During an hourlong discussion that touched on everything from the future of real estate to America’s race relations, Gary Keller brought his trademark candor and foresight back to the Inman Connect main stage. Joined by KW president Josh Team, Keller cut through the fog of today’s disruption to describe an industry where technological innovation, compassionate agents, and a diverse array of consumers combine to make the dream of buying or selling a home faster, easier, and more accessible for all.

New Habits Will Be Formed

In the wake of the health, economic, and moral crises we’ve seen in the first half of 2020, the speakers agreed that things will forever be changed. “A lot of people keep thinking we’re going to go back to the way things were, but we’re not going to go back,” Keller declared. According to Keller, the changes taking place today were already in the works, but rather than taking five to 10 years, they’re happening now.

One of the biggest changes Keller noted was the change in mindset. Referencing the recent struggles of Barnes & Noble and other brick-and-mortar retailers, Keller explained how the tendency for physically based companies to minimize their digital footprints is a recipe for disaster. It served as a cautionary tale for all of the real estate agents and offices in the world who consider technology a burden. “Just because we’re going to have a new normal, it doesn’t mean it’s worse,” Keller stated, hoping to alleviate the anxiety of any change-resistant listeners.

Alliances, Mergers, and Acquisitions Will Be Accelerated

Five years ago, a lot of people in the real estate industry were skeptical of Keller Williams’ digital ambitions. Now, with virtual home tours becoming the new norm, there’s no question that every facet of the real estate transaction is due for a transformation. “All the barriers are down,” Keller noted, in reference to the previous resistance from other franchises, lenders, and even some consumers.

Keller predicted that we’re going to begin to see unexpected partnerships, and it’s going to happen fast. As rivals become allies and the industry expands to incorporate businesses that once seemed to have little to do with real estate, there’s hope that this increased collaboration will foster a more inclusive environment between agents, clients, and communities. Whether it’s e-signatures, in-app video tours, or even encouraging other franchises to get on board, the one question driving every KW innovation is “are we solving a problem the consumers had?” according to Team.

Tech Enables Customers, Agents, and Brokerages to Win-Win-Win

As Keller sees it, the real beneficiary from all of this industry unity isn’t agents or brokerages. “I think the consumer is the biggest winner of all in this,” Keller said before outlining two scenarios we’ll likely see in the not-so-distant future. He started by explaining how clients will soon be able to refinance their homes with the click of a button, taking advantage of favorable interest rates with the speed of a virtual stock exchange. Keller Williams is laying the groundwork for this with Keller Mortgage, which has already helped customers save nearly $130 million by getting rid of origination and closing fees and maintaining some of the most competitive rates in the industry.

Keller also touched on how technology will empower customers to better manage their homes. Through the KW App, agents will be able to provide their clients with a list of their preferred vendors and a pre-populated maintenance schedule, making setup of routine home improvements as easy as ordering takeout. It all aligns with Keller Williams’ commitment to “delight and amaze” clients.

The Power of a Platform

In the “absolute race for the agent to harness the value of physical and digital,” as Keller describes it, no tool is as important as the platform. In the war of the platforms, Command stands lightyears ahead of the competition. From generating leads for as little as $1 to communicating directly with the app in their client’s pocket, Command was made to bring clients and agents closer together. “You know it’s a connected platform when you can do the entire process on the same operating system,” Team said, explaining what makes Command — built in-house as a partnership between KWRI and agents — different from most of the disconnected offerings on the market right now.

As technology advances, the company hopes to make lenders and governmental agencies a larger part of the equation, Keller and Team shared, resulting in an entirely digital experience that doesn’t remove the agent from the equation. “The fiduciary agent is using the functionary tech,” Keller quipped, proposing a new normal for real estate transactions that wouldn’t be possible without a truly end-to-end platform. “At the end of the day, the platform always wins.”

The Only Path Forward

Broadening the scope of focus beyond the real estate industry, Inman, Keller, and Team took the time to acknowledge the tumultuous events taking place across the country. “I woke up this morning and I went, I’m extremely humbled by the things that are going on,” Keller began, referring to persistent racial inequalities laid bare by the heartbreaking killing of George Floyd.  “As businessmen, we’re apolitical, but we’re not amoral.” In a companywide email prior to Inman Connect Now, Keller outlined the immediate formation of a new task force established to  address and uproot racial injustices and disparities within KW. “We’re all in this together, and the only way we win is by being together.”