HW Media: What is your current favorite HW+ article and why?
Katherine Mechling: I’d point to Derek Brummer’s piece in the June issue: “The American dream and the affordability crisis.” We can sometimes get tunnel vision in this industry thinking about affordability as it impacts our own personal bottom lines.
But ultimately, real estate is the business of delivering homeownership — the primary means by which most Americans build generational wealth — to people, and the affordability crisis challenges that, disproportionately affecting low-income homebuyers and people of color. I recommend Brummer’s article because he succinctly breaks down the issue and offers some opportunities for improvement.
HW Media: With HousingWire Annual right around the corner, which session are you looking forward to this year and why?
Katherine Mechling: I’m most looking forward to the Women of Influence Forum! Women make up 66% of all Realtors, according to the National Association of Realtors‘ 2022 Member Profile, but hold just a fraction of executive leadership positions throughout the industry.
Events like this one encourage us to explore what’s keeping that leadership gap in place and push for ways to change the status quo. I’m particularly excited to see Side’s chief broker officer, Hilary Saunders, and chief technology officer, Ed Wu, speak on a panel about how we elevate female leaders here at Side.
HW Media: What is your most useful tech tool?
Katherine Mechling: Slack. I appreciate that I can sort channels by topic so that conversations about content review and conversations about our upcoming events are cleanly separated, even if they involve the same people. It goes a long way in keeping me organized.
HW Media: What is the weirdest job you’ve had?
Katherine Mechling: I taught seventh grade humanities at an all-girls private middle school for a few years in my early twenties. I’ve had several people tell me that sounds like their own personal nightmare, being stuck in a middle school all day, but I actually had a blast!
While it wasn’t right for me long-term, I learned quite a few lessons about having patience, giving clear instructions, and communicating persuasively that have served me well in my career.
HW Media: What do you think will be the big themes for the housing market in 2022-2023?
Katherine Mechling: A big one is moderation. Many media outlets are fretting about a possible housing crash because panic gets them more clicks than reason. But the truth is that the market is moderating, not imploding. And as the market moderates, I think we’ll see certain aspects of the industry follow suit.
For one: We’re going to see agents drop out of the industry. From 2020 to 2021, NAR membership increased by a massive 156,000 Realtors. During that same timeframe, Realtors with two or fewer years of experience made $8k/year on average. That’s a lot of agents making peanuts during an intensely hot market — and as the market softens and it gets harder to transact, I anticipate many of those agents will give up altogether.
That’s going to pave the way for experienced, full-time agents to capture more market share. So for established agents who are sticking it out, there’s also this theme of moderating your anxiety around what’s happening in the housing market. Don’t let fear of uncertainty keep you from pushing forward and investing in your business. The market is cyclical; we’ve been here before, and we’ll be here again. Keep your head above water, and you’ll find this is actually a great time to grow.
HW Media: What’s one thing that people aren’t paying attention to that you think they should be paying attention to?
Katherine Mechling: I don’t think we take consumer trust in real estate as seriously as we should. As an industry, we keep revisiting the question of, “Will technology replace the agent?” Signs point to “no” — 92% of buyers and sellers chose to work with an agent in 2021. But that doesn’t mean all those people had a good experience.
Consumers prefer working with agents to the alternative, but nearly 90% of Americans say they have little to no trust in real estate agents. And that’s because there are so many inexperienced, part-time agents out there.
My parents recently called me, shocked to learn the agent they contracted, someone they thought was highly experienced, only facilitates two transactions a year. I had to tell them: That’s actually really common. Traditional brokerages make more money in commissions and fees from part-time agents than they do from full-time agents. They’re financially incentivized to keep a large number of lower-quality agents on their rosters.
There are some truly fantastic, devoted agents in this industry; I’ve worked with so many of them in my role at Side. But it can be very difficult for consumers to distinguish between the professionals and the amateurs. As an industry, we need to put more work into changing the public perception that most real estate agents deliver subpar service.
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