by G. Sax, Director of Growth Management, RESO
Three Questions is an interview series that introduces you to real estate industry professionals, their businesses and how they interact with real estate standards with a goal of humanizing the tech side of the industry, fun included.
This week’s interview is with Bill Gaul, the CEO of Builders Update. We talked about new construction, happiness and the power of picking up the tab. Life is good!
Q1: New construction has been something of a blind spot to the MLS industry. Many newer homes never get into the MLS, because they are sold before they are even built, especially during hotter market periods.
You have been a proponent for creating RESO standards around new construction, and you are the chair of RESO’s New Construction Subgroup. What do you think standards can do that will get more new construction properties into MLSs?
Bill: First, MLSs and builders are on opposite sides of the spectrum, and they need to recognize that. The way to make progress is to meet in the middle.
I’ve been a proponent for builders to change the way they do business. They don’t always see the value of REALTORS®. In general, they think that they themselves do all the work and that REALTORS® come along and collect the checks.
They need to change their mindset, especially small builders that don’t have marketing and sales teams at their disposal. Where they see REALTORS® as taking something off their plate, they are actually bringing in the vetted buyers!
I’ve worked on this misperception for 11 years – trying to open doors to MLSs to work with builders. Unfortunately, on the other end, I see MLSs putting round pegs into square holes in terms of creating efficiencies for builders to list in their systems.
So I’m the middle ground, trying to bring everyone together to compromise, especially as inventory remains low and interest rates are high.
Builders finally have some inventory, and they are doing buy-downs of interest rates. And now they are willing to pay commissions to get rid of their inventory.
Standards have helped towards adopting some common terms. The conversation has begun. But there has been some pushback in the builder community. They don’t understand that there is a genuine friendliness – an olive branch, if you will – behind these efforts, especially from RESO.
MLSs should be proactive about relationship building with new construction markets in their systems. There are opportunities out there.
Q2: You’re a pretty jovial guy. You enjoy having friendly banter at the beginnings of workgroup meetings while sitting outside in casual garb with gentle breezes flowing through palm trees behind you.
Is this something you developed with experience and success, or were you always like this?
Bill: I actually come from a military background, and I’m a West Pointer, so take from that what you will.
I have learned what I don’t want to be in my life. I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to be upset. I want to make other people happy.
When you break down a barrier and make other people smile and laugh, it makes them more apt to listen to what you have to say.
That’s one reason why I love the casual environment of the RESO conferences. There is no judgment. People attend the conferences to learn, and you learn more when you are relaxed. I certainly subscribe to that theory.
I am also a cancer survivor, and that helped set a tone for a life of positivity.
When I was battling cancer, I thought about my three children. I told myself that I have got to be around. I wanted to be there for them as they grew, so I told myself it’s not my time yet. I strongly believe in the power of positive thought.
Q3: You have a signature sponsorship move at RESO conferences. At risk of giving away a good idea, can you share this move and why you believe it works?
Bill: Many years ago, after my first RESO conference, I called back and spoke with Claire Northrop and Suzanne Biegenzahn, two of RESO’s wonderful staff. I told them that I see RESO as a great organization doing great things for the industry.
I wanted to give back to the community as well. But I wanted to be unique, because I’m just a little company that needed to stand out. I’m not going to be giving away Echo Dots.
I noticed one thing. People like to drink!
So I thought about how I could help kick this conference off in the future, and we came up with the idea of the bar tab.
I get a kick out of it every time, because it sets the tone for the conference. I’ve never been to a conference that gives away a bar tab. It sends the right vibe, in my opinion, and I like to feel like I’m part of the vibe.