Stefan Swanepoel on stage at the T3 Leadership Summit in Scottsdale, AZ, on April 23.
Stefan Swanepoel on stage at the T3 Leadership Summit in Scottsdale, AZ, on April 23. (Photo: Stephanie Reid-Simons)

‘Change will absolutely happen’ — so build something new 

Real estate has gone through massive changes over the past 50 years, says industry icon Stefan Swanepoel, but it’s time to focus on the future.

April 23, 2024
3 minutes

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Industry icon Stefan Swanepoel issued a challenge to residential real estate executives on Tuesday, amid the threat of lawsuits and industry turmoil.

"It's not 'end of the world' changes," Swanepoel said.

Instead, it's an opportunity: "What if we actually created the future that we really all want?"

But the industry needs to pull together, he said. "Please step up — it's not a one-man show. It's all of us working together."

Swanepoel walked the crowd at the T3 Leadership Summit through the massive changes that the industry has already experienced in its evolution, starting with the franchising era, to Wall Street involvement (1980-1995), to the digital revolution (1996-2010), to new real estate models like cloud brokerages (2011-2020), to the newest era of Acceleration/AI.

When something new appears, he said, "we don't actually see what's happening around us."

And over the past few years, a lot has been happening: the pandemic, multibillion-dollar lawsuits, leadership shakeups at NAR, and a dramatic and AI-fueled acceleration of innovation and change.

That's why there is no more important time to look to the future.

Ten years ago, the industry got a vision of the future — or as we call it, "today" — in the form of Swanepoel's D.A.N.G.E.R. Report, an analysis of threats facing the industry, including:

  • Commissions spiraling downward

  • Marginal agents destroying the  industry's reputation

  • Technology becoming a runaway train

  • Realtor brand losing its desirability and power

  • Increased security breaches

"We basically had 10 years heads-up" on what the industry is facing today, Swanepoel said. 

"Why did you ignore it? Most of you did."

The D.A.N.G.E.R. Report also stated that "change will absolutely happen." And that some threats will build slowly, while others "may be an overnight surprise."

So knowing all this, what's next? Keep doing the same thing? Make minor changes? 

No, Swanepoel said. These challenging times are an opportunity for the industry to start with a clean slate, or close to it — and it's time to build something new and different, something future-focused.

And as you move toward that future, Swanepoel said, don't fear the unknown. Listen and research. Take risks.

"Nothing you are doing is wrong, but it's a prehistoric old way, meaning it's 10, maybe 15 years old. Most of what we do is slightly an old way. Let's find a better way."

(Note: Stefan Swanepoel is the founder of both T3 Sixty and Real Estate News.)

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