Invasive Species, Cooking, Culture and Real Estate

John Mijac, Managing Broker
Long Realty Foothills Office


Okay folks, I’m about to launch into a flight of fancy, so buckle up and join me! 

When markets shift, real estate agents worry about new business models, seeing them as a sort of invasive species…you know, like buffelgrass in the desert or kudzu in the South. Some are concerned that such models, whether flat fee, iBuyer or perhaps a commission-less brokerage might overwhelm us and damage our business by offering what seems to be an unfair advantage. Anyone with a bit of training knows that we cannot boycott or speak badly about such competitors, but what is rarely spoken of is how good they can be for us and our industry. What? Heresy? Stay with me, I’m going to lay out a few analogies to consider…from biology, cooking, and culture. Bizarre? No, I see links to real estate everywhere.

First, Biology. I am not a biologist, ecologist, nor any ‘gist at all, however I disagree with some of the fuss around invasive species made by ‘gists and their aficionados. I take a longer view of most things, and that means I see change as a natural part of life’s process. We humans don’t typically do that. We don’t like change, and this trait colors our ideas about the transforming world, natural and manmade. When examined through the lens of an era (hundreds of millions of years), EVERY species is invasive! Thus, when a forest dies from the pine bark beetle, or when we see bleaching of the coral reefs, we worry because our vision is in years, not eras. Had we lived with the dinosaurs I’m quite sure we would have regretted their demise as well. We know now they made way for more adaptable species, of which we are the beneficiary, but one can only see this through the lens of time. The message? Look long, agents, don’t worry about the crests and troughs of this business, be steady! Whoever remains calm and adapts will win, so be patient, learn, and adapt.

Second, cooking. You might think cooking has little to do with change and real estate, but au contraire. One morning, having a standard breakfast I considered the varied origin of its ingredients…Where did we get these food stuffs? (Eggs, from chickens domesticated in SE Asia; Bacon from Europe; Potatoes from Peru; Oranges from China; Coffee from Africa; Sugar from India) …all adapted from the wild thousands of years ago, and don’t get me started on dinner! Any meal has ingredients that come from all over the world. Our cuisines? Ever changing and adopting. Each of our cuisines took not only ingredients but techniques from other food-ways. My real estate points? We are a species that steals the best from each other, and not in a bad way. So, just as the Italians took tomatoes from the New World and pasta from China to make Spaghetti, take from these competing real estate models, and then transform what you take into your own real estate spaghetti. Those who do not learn and grow through change are fated to wither and die. Adopt what works, adapt to your purposes and win.

Third, culture. People keep talking about going back to better times or think they should strive to keep their culture pure from outside influences. That is hogwash and backwards thinking! There is no past better than today, except in our faulty memories. To steal a line: the best of times is now. Don’t look back, look forward. Human cultures also grow through absorbing ideas and items from other cultures. Think of Southwestern designs, so ubiquitous in Arizona homes. Tracing back, many came from Navaho Blankets, which got their motifs from the old original Mexican Serape, which designs were an imitation of Spanish textile patterns brought from Spain. Those very textiles were duplications and alterations of Moroccan weavings …. Real estate? You’ve got it: adopt, adapt, transform, and use what you can. In this way you benefit from the so-called disruptors, many of whom will leave our market as quickly as they came. You, however, will remain if you adopt, adapt, and transform the useful innovations they brought while retaining your own best traits. 

The world is ever changing, and successful agents change with it. Let those models teach you what works and what does not work. All species are invasive over time (including you!), those that have adapted to change will grow to fill the niche they occupy, why not you? Not all disruptors will survive the changing market we are in, but you can. Examples of how? 

  • Put your commissions into a PLLC and pay yourself a wage out of it: Adopt, adapt, transform, and eliminate dependence on single commissions. 
  • Make your selling point how easy real estate can be when the prospect uses you: adopt, adapt, transform: demonstrate your system possesses all a disruptor has and more. 
  • Be your own iBuyer, find an investor to buy your Seller’s property or they can list with you for more. Adopt, adapt, transform: You’ve got more potential for a Seller to maximize their profits than any iBuyer of today. 

However, don’t abandon the advantages you provide: Your experience, knowledge and most importantly the human connection you bring…the big disruptors do not have these traits; traits which have always served you and your clients well. Competition is good for business, and in a changing marketplace your independent contractor status makes you the perfect party to pivot…these disruptors are less limber, it will be hard for them to adopt, adapt, and transform. You do it by the very nature of your business model, and when you do, you will win out.

John Mijac, Managing Broker, Long Realty