My big takeaways: Highlights from the 2018 Inman Connect conference

By Jason Gentry, Association/CarolinaMLS President

What’s the latest on millennials? Is technology going to one day drive most agents out of the real estate profession? What communication approach and tech tools will boost your business?

Inman Connect addressed these questions and more through a wide array of individual speakers and panels at its four-day annual conference in San Francisco. If you’ve never been to one of these events, you’re missing tons of timely information about our industry. Plus, because our Association provides Inman’s subscription news service (Inman Select) to our members (at no extra cost to members!), you get a conference discount.

President-Elect Brenda Hayden, Secretary Billy Shugart and I attended the 2018 conference on behalf of the Association. You know the cliché “drinking from a fire hose”? I was doing that each day as I tapped out notes on my iPad and then circulated them among colleagues. Below are a few top highlights for me.

Millennials, Etc.

Yes, most millennials will become buyers – maybe just not right away. That observation came from Matthew Gardner, chief economist for Windemere Real Estate, which focuses mostly on markets in the western U.S. He says 70 percent of the nation’s approximately 78 million millennials eventually want to own a home.

He doesn’t believe we’re in a housing bubble, but some areas, such as San Francisco, are overpriced. He said millennials often see today’s mortgage rates as expensive, but they are not. To track mortgage rates, he encouraged following 10-year treasury yields.

Because of affordability, millennials generally want to buy in the “exurbs,” the first ring of neighborhoods beyond more expensive, closer-in locations. He said a quarter of millennials are turning to the “Bank of Mom and Dad” to buy their first home.

Change, Disruptors

Change and new models for conducting real estate were directly or indirectly discussed in many sessions.

Brad Inman, chair of Inman, told stories of two people who dealt effectively with change. One could see it coming, adapted to it and led a purposeful life. Another had a big change foisted upon her but rallied and continued a purposeful life as well. What both people had in common, he said, was their curiosity, conviction and courage.

Here’s his conclusion (not sure if I got his words exactly, but it’s close): We (in real estate) have time to see the change, what is going on. Put into motion a plan right now. Exhibit incredible courage as you face this change. Face it, face it, face it.

Another impressive speaker was real estate strategist and advisor Mike DelPrete. His key point — change is happening in the industry, but psychology is holding us back.

The role of the Realtor® is not going away, he said. Studies show most consumers have “loss aversion” about executing a high-value/low-frequency transaction such as buying or selling a home. They don’t want to make a costly mistake on a big-dollar purchase, so they’re apt to want a Realtor® to counsel them. Tech developments aren’t going to remove this need.

Joshua Hunt, CEO and founder of TRELORA, is an industry veteran who prides himself on innovation. His brokerage’s website says the firm offers full-service brokerage for a flat fee. He predicts new real estate models will drive down the annual income in residential real estate in the U.S. from $75 billion to $35 billion over the next five to seven years.

He sees software enabling agents to do a better job, and he stressed that customers want an “extraordinary experience,” transparency and a fair price.

Tech Tools: Apps, Alexa and More

On the tech front at Inman Connect, attendees heard about everything from Keller Williams CEO Gary Keller discussing the platform his firm is building to individual apps and other technology to boost knowledge and productivity. Here are a few of them:

  • Asana app — allows agents to manage, in detail, groups of people working together and their related projects. Such teams may include fellow agents and/or customers.
  • Over Edit & Add Text to Photos app — allows you to create marketing materials quickly and to store your logo.
  • Alexa/Echo speakers — Alexa is the name to address Amazon’s Echo speaker, which provides information through artificial intelligence.  The app’s “Big Sky” feature can provide weather reports based on individual addresses for an annual fee. “Ask My Buddy” is a feature that allows you to use a code word and alert “a buddy” if you’re in danger — something that might help provide Realtors® security at an open house.
  • Chatbots — can instantly respond to a potential customer with a comparative-market analysis of properties within a one-mile radius of a particular location. But it’s not cheap. Expect to pay about $500 to build a basic version.


“Building an Empire Out of Positivity” was the topic of Veronica Figueroa, a broker/owner with an Orlando, Fla., RE/MAX franchise and CEO of The Figueroa Team. She cited joy, gratitude, authenticity and knowing yourself as key factors in building a positive approach.

To know yourself, she emphasized finding your voice. “What is no one else talking about that feels extremely natural to you — that’s your voice!” she said, asserting that finding one’s voice is what opens up the path to finding purpose in life.

A parting note — it was nice to see an initiative we are part of, the MLS RoundTable, receive the runner-up award for “Most Innovative MLS, Association or Industry Organization.” Anne Marie DeCatsye, our CEO for CarolinaMLS, is our representative to the group, whose goal is to advance the broker’s business.