Welcome to another edition of “Ask the MLS.” Here, we talk to people running innovative MLSs around the country and ask them questions about their markets, their members and what keeps them up at night.
Today’s post features Stan Martin, COO of Austin Board of REALTORS® (ABoR). ABoR serves more than 10,000 agents in the Austin, Texas, area. Here’s what Stan had to say:
1. ABOR serves a market of tech-savvy millennials who are used to having information available on their phones. How do you stay on top of what your members need to work with those clients?
We stay on top by offering multiple solutions. Millennials don’t just use one app to communicate with the world. They use their phone to contact people directly and apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram to expand their social circles and forge new connections.
Regardless of whether one app can do it all though, this particular generation uses a variety of apps to conduct their businesses because each of them provides something a little different. Similarly, we offer multiple mobile products, including Homesnap, that address various agent functions to meet our members’ needs.
We also strive to improve our products through targeted communications, focus groups, as well as through our ABoR Engage Portal, where subscribers can provide their feedback. Furthermore, we now have a dedicated product analyst whose sole position is to review and organize product feedback in order to better communicate with product managers.
2. How do you expect the Austin market to change over the next two years?
First, I expect the desirability and demand for our market to remain strong. The US Census Bureau reported a 20% increase in our population during the past decade. Austin’s median home price climbed 10% in December and the local economy continues to forecast rapid growth, as well as an ongoing shortage of housing inventory.
I myself have experienced it first-hand. I sold my previous home in four days and my new house has appreciated 25% in just three years. Many of my new neighbors are from cities such as California, Chicago, and New York.
Second, Austin has become a hotbed of proptech incubation. These innovators are feverishly working to reshape the brokerage model while still hoping to capitalize on the existing model to solve their problems. This emergence of proptech in Austin has even been recognized by incumbents.
Realtor.com recently opened an office here after purchasing Opcity. I believe the amount of resources and effort being exerted will begin to significantly impact our market.
3. Are iBuyers having a big impact in Austin?
Although iBuyers are impacting Austin, it has not been as significant as it has been in other Texas markets. According to iBuyer guru Mike DelPrete, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio are in the top 10 iBuyer markets.
Aside from all the well-known names that are now in our marketplace, we have a few home-grown iBuyers, including Abodewell and Homeward. It’s really exciting to be a part of this dynamic competition. Austin has strong local brands that are rising to the competition and discovering new opportunities to deliver value.
Last month, my wife wanted us to consider moving into a bigger home. We have three small children and a new puppy all crammed into a single-story house. Like so many, I need to sell my home before I can afford a new one. My wife told me she had filled out an online form with an iBuyer but was rejected. To be honest, I breathed a sigh of relief.
I think home values and rapid appreciation are probably holding the growth of iBuyers back in our market.
4. What keeps you up at night?
Oh gosh, EVERYTHING. Admittedly, I struggle with rising above day-to-day operations. I can get fixated on a subscriber complaint just as easily as a significant strategic endeavor. In a broader sense, I worry about the speed of innovation occurring all around us.
I had the pleasure of meeting with the co-CEO of Whole Foods, Walter Robb, after they announced their decision to sell the company to Amazon. The look on his face was painstaking, but it was a testament to how much he cared. At the end of the day, he said (paraphrasing), “We simply were not going to be able to innovate fast enough.”
When asked what he would have done differently, he said, “If you see something that needs to be done, then just do it and don’t wait.”
5. When you were in high school, what did you expect to be when you grew up?
I come from a Scouting family. My granddad was a Scoutmaster, my dad and his brothers were Eagle Scouts, and my brother and I are Eagle Scouts. My father even worked for the Boy Scouts of America to raise funds and troops across New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana.
I had a grand vision that I would someday be a famous leader, or at least governor, of the great state of Texas. I’m taking baby steps on my oratory skills, so maybe someday. No one knows what the future holds for me.