In a recent Real Estate Business online straw poll, more than three quarters of the 250 respondents said they would share business tips with a competitor if it helped bolster industry standards.
The survey followed recent comments by Ray White’s Ben White, who claimed public perception of the real estate industry was at an all time low, and that it was time agents did something about it.
“No one network alone has the power, or the money, to make the change that needs to be rippled across the entire industry,” Mr White said earlier this month. “At the moment it is the worst parts of our industry that are holding the rest of us back.”
It also comes not long after Peter Brewer, general manager at Inlinemedia Biz, said the popularity of REBarcamp events was largely due to its brand agnostic nature, where competitors often interacted with each other in forums.
“Where else would you see [online listing providers] realestate.com.au, domain.com.au and the homepage.com.au, all sharing one session as co-facilitators,” Mr Brewer said in relation to the Brisbane REBarcamp forum, held late last year.
“That is gold. For those three companies that compete against each other, to stand there and take the questions from the floor, and interact, was just gold. You would never see that in any other forum.”
Henry Willis, president of WA-based Landlink – a body of independent agents who get together regularly to share ideas – told Real Estate Business that he was surprised with the straw poll result.
“I thought it would be closer to 50/50,” he said. “But the amazing thing with real estate is that you can share as many tips as you want, and very few people would do anything about it. No one’s going to copy you exactly because they are going to want to put their own spin on it.”
Landlink, which was founded in 1983, was formed to help member agents communicate with each other.
“We’re all independent, so we’re not part of a franchise group or any other support group, and we range from Broome in the north of the state to Esperance in the south,” Mr Willis continued.
“It started as a referral thing… and it built from that, so now the most valuable part of it is sharing experiences of the market and bringing up issues.”
Mr Willis said there’s a distinction between a good competitor and a bad one.
“In real estate there’s always going to be competitors,” he said. “But you have friendly competitors and unfriendly competitors. Some people have another agent down the road, and they get on well with them. In that case they would have no objection to sharing tips with them.”
Landlink members have bi-monthly meetings, workshops aimed at sales representatives, a country conference and benefit from a discount from West Australian newspapers.
“At our annual conference this year we went to Rottnest Island [near Perth],” he said.
“We were canvasing around the subjects that people wanted to speak about and there was a heavy overlap with the subjects that people found had become issues. So we sat in a room with around 40 delegates and started a discussion along these topics and a huge amount of information came out.
“It’s very open, we’re not sharing profit and loss statements, but we are sharing things that concern us. Some agents are [located] a few blocks apart while others are a few days travel from Perth, but they share the same concerns.”
And although Mr Willis agrees with Ben White’s comments, he said the internet had damaged an agent’s value more than anything to do with general public perception.
“We used to be the gatekeepers of all knowledge, and people would have to rely on agents for market data. That’s been taken over by online databases.
“[But] they’re still looking for someone who they can trust who can skilfully handle negotiating,” he added. “There’s a bunch of people who give us a bad name, but the vast majority uphold good standards.”