With over 92,000 agents and 3,000 offices around the world, it’s clear that Coldwell Banker has been doing something right. After all, they’ve been around since 1906 and have not only survived, but managed to thrive in spite of two world wars, the Great Depression, and the 2008 housing crisis wiping out many lesser brokerages.

Sure, innovation helps. Coldwell Banker has always leveraged technology to stay successful, but it’s clear that Coldwell Banker has also been able to read the economic tea leaves better than most.

That’s why we decided to sit down with current Coldwell Banker CEO Ryan Gorman to get his take on the state of the real estate market post-pandemic, and how agents can learn to not only survive, but thrive during the coming downturn.

Read the full interview transcript below:

Sean Moudry:
Welcome Closers, this is Sean Moudry, and we are excited to have the opportunity today to interview the CEO of Coldwell Banker, Ryan Gorman. Welcome, Ryan.

Ryan Gorman:
Well, thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. Pleasure to be here.

Sean Moudry:
So first off, obviously with what’s going on in the current economy with the pandemic, lots of impact and lots of speculation on what’s going to happen. How do you see the real estate market changing in the next six months?

Ryan Gorman:
Sure. I think it is going to vary significantly by different markets, but I think there’s going to be some commonalities. So one is, every market is going to benefit from the affordability … I think, two, affordability trends.

One is on the mortgage interest rate side. So especially in the conventional conforming, the Fed’s been buying mortgage-backed securities, which, whether people understand the mortgage markets or not, means basically there’s a lot of money going toward keeping rates very affordable, and we’re seeing it now, right? So we’re seeing historically low interest rates that those who are buying today are fortunate enough to lock in for 30 years, which is incredible. That’s a good affordability trend.

Another is, a lot of folks who are working from home today, especially in some of these markets like Boulder that had been somewhat inventory-constrained over time, are starting to think to themselves, maybe when we come back out of this, I won’t necessarily need to be in the office five days a week, 9:00 to 5:00 or whatever the schedule may have been. Maybe I can look a little farther out. Maybe I’m only going to come to the office two days a week, three days a week, whatever it might be, if my company is more comfortable with me working remotely. And that’s going to shift, I think, the affordability trend as well.

So a lot of those most-inventory-constrained markets that have had sometimes days or weeks of inventory for years at a time, the folks who are looking there because their job is there may be able to look a little bit further afield. So I don’t think it’s going to be an overnight black-and-white sea change, but I do think it’s going to allow a lot of people to step into the housing that they really wanted—more affordable housing for them personally—by casting a wider search nest. I think that’s just healthy overall.

Sean Moudry:
So kind of moving away from the city centers, moving away from them.

Ryan Gorman:
Yeah, I’m not a believer that it’s going to be an exodus from the cities. I don’t think that humanity is going to change our stripes. We’ve been urbanizing here for over a century and I do believe that people like people and there’s a lot of agglomeration economies, there’s a lot of benefits of people being together.

But I do believe that on the margin, there are a lot of folks who found their search really narrowed by a commute to now maybe thinking a little differently about, and they can sit there and say, “You know what? Maybe I can go a little bit farther out and get a backyard. Maybe I can go a little bit farther out and find something that’s more affordable.” Or for many in a lot of these markets, “Maybe I can go out and buy, whereas I was stuck with just renting before.”

So I do think we could actually be seeing a trend toward an increase in overall home ownership coming out of this because of that sort of technologically driven as well as financially driven affordability trend.

Sean Moudry:
Wow, awesome. I haven’t heard that perspective at all yet. That’s great. I think that’s a lot of insight there, for sure. Do you …

Ryan Gorman:
I can see it. I can see it happen. So we’ll see, we’ll see who’s right, but I love the idea of more people being able to afford the homes they want.

Sean Moudry:
Yeah. Yeah. I love that. That’s a great positive outlook. Do you foresee a downturn or recession?

Ryan Gorman:
So recession being, classical definition: a couple of quarters of negative growth, I think it’s almost inevitable that we’re going to see what is classically termed a recession. But I don’t think it’s in any way inevitable that we’re going to see the kind of recession that we think of now, the Great Recession or kind of the Depression, you see a lot of these headlines talking about that. I just don’t foresee that.

Right now, what I see is 2019—or 2020 rather—is obviously going to have some periods of negative growth. We’re already in one of those today. The next quarter will likely be some negative year-over-year growth as well. Most of what we’re seeing, whether it’s NAR, or Fannie, or Freddie, or a lot of the more economic forecasters outside of real estate, every prediction I’ve seen for 2021, it was a pretty tremendous bounce back. In some cases, the single greatest year-over-year increase in economic activity ever because of this dip in 2020.

So if the consumer mentality, the business investor mentality, is such that 2021 is going to be a great year relative to this year, that’s extremely helpful for people making decisions this year that don’t tip us into something more severely negative. So I don’t want to make light of those who are out of work today at all, but I do believe we’re going to see a lot faster bounce back than some of those dire predictions.

Sean Moudry:
Oh, great. Great. So if you’re an agent today—because let’s get to the people that make the whole thing work, right? For us. If you’re an agent today, how do you prepare yourself? What do you suggest they do?

Ryan Gorman:
I don’t know if you’re an athlete. I like to consider myself a former athlete. I’m certainly not a current one, but back in the day, coaches used to talk a lot about championships being won in the preseason, and I feel like we’re a little bit in preseason right now. You talk to most agents and they’re not twiddling their thumbs, they are busy. They’re busy trying to pivot their business, they’re busy trying to stay in contact with their spheres, stay in contact with their clients. And this is supposed to be the busy season right now, but they might have a little bit more time on their hands. They’re not bouncing around to houses quite as much right now.

I would treat that time as the preseason before the championship. So invest in yourself, come up to speed. I would especially invest time in making sure you are the most knowledgeable you can possibly be about the market and connecting with that global information too so you can bring that perspective back to your clients, your buyers and sellers here.

I can’t tell you how much of a relief it is. I’m sure you’ve seen this and a lot of agents out there have seen this too—a client who’s uncertain, stressed, scared, and when you bring real information that’s both global in perspective but then local in reality, and giving them what’s useful for them, the stress melts away, they realize, “You know what? I can move forward in my life.” They realize they can buy our sell. It does make sense, and you can give them so much relief from that right now. But that only happens if you prepare in the preseason so you can deliver that value in game time.

Sean Moudry:
Well, I love that. Can I add a follow-up question to that one?

Ryan Gorman:
Sure.

Sean Moudry:
So you talk about gathering the information and I think speaking of somebody like you at the level that you’re in the industry, I think you have access to more information. And let’s be honest, your job is information, right? And decision. Where would you tell an agent to go for quality information and, or I’ll say, accurate information, because there’s so much disinformation out there just like you say. I mean, so many of us spent four or five hours a day on social media—I don’t, but so many people do—and one article is pro, one article is con, right? What do you recommend?

Ryan Gorman:
Yeah. So a lot of that has to do with the forecast. So people thinking, I’m forecasting negative, I’m forecasting positive. I would stay pretty grounded in today. So two ways to do that: one is that sort of national information. So things like the forecast coming out of the Fed, the Fannie Mae. More close to our industry, National Association of Realtors, Lawrence Yun, their chief economist does a really nice job of sort of packaging up information and giving it to Realtors to be able to use with their clients.

That’s the sort of high-level stuff, but I want to pull it back then to the very hyperlocal, which is that MLS information. So if you can give a client information talking about, hey, hundreds of thousands of transactions are taking place right now, and that should give you some comfort that America is still moving. People are still buying and selling, people are still moving on with their lives. When they want to downsize or upsize, or they realize they want to bring their whole family together. If they’re going to be stuck inside for a longer time, they need a different layout. That’s good theoretical and it helps to really give some good grounding to apply.

When you make that local, then you say, in fact, in your market, in your town, in your neighborhood, this is what’s come on the market in the past two weeks. This is what has sold in the last two weeks, and here are the people with whom I’m speaking today in your neighborhood who are moving forward with their plans. I’ve got a prelisting package out to five clients, I’m bringing something on Sunday, I’m going to do an open house next week. That’s the kind of global and local information that when packaged together, allows someone to say, “You know what? It does make sense. It made sense before COVID for me to move forward with this. It makes sense for me to move forward with it now, as it’s very, very helpful.”

Sean Moudry:
I think that’s great advice. I love that. I’m taking notes, by the way, as you’re something, I’m like, that’s great. I’m going to write that down. I promise I won’t steal it.

Ryan Gorman:
Use and abuse. I’m sure I have for half of what I’m saying. So use and abuse, absolutely.

Sean Moudry:
So for agents, you mentioned agents staying in relationship or contacting your past clients, and it is a great opportunity, right? To develop stronger relationships and build meaningful relationships. What other hidden opportunities do you think they have that maybe the average agent’s not aware of?

Ryan Gorman:
Yeah. In terms of awareness, I think it’s one of those things where we’ve all heard a million times what we shouldn’t do, but it’s a matter of taking action on what we actually will do, right? So that information provision, part of really connecting that information, delivering it down, that’s one way. But I would say delivering information across your clients is perhaps the way that, maybe if you don’t think of it as much.

When an agent calls a client and wants to share information that they have with them, hopefully they’re doing their job and being a great listener, understanding where their client is, asking how they’re doing and really listening to that answer, and then having a dialogue. Sometimes we’re excited, sometimes we’ve made this call 10 times already, sometimes we have a bit of a script and we just kind of let it flow.

One thing that I would encourage everyone to do is to really listen, because what that client is telling you is probably so valuable and so germane to the next person you call. When you can tell them, “I’ve spoken with a number of your friends and neighbors, here’s where their heads are. Here’s what their worries are, here’s what their hopes are, here’s what they’re thinking for their futures about whether they’re going to list their home, whether they’re going to buy.” Or even not related to real estate.

Of course, related to whether the stores on Main Street are going to open again. What do we think this means for the local movie theater, or is the library coming on. All that stuff, and as an agent, you can be that sort of physical social network, that human social network to transmit that information from client to client, from prospect to prospect.

And what they associate you with in their minds then is, you really know this community. You really know these people, what makes them tick, you know the inventory, and you know the markets, but you also know the people, right? And I think that’s something that sometimes, we get exuberant. We kind of forget to listen, we speak a little more, but being able to pick up those facts and share them across your client base is pretty important.

Sean Moudry:
I love that. That’s great. I love it. I took more notes.

Ryan Gorman:
Okay, great. Excellent.

Sean Moudry:
Urban social network. I loved it, it was great. So what’s Coldwell Banker doing to ensure the agents are going to thrive during this pandemic and maybe even after the pandemic, when we’re released and freed?

Ryan Gorman:
Absolutely. So we’ve obviously invested a ton in technology and we try to make sure that we’re also delivering a lot of information out to our agents. So that goes without saying, and perhaps shouldn’t because Coldwell Banker does offer, I think, tremendous, tremendous value to our network. But really, right now, what I’m seeing while many are touting the sort of technological side—super-important—but that human side I think is even more important.

So just like we’re trying to destress our clients when we’re calling them and sharing information back and forth, the network within Coldwell Banker, the agents who are speaking with one another across town or across the country and around the globe, that’s what’s really providing that sort of insight and power of fact-based positivity. So when we’re on the phone with our agency in Asia or in Europe, in areas that were hit with COVID earlier, and I’m able to share information back with our agents that, hey, I was just FaceTiming with one of our people in a restaurant in Singapore without a mask on. Here’s what the other side of this thing might look like when we’re connecting with towns in the U.S. that maybe locked down earlier, but have opened up a little bit earlier and people can kind of see the future through their peers, through the eyes of their peers. That’s the power of the network, that’s the 100,000-strong around the world that can really bring the power back to the individual.

Sean Moudry:
I love that. Oh, yeah. That’s great, yeah. And I’ve observed that with Coldwell Banker. I’ve seen that actually at a local level. It’s neat to see, it’s neat to see.

Ryan Gorman:
That’s fantastic, yeah.

Sean Moudry:
Yeah. So I’ve seen online, right? A lot of agents raising money, right? And for local charities, larger charities, what’s your favorite charity that you believe in?

Ryan Gorman:
This might sound self-serving, but it’s truly not, but Coldwell Banker CARES is my favorite charity. But let me tell you how that works and the reason why, so this isn’t just some global charity that’s raising money for one global cause, and not that there’s anything wrong with that. There’s a lot of causes that need all the help they can get. This is all about raising globally and delivering locally. So it’s about local needs that are met by our local agents, but money that can be raised around the country and around the world for exactly those efforts. So that’s where Coldwell Banker CARES was originated and that’s what we do every day today. So I love that. A lot of our agents who are raising money today are raising money for hyperlocal causes, and we’re able to help with that through Coldwell Banker CARES.

Sean Moudry:
Do you have an example of that, of a story or something?

Ryan Gorman:
Oh, sure. You’ve probably seen Homes for Dogs and some of our most recent campaigns, but think of the individual sales office, where we decided to do an adoption event for dogs through the Homes for Dogs program.

So we’re bringing people locally in the community, we bring in maybe a dozen dogs from the shelter. The community comes into our office, back when we were able to do that and we’re able to do it again, we are able to connect dogs with new homes. And from that oftentimes comes the need to maybe raise money for that shelter, right? We were able to help them out to match up more people with more dogs, but they still need bedding, they still need food, they still need volunteers, and we’re able to raise money with Coldwell Banker CARES, be able to deliver that. We’re able to raise awareness on social media to get the volunteers to come out. And then the people who show up and say, “Oh, I was hoping to be here before the last dog was adopted.” And we say, “No problem. Actually, the shelter has more and they’d love to see you help out on a Wednesday afternoon sometime.” And that’s really the sort of full circle of our programs.

Sean Moudry:
That’s amazing. So if somebody wanted to, the readers wanted to donate to that, is there a website that they could go to?

Ryan Gorman: Yeah.
So if you can go on Coldwell Banker CARES, you’ll be able to go on and donate. Unfortunately, I have not looked since last month, so I don’t know what the drop-downs are today. But typically, there’s some drop-downs where you can maybe donate more specifically to individual subcauses. So for instance, after a hurricane or wildfires or a flood, sometimes they’ll be more specific sort of causes as opposed to the overall whole. But if you Google Coldwell Banker CARES, then you’ll be able to find it.

Sean Moudry:
Awesome, man. Awesome. Is there anything else, Ryan, you’d like to share?

Ryan Gorman:
I appreciate the opportunity to do this. I love the positivity and enthusiasm you’re bringing because I think all the questions you had are exactly what’s on people’s minds right now, right? So what can I do? How can I help? I love that our industry—it over-indexes on people who just want to help. Beyond all logic and reason, they just want to help. They want to be there for people. So I love the fact that you’re doing this and raising it up and I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of it.

Sean Moudry:
Wonderful, wonderful. Thank you.

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