Can Traditional Real Estate Firms Sustain Themselves Against Disruptors?

The Manhattan residential real estate market is an enormous gold mine where disruptors are trying to enter, penetrate, and obtain a big market share of the business. The disruptors are big brand national firms trying to enter into the market. Also, there are some firms that are funded by investor groups with huge amounts of cash. Then there is are platforms such as Streeteasy with their Premier Agent program that has made a big impact on broker lead generation. With disruptors the margins of profit for most firms are getting thinner.

In my opinion, firms that adapt to the changes that are happening in the residential real estate industry will not only survive, but will thrive. Here are some things that firms need to do to be successful in these changing times.

Invest in Smart Technology

Firms that invest in smart technology will be ahead of the game, and their agents will be able to become more efficient and generate more business. In addition, firms who will employ the best artificial intelligence (AI) technology will be able to pinpoint buyers and sellers, which will save a lot of time and money wasted on some of the traditional forms of lead generation.

For example, Streeteasy’s Premier Agent program has been modified so that the consumer can more easily identify the listing agent from the Premier Agent. Some brokerages and agents are taking the attitude “if you can’t beat them then join them.” There are brokers who are using Premier Agent strategically and successfully to generate more business. 

Create a Positive Culture

Firms need to create a positive culture that provides brokers with ample administrative assistance, excellent management, and great technology to help them thrive and become successful. Firms must have very strong local, domestic, and international referral broker networks and provide a great platform for their brokers to be very successful and loyal to the firm.

Large successful firms realize while some agents may be lured away by a disruptor who offers signing bonuses that smart brokers look at their business from a long-term perspective. A large signing bonus may be attractive in the short term however, if the firm’s culture collides with that of the broker and doesn’t meet the broker’s long-term business goals then a broker can’t be bought.

I also hold this viewpoint, as 80 percent of my business is marketing properties. I don’t believe that I would get the listings that I do without the support of being in one of the largest Manhattan firms. While I have my own strong personal brand that I continue to build, the recognizable and respected brand of my firm boosts my ability to obtain and market my listings successfully.

In addition to these disruptors, the other big disruptor that is affecting brokers is the current challenging market conditions. Seasoned successful brokers who have experienced a number of slower cycles will thrive in this new market even though it is much slower paced with rising inventory and less transactions.

Personally, my business has experienced some very challenging slow cycles including 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis. In order to thrive in the current slow market cycle brokers need to do the following.

  • Deeply research and analyze the market to look for opportunities
  • Strategize how to adapt to the new market conditions
  • Be in frequent communication with your sellers.
  • Educate buyers on market value and discourage them from making nonsense offers
  • Work harder and more intelligently than ever
  • Manage your mindset and stay positive

At the end of the day disruptors in residential real estate will not destroy strong traditional brokerages who are willing to adapt, make the necessary shift, and become stronger as a result.


Carol Staab
Associate Broker
Douglass Elliman

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