Five or six years ago, Sotheby’s flew me to New Jersey to meet with their executive team. It was time that David Curry, Local, be introduced to the high society of the real estate world. I bought a new carry on bag, shined my shoes, and flew east. I enjoyed meetings and dinner, and for a brief moment in time felt like there were better things in store for me. And if not better, then certainly bigger. And if not bigger, then certainly different. Things were changing, or so I thought.
But then something happened after that reveal where I was supposed to faint in great shock as to the magical inner workings of a multi-national brokerage. I wasn’t impressed. I wasn’t impressed with the office. I wasn’t impressed with the dinner. I wasn’t impressed with the marketing department or the chairs in the conference room. I wasn’t impressed with the bosses. Further, I realized that what I was already doing in Williams Bay, Wisconsin was what the big-time brokers were doing in New York. It was a let down to learn that the business of real estate is just the business of real estate.
Since that day, Compass has arrived in Lake Geneva by buying one of our legacy real estate brokerages. Engel and Volkers will be here soon, or at least it seems that way by the amount effort they’ve put into this market. Berkshire Hathaway has bought Rauland. And At Properties did some sort of deal with Christie’s International Real Estate, but exactly what they did I cannot understand. Licensing deal? Brokerage buy? Partnership? No one really knows, it seems. Sotheby’s is coming to Lake Geneva as well, with their wonderful name and, well, the wonderful name.
I feel good to have turned down several of these market suitors, though I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I gave the concept of getting bigger very serious consideration. I might be at the top of the lakefront market these days, but my mentality is still very much of the underdog. Aligning with a big company seems like it would be a crowning transition, and some up front money would have been a validation of the business that I’ve spent so many years building. But when the dust settles on this massive switch in our market, the reason I never switched will be apparent. The real estate business at the upper end is a relationship business. It’s not a software business. It’s not a technology business. It’s a consumer business where the successful players achieve compensation by matching a buyer with a seller. There is nothing more to this game.
I’ve worked with Sotheby’s on some of my larger listings, and can say there has been no market advantage in doing so. When companies talk about how their technology is changing the way real estate is done, they’re largely talking about the back-end software for their own agents. The software makes their agents more productive, which should never be confused with somehow impacting the consumer. I like to see the changes in the local Lake Geneva real estate market, and while I once feared the increased competition, I have learned to embrace it. @properties was the first to enter this market, and several years into that grand experiment I am properly and sufficiently growing my market share.
The business of real estate has been discussed at length in this blog over the past decade. The business of real estate today is much like the business of real estate thirty years ago. The market participants prove their value by their ability to articulate their market knowledge and guide their clients. That’s it. Yes, I produce the best videos in this market. And yes I print the best glossy magazine in this market. And yes, I focus on launching my listings in a thoughtful and polished manner that has proven remarkably effective. But at the end of today, as with all of the days that have come before, the Lake Geneva real estate market isn’t asking for glow in the dark signs or app based agent client management. It only asks for competency, intelligence, honesty and diligence. Thankfully, I can offer those things and still just be a kid from the Bay.