sale.

We were also excited to learn about the new offerings of Kleard, a safety and productivity app that provides real-time identify verification of open house visitors and is looking to disrupt the way you conduct showings by providing remote access to buyers without even needing an agent present. Finally, there was a great presentation from the folks at The Staging and Design Network, the first-ever online shared rental pool for home furnishings built for the real estate and home staging communities. Whether a vacant home should be staged is a given; whether real estate agents have access to staggers or the budget to pay for them is another. The Staging and Design Network answers yes to both of those questions.

Our Big Takeaway From the Tech Space

The current round of developments in real estate technology isn’t going to introduce a new best practice or add any steps to the way you do business; they are going to make the steps you’re already taking easier, less expensive, and less time-consuming.

6. Real Estate Technology Companies Single-handedly Enabled the Buyer’s Agent-only Business Model

NAR 2019 Conference
Image Courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS

It used to be that a real estate agent couldn’t survive on buyers alone. There simply weren’t enough repeat clients and you had to work too hard for each lead. But all this changed when real estate technology companies like Zillow entered the market, and now being an exclusive buyer’s agent is a workable business model. With lead sources like the Zillow Premier Agent program, BoldLeads, and ParkBench, there is a formula for lead generation that can make a buyers-only model insanely profitable if you have the nurturing and closing chops every great agent needs.

We got to hear more about this in a fantastic session called “Stress Test Your Brokerage for the Changing Market,” presented by Dan Elzer. Our big takeaway from this session was: Though it’s not healthy for an entire brokerage to rely solely on listings or buyers, having agents who specialize in one or the other is not only doable, it can create some specialty professions that will be a big draw to clients who are looking for agents with a highly specialized set of skills. Even better, new agents will have well-defined career tracks that will make success easier to define and achieve.

7. Got a Couple of Days to Kill? You Could Spend That Time & More at the Expo

NAR 2019 Conference
Image Courtesy of the National Association of REALTORS

The last two conference expos we attended were at Inman Connect New York 2019 and Inman Connect Las Vegas 2019, and while those gatherings were nothing to sneeze at, they pale in comparison to the massive collection of vendors, brands, and NAR representatives in San Francisco this year.

The expo was big enough that it needed to be divided into two huge rooms, thanks especially to impressive booths from brands like Realogy, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo.

Even though the expo was still dominated by boldface names, we were happily surprised to talk to incubator-stage small startups like Asteroom, which are bringing once expensive tech to the masses.

We spoke with Asteroom founder Eric Tsai about how Asteroom is jumping into the 3D modeling and virtual tour space with both feet, providing a very impressive alternative to companies like Matterport at a fraction of the cost. By the end of the conversation, I was ready to purchase one myself.

Our Big Takeaway From the Expo

The speed at which technology is advancing levels the playing field in the real estate service industry between brand-new agents and veterans in the industry. If you’ve got a good idea, or can improve the process of another good idea (making it cheaper and easier), you have a viable product in the real estate industry that agents will use.

But, stay on your toes, because a competitor will soon be biting at your heels too.

Speaking at the 2019 NAR Conference & Expo

NAR 2019 Conference

It was amazing to get to connect directly with those of you who read our content and are putting the strategies we write about into practice every day. For those of you who attended this year’s NAR Conference and supported The Close by attending our session, thank you, and stay tuned because this is just the beginning.

We have more dates booked in 2020, and our course “Six Simple Systems to Transform Your Real Estate Business” is about to go live in January. We couldn’t have done it without you.

The topic of our presentation was “How to Market Your Real Estate Business for $100 a Month,” and during our time with our engaged and interactive audience, we shared the following takeaways:

  • The overwhelming majority of real estate searches, whether they’re for property to buy or for an agent to help in the purchase or sale process, start and end online.
  • Marketing your real estate business online doesn’t have to be expensive; great content always wins out over cash.
  • Brand and awareness marketing are your chance to show your prospects that you’re an expert in the topics that they care about.
  • Demonstrating a commitment to your community and the places that you serve helps your prospects identify that you have a common value set and will be a good match for their real estate needs.

We also talked about the importance of a real estate marketing plan. Use our marketing plan template to create your own just in time for 2020.

Over to You

Did you attend the National Association of Realtors Conference and Expo this year? What were your favorite sessions? Tell us in the comments, and let’s keep the conversation going.