Us versus Them

When others study what you do, they do so because what you have done is either successful or horribly wrong.    Duffy Realty is a huge success.  ( As a matter of fact, Duffy Realty is Atlanta’s Gold Standard in consumer-focused real estate companies.  Sure, there are others who implement similar strategies, but Rhonda Duffy has lapped that field many times over.  

Can the Duffy business model be improved?  Of course.  Will you suddenly be able to sell like Rhonda Duffy if you implement her strategy?  No, you will not, but that isn’t the point.   As our culture ever so slowly moves away from the traditional 6% ransom demand of the franchise system, there is plenty of room for approaches that “protect” the consumer from the real estate industry itself. 

As we study alternative “protective” approaches, it’s helpful to view and compare the work of others.  In addition to Duffy, visit these companies for a more local picture.,, , and 

When viewing these sites, the first thing that jumps off the screen is what to call these types of companies.  From a marketing perspective they could all benefit from an anchor that defines their segment.  Obviously, it’s much harder to grow a business when consumers don’t know what you are? 

Flat-fee brokerage?  Not really.  That’s a marketing hook hiding the fact there is nothing “flat” about ala carte pricing.  Discount brokerage?  Not really.   There is nothing discount about it.  It’s only considered such when compared to the inflated grift of the franchisors.   Even Bentley owners have cheap discounts cars when compared to those with Maybachs.        

Easy Listing Service?  Perhaps.  But that’s hardly a business model and is that really the point?   We could simply call these companies “real estate brokerages”, but in doing so they get lumped in with the franchise crowd which is a huge disservice to the approach these companies are trying to execute.     

The challenge for these companies is to separate themselves from the franchises.  They need to somehow convince the culture they are now the new “norm”.   This will prove to be a herculean task as the whole world seems against it.  NAR, the largest trade group on earth, and owner of unlimited funds, doesn’t like a consumer-driven approach.  And, for most of the Country, its NAR’s call to make. 

Home sellers in Atlanta, an open market where alternative approaches are allowed, will never read anything that doesn’t offer full-throated praise of the franchise system.  Editorially, the AJC can’t allow any air be given to flames promoting change.  Their job, like NAR, is to protect the status quo. 

In trying to carve out a niche, these “consumer-driven realty” companies must educate homeowners on just how silly the traditional franchise format is.  But, the problem in doing this is evident on all their websites.  It takes too many words!  The message becomes muddled and confusing. 

These companies all have a great service to sell at a fair price, but instead of focusing on that, they must spend their time trying to convince the consumer to overcome decades of dated real estate dogma.  Its an extra step that bogs down the entire segment. 

Another obvious difference between the franchise model and the consumer approach is scale.  Franchises scale forever.    The more the merrier.  Every franchise has dozens of agents who simply pay dues.  They don’t actively sell or sell sparingly but are content to hide under the umbrella of the franchise system.  It’s a safe harbor.   

In the flat-fee, “consumer approach” world, you either sell or you’re toast.  That’s why all the consumer brokerages we have mentioned feature very small staffs.  At their price points these companies simply can’t carry the fat!   It’s big versus small, lean versus bloated.  Can the choices be any starker?    

All real estate is local.  Renewed interest in consumerism is rising from the local level.  Franchise messaging has little to do with localism.  Impressive numbers of agents with huge national sales statistics mean very little to those working at the neighborhood street level.   Then again, the concept of franchising is the practice of extracting revenue from others for the greater good of said franchise.  Not exactly localistic is it?

We will continue looking at Duffy Realty and other consumer-focused solutions in our next blog.  Specifically, we will look at what they have done to monetize the functions of an agent.  What is an ala carte approach?  Is this the future of the agent? 


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