More women needed – Sherry Chris

More women needed – Sherry Chris

Sherry Chris, Global President and CEO of U.S. Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate was in Australia recently to launch their brand into the Aussie market.  We caught up with Sherry to get her views on the growing importance and impact women are having on the industry.


Kevin Turner: Sherry Chris is the global president and CEO of US based Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, which is opening in Australia. Chris was named 2010, 2015 Inman Innovator of the Year in the real estate industry, and Inman’s 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders for six consecutive years. So very, very well briefed on the industry. And it’s a pleasure to have her in Australia. Sherry, thank you for your time. Welcome to the show.

Sherry Chris: Oh, it’s my pleasure, Kevin. Thank you for having me.

Kevin Turner: Now, I mentioned Inman. I guess many people wouldn’t be familiar with what Inman is about, but it’s the biggest real estate conference in the world actually. And they do a couple of conferences every year. The conference this year, you were of the keynote speakers again. So congratulations. Your takeaway from that? How is the industry faring?

Sherry Chris: Well, at that conference there was a lot of change introduced. New entrants into the industry, both in the US and globally. A look at different consumer trends. But some disruption, I guess I’ll say, is the right way to put it. So new brands and companies coming in that everybody’s taking a close look at. And my opinion is we need change and we need some disruption.

Kevin Turner: Well, some of that change is coming about. And one of the reasons why you’re in Australia, apart from launching the brand here, is that you’ll be speaking at some conferences particularly relating to women in real estate. And I’d like to talk to you about that if I may, but before I do I was interested to read that your interest in real estate came about during the buying process. And then you took classes and evenings on weekends while working in the banking industry. Women, no doubt, are playing, well, they certainly are playing a much more important role, not only in the purchase of the family home but in the industry itself, Sherry.

Sherry Chris: Yes, that’s true. And actually, you’ve done some research on me. And that was back in the 1980s I started my career in banking and bought my first home, and then became intrigued with real estate. And I thought to myself, “Gosh I could do this. And I could probably do it better than the agent who sold me the property.” But if we fast forward to today and looking at the US stats, well over 60% of agents are female in the industry. And if we look at home buyers and the makeup of families, our consumer research tells us that females are involved in over 90% of major decision making. And, of course, buying a new home is definitely a major decision. So that, it plays well into our industry.

Kevin Turner: It does.

Sherry Chris: And I’m happy to be a part of it.

Kevin Turner: What does your experience tell you about women in the buying and selling role of real estate, not necessarily being agents? Do they make the decision about the house to purchase or the agent who they’re going to work with?

Sherry Chris: Both, actually. And, of course, that has changed over the years. Now social media plays a big part in how couples or individuals who are buying a home choose an agent. But when you think about females in general, it’s been said, and I don’t know whether you’ll agree with this or not, is that typically women have a higher level of emotional intelligence. And when you think about the home buying process, it’s a very emotional decision. It’s not a business decision, it’s a personal decision. And so what I’ve found with female agents, certainly that I know in the industry and trust, is that they’re well in tune with that whole emotional piece of it.

Kevin Turner: There are, though, two buyer groups, putting aside sex for a moment, and one is buying the family home. And I agree totally with you that it’s all about emotion, raising the family. But then as an investor you really need to take off that emotional hat and look at it like a business. Therefore, do men make better business decisions about real estate than women?

Sherry Chris: Well, that’s a good question. And we’re talking about gender today, which is always very interesting. But I think from an investment perspective and, you know, we look at the many large investment groups and investors who really for the most part, and this is an interesting piece of information, brought us out of the big recession that we had in the US where investment groups, led by men primarily, were buying thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of what we call distressed properties or distressed assets at that time. And what those investment groups were looking at was the short-term and long-term rate of return.

Sherry Chris: Now, for me, I fall more into the latter category because I do look at things from a business perspective. But getting back to residential real estate, it really is an emotional decision. Which is one of the reasons why we decided 10 years ago to launch the Better Homes and Gardens brand, because it’s a brand that resonates with homeowners and potential homeowners as they’re dreaming about the next phase of their lives. Which is an important part of the emotional piece of it.

Kevin Turner: Yeah, it’s a great point that you raise. Just getting back to an earlier statement you made, Sherry, if I may, I think you mentioned a figure of about 60% of women are now involved in the industry. Is that correct or did I mishear that?

Sherry Chris: Yes, that is correct. Over 60%.

Kevin Turner: Okay, over 60%. I’m just curious to know then if you think more women in the industry is necessarily going to change the public perception of a real estate agent?

Sherry Chris: That’s a very, very good question. And I’ll tell you my answer to that is no. What will change the perception of the real estate agent is us, as realtors around the world actually, working more collaboratively together. That’s what is going to change. And providing a higher level of service to the end consumer. That’s not gender related. That’s related back to our industry. And where today, if we look at our industry as a whole, we’re really very transaction oriented where we need to be more consumer focused. And surprising and delighting the end consumer with the way that we do business with them. That’s what’s going to change our industry.

Kevin Turner: Well, I’ll take you a little further into that conversation, if I may, by asking you the question about future technology. And you’ve just come away from the Inman conference where no doubt that played a major part. Future technology developments, how do you think they’re going to influence how real estate is transacted in the future? And what impact will that have on our relationship with the real estate agent?

Sherry Chris: Well, technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated, as you know. And what we look at today is very different than what it was, certainly 10 years ago, five years ago. So today it’s a combination of data, and a lot of data, coupled with artificial intelligence or AI as some people call it. And we’re able to do predictive modelling and predictive analytics today to help us determine who are the most likely consumers to buy or sell, and when are they most likely to?

Sherry Chris: Now, that’s great information for us to have as an industry, but it also helps the end consumer as well. Because we’re able to identify the needs of the consumer and really service those needs, rather than let’s say you were potentially looking at buying a home two years from now. You would not want an agent calling you every week. But if you were wanting to buy a home two weeks from now, you would want that. And so this whole artificial intelligence and data management pieces is important for the future of our industry. Now, go ahead and ask the question. I’ve much more that I could talk about around this because it’s a fascinating piece of our future.

Kevin Turner: It is a fascinating piece. And what you’re touching on there is the difference between push and pull, where we used to push so much information out pre-internet. But now with so much information available to consumers, it’s the skill of the agent is in actually pulling the consumer to them as opposed to pushing the information out Sherry. That’s been a big change, hasn’t it?

Sherry Chris: It’s a huge change. It really is. And it really leads to the big question in our industry around the world, and that is but what is the role of the agent in the future? You know, with technology becoming more and more sophisticated, what is our role? And our role is being the human being in the transaction, the trusted advisor, the person who can cut through all of the data and really help guide the consumer through the transaction. And I believe that that role is not going to change, that it will only become more and more important as technology becomes increasingly sophisticated.

Kevin Turner: Of course, you’re in Australia to launch the brand, the Better Homes and Gardens, here. What are we likely to see? Where will the offices be? And are we, as consumers, going to notice any difference when we deal with the Better Homes and Gardens brand?

Sherry Chris: Well, we hope the consumer will notice a difference. And actually we’re in the early stages of building out our value proposition with our CEO here, Simon Cashman, and his team. And what we’re looking at building out really ties back into the overall value proposition. That’s the Better Homes and Gardens brand and the real estate brand in general. And that’s to provide exceptional customer service to the end consumer.

Sherry Chris: So we’re really a brand that is very consumer focused and wanting to exceed the consumer’s expectations. So I think that that will be a difference here. We certainly found it to be in the US when we launched 10 years ago, that we were and remain a brand that’s very unique and different among all of those brands that are currently in business today. So it’s a brand that tries to exceed customer expectations by being values driven, by helping consumers through the dreaming stage. And with the popularity of the magazine and the TV show, there’s close to 100% brand awareness here. And that will lead to hopefully one of the things that the consumer is looking for today, and that’s a deeper relationship. Not with real estate agents just, but with service people everywhere that consumers deal with. They want to have a more authentic and deeper relationship. We aim to provide that from a real estate perspective.

Kevin Turner: And are we likely to see a Better Homes and Gardens office or branch in Brisbane or in South East Queensland soon?

Sherry Chris: Absolutely.

Kevin Turner: Yeah?

Sherry Chris: Yeah, absolutely. So right now we’re starting to talk to brokers and agents who have contacted us and are expressing an interest in joining the brand. And we’ll be continuing those conversations throughout this year with the idea of launching prior to the year end in a more formal way. So there’s been a tremendous amount of interest, which I’m very happy about. So the answer is yes. So the next time I come here I’d like to see a lot of green and white signs everywhere. Everywhere.

Kevin Turner: Very good. Well, we’ll look forward to seeing you when you are back, Sherry. Sherry Chris is the global president and CEO of US based Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, soon to be opened right here in Australia. Sherry, thank you so much for your time.

Sherry Chris: It’s my pleasure, and thank you for taking the time to talk today. I appreciate it.

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