Lessons from my First Real Estate Conference of 2024


 By Conrad Zurini | Broker of Record | Manager | conrad@rmxemail.com | 905-719-3033

January has come and gone and so has the first major real estate conference…Inman Connect NY. My research tells me that there are 521 real estate related conferences in the US.  If the average conference is 3 days and you were able to attend conferences back to back, and you exclude weekends, it would take you 6 years to attend them all. If I could venture a guess, I’d say that in 2024 every real estate conference will have at least 30% of the sessions on AI, and every session will mention ‘your value proposition’ and that we must ‘be authentic’ at least 5 times per session.  If Inman had a drinking game every time the words “be authentic”, and “demonstrate your value” were said, we all would have had alcohol poisoning by 11 am.  

The organizers at Inman reported that this year’s attendance was one of the highest at nearly 4,000 attendees.  Very impressive numbers given the fact that 2023 was not a great year for our industry so I applaud all those who took the time and resources to invest in their businesses.  I wonder if it was truly a hunger for knowledge, or a chance to brush shoulders with real estate royalty like Ryan Serhant or Mauricio Umansky (fresh from dancing with the stars).  As far as Ryan’s complexion goes, it is pure perfection, almost unreal. I am so curious about his facial regiment that I think his next endorsement should be skin care products for sure.  

For those of you who could not attend, like the other 1,996,000 licensed realtors in North America, I will give you the Cole’s notes of the most precious nuggets of the event. 

If You Are Not Using AI Already Just Look At This Graph


The Conspiracy That Is Zillow

Zillow continues to be the Darth Vader of real estate, and with good reason, but it’s more like Darth Vader in R2D2’s clothing. That’s scarier than just being the worst villain of all time of 20th century moviedom. According to Comscore, under the digital media category in the United States, during December 2023, Zillow came in 31st for most users, below Google, Amazon and Apple, but above Pinterest and Netflix.  They are definitely the quintessential real estate site and there were no other real estate sites in the top 50. They have the consumer audience for sure and are in the midst of building their super app, or real estate ecosystem (which sounds more green vs sounding more Marvel). 

Susan Daimler, the president of Zillow, was interviewed on the main stage at Inman and right out of the gate she countered the rumour that they are planning on becoming a full fledged real estate company.  “We bought Follow Up Boss, ShowingTime and Dotloop in the noble pursuit of supporting Realtors”. A consumer could be apart of this super app and make an appointment to see 123 Main Street on ShowingTime, then Zillow’s live connect team will (in real time) connect the consumer with one of their Premier Agents.  If the client buys the property through the Premier Agent, Zillow will receive a 40% referral. If that consumer does not buy the property, then Zillow will continue to nurture that buyer through their CRM, Follow Up Boss.  With their acquisition of Follow Up Boss, they have all the data from agents like us, that they can put through an AI platform to discover the best way to go from lead to sale. So, when that particular buyer demonstrates a clear buying signal, they will ask them “did you like the agent that showed you 123 Main Street 2 months ago?”.  If they say yes, then that original Premier Agent  will be re-served up the lead to make the sale.  If the buyer says no, then they will served up another Premier Broker to close the deal and pay Zillow their 40% referral. Then the so-called Zillow client will submit all of their documents on Dotloop, to which Zillow can introduce their lender, Zillow Home Loans, to finance the deal and on and on it goes. Is that a conspiracy theory or a clever strategy?

Build An Engine Around Your Referrals Through Know-Me-Moments

Repeat and referrals have been an integral part of our sales pipeline for decades and has always been a segment of our business which was ours to lose.  These clients know you well because you have a strong relationship with them and/or the person that referred you.  They have built-in forgiveness for you when you screw up, because they know you have been results driven in their past experience with you. Let’s face it, things can go wrong, and a new client off the street does not have the benefit of that history to be so forgiving.  Hopefully you know these past and referred clients just as well; what motivates them, what they like to do, you have the insight of when to nudge, when to pull back, and when to forgive as well.  These people appreciate your time and know your capabilities without you having to remind them.  And… hopefully they are fun to be around!!

Start this year by doing an audit of all your reviews (hopefully you did not write them yourself), weed-out the ones that just describe you doing your job like, “Conrad always answered his phone”, and find the deeper commentary on your business style that aligns with your core values.  Feed those into ChatGBT to create a system/checklist/touchpoint which will be the cornerstone of your unique client experience.  

Remember the power of the law of human reciprocity. Your clients will want to share with others the legendary service you provided them and how special you made them feel during the whole process.  When it comes to referrals, you want to be on the receiving end of passionate referrals vs just passive referrals.   You know when you experience a great restaurant, a great Netflix series, or a great hotel etc., you want to share that great experience with everyone.  We get joy from having someone experience what we have, so the secret is to create your own enviable customer experience.

We have the ability without predictive AI to cater to those special moments (closing gifts by virtue of their name signifies the end of something).  The closing gift demonstrates the value you have for them - is an $80 bottle of wine conveying that value? Remember they know what you earned on their transaction!  Get in the spirit of giving client gifts at those touchstone moments, like when their transaction becomes firm, or moving boxes and tags to help them with the move.  Try a blow-out dinner for 2, 30 days after they move in, because by that time they are tired of being home and after they spent so much on the move, they would have a hard time treating themselves.  

What Can AI Do For Little Ol’ Me?

First you must get on it! There is a free version of ChatGBT but I suggest you get the paid version for $20 a month.  Explore a topic you already know, push and prod it to give you a deeper dive - ask it again, and again by typing ‘Is this your final answer?’  Your prompt should be the biggest detailed run on sentence you can imagine which you would have been penalized for in English 101.  You should start by training ChatGBT to fully understand your business, your market, your clients, the ideal profile of the buyers you serve and how to create targeted advertisements on a particular listing etc.

Your first project should start with your business. You can create a prompt about a particular content strategy you want to implement in your business that will help create other prompts to identify your unique business offering based on the consumer needs in your community.  

For example:

“I need you to ask me questions to fully understand my business, my ideal client profile, or target audience and my forecast for growth in the real estate market in my area in 2024.”  Base all your responses on my answers. I want you to create a content delivery program which is customized to the way I do business, reflects my personality, my growth strategy and the community I operate in order to create an actionable growth strategy.  In order to accomplish this I need you to ask me at least (25, 50, 75) questions about my business style, growth forecast, my current clients which I have had great success with, my target audience, my values and goals, and anything else you feel is important to achieve my specific growth targets for my business in 2024.  Your deep comprehension of my business, my geographic area of business, my industry and the local economy is paramount to getting achievable results.”

You can create these types of prompts to write ads for your listings, find pain points for consumers and to be super creative to find answers that are not generic. Make sure you always insert a task in the prompt, like “….to create a content calendar, marketing plan, etc”. Ask for multiple hooks, or ad headlines so that you can AB test the ones that get you the best results. 

Please Stop Doing The Following:

- Referring to your clients as “past clients”, we are the only industry that does that.

- Don’t use AI to create a generic brand, push your chatbot to do more, this is your time to stand out from the crowd. 

- Stop trying to figure out the algorithm of your favourite platform, the creators of the platform don’t even know it.  Instead, search for the hot (real estate) topics and reverse engineer them, and your content will rank.  Learn about the latest business goals of the platform, and play to those goals. 

- Don’t be someone you are not on all your platforms, including TikTok. 

- Humour in your posts should be an extension of your personalty but don’t try to be funny. Comedy is something people spend their careers perfecting.  (You ain’t no comedian, so stop please, you are tarnishing your brand). 

Clever Buzz Words/Phrases To Show off with at Your Next Real Estate Conference

I particularly like the banter in the foyer of the event venue.  It is like the main stage is your only source of oxygen so you sit in the main ballroom and fill your lungs (your brain) with the latest catch phrases and questions so that when you go out to grab a coffee and meet someone you know and want to impress them you exhale all these high brow words and phrase you just learned.  

AI is about using technology to warm up your customer.

- What is your best content consumption platform? 

- We must start delivering 7 star service in a 3 star industry. 

- Your listing your lead model.

- Generative AI vs Predictive AI.

- Conversational interphase.

- Advanced data analytics. 

- The democratization of data.

- Dotted line relationships.

- A Lesson on the Real Estate Market…Nothing is Normal. 

For years Inman was the showcase for disruptors - Zillow, EXP, Compass, Opendoor and Real to name a few.  Many of the so called disruptive CEO’s/founders who run these companies really do not have all the 

answers to where our industry is headed in the next 5 or 10 years.  But, one thing is for sure, the current chatter around disruption isn’t about WHO is the disruptor, but WHAT is the disruptor?  The cost of money, rising expenses, the shrinkage of skilled labour, elongated construction times, material shortages, climate change, and future proofing your home, to name a few.  Fundamentally, when you look at real estate as a whole, in the context of an asset class it’s the first time in history that 3 asset classes, have converged into one.  Retail, office/work and residential have melded together.  Your home is your office, it receives retail packages and you sleep and dine on takeout food there. The latest office design is to make it look homey, to attract people back to the office.  Condo buildings are now building in refrigeration storage facilities for perishable groceries. This black swan moment in real estate will initiate trends we have never experienced.  Be at the forefront of the many disruptions as they unfold, it truly reflects the way we mine for business. For instance, the perspective client who moved out of a rental property to buy a home is currently at a 20 year low. What was once business as usual is not anymore, “why pay your landlord’s mortgage” may not have the impact it once did. It’s time to be mindful of our buyer’s and seller’s pain points, and create solutions for them which are local, customized, and data driven.