“My mother has been a broker from the time I was three years old,” said Marc Dickow. “She had several boutique brokerages when I was growing up and I started working in the offices when I was young, like 11 or 12. And I couldn't wait to get my real estate license.” Thus began a lifelong love of real estate.
Around the time Dickow started his own brokerage in 2014, he got involved in his local association, and has “now gotten involved on the state and national level, as well. My mother had always told me to get involved. She was involved in her associations.” Dickow’s mother served as president of her local association and was one of the first women to own a Century 21 franchise in the state of Michigan.
Dickow’s primary reason for getting involved at the associational level? “All the technology that was coming out. I love technology. It has revolutionized our business, really, in so many ways. Then, when I went to my first MLS meeting, it was just clear to me that that was the place to get involved and to stay involved.”
“I am actually still on a local MLS committee today. As an agent, you don't have any idea of how much they do for you and what they do every day, which is monumental in my opinion, to keep us running and to keep our businesses going.”
The biggest value of the MLS? Data that serves the Realtor
For the individual Realtor, data is the biggest benefit of the MLS, said Dickow. “It's the aggregator of data, right? Before we had all these consumer-facing websites, it was just getting all the data into one place. Then it became, ‘Now we need to take all this data and get it out to all of these consumer-facing sites, to all the brokerage feeds.’”
“Recently in the Bay Area, we went through a large regional data share. We were sharing data before, but you had to sign into other people's systems. Now, all the data is in everybody's home system, which was just a huge undertaking,” said Dickow.
“Finally, after about a year of the integration, it’s working well.” So in many ways, the MLS is the center of cooperation, he said.
New policies and new challenges on the horizon
According to Dickow, “The majority of conversations recently have centered around new NAR-adopted policies,” some of which are “presenting some challenges.”
“For example, the offer of compensation now has to be public-facing. That's pretty big, and some folks think that that could change how compensation is done and change the commission rates. Listing attribution is another one. They now have to have contact information, not just the brokerage's name.”
In Dickow’s opinion, these are all positive changes. For example, “If you aren't talking to your clients about commission right up front, you need to be, and this is going to force people to.” Dickow also thinks the proposed changes will drive larger adoption of buyer broker agreements in the industry and provide greater transparency through improved listing attribution.
“Really what my clients are most interested in is, ‘Does [the listing] have the office they want or the bedroom count they need, or does it have the second or third bath that they need?’” Despite agent fears, Dickow doesn’t see these issues as deterring clients or having a deleterious effect on the client-agent relationship.
Meet in the Middle: A rapid-fire Q&A segment
Dickow’s number one book recommendation for real estate agents isn’t a book at all, but involvement in the local association. “[Agents] don't understand what their associations do for them. They don't understand the resources that are available: classes, tech training, all of that stuff can be found at your local association.”
“And for those people who have complaints about their association, you can't say anything unless you're in there doing the work. That's my opinion,” he said.
An easy way to get involved, according to Dickow, is to take advantage of the classes that are offered. “Then I highly recommend serving on a committee. You know, there is such great value in that; you want to know as many agents as you can, especially as a new agent. You're going to be doing deals with all of these people.”
“So what, doesn't it behoove you to know them, and to have sat on committees with them? I know it has helped my business and I know it's helped anybody that served.”
When asked what one piece of advice he wishes he’d known when he started out, Dickow said it was, “Stick to the basics. Get your CRM. Make sure that you are contacting your sphere of influence. Don't let people forget what you do.”
“Really, agents forget the simplest things,” he said. “And it's so easy to just get into, ‘What am I going to do today?’ Or, you know, ‘What should I be doing?’ And it's contacting everyone right up front and continuing to be in touch with them on a regular basis and sending out newsletters, email newsletters, whatever you're into, being active in social media. I mean, that wasn't around when I started, but that's key, I think, too.”
Dickow has hobbies and interests that have factored into helping him build his sphere, and thus his business. “I’m very involved in the music scene. I was a music producer. I was in new bands. That has definitely helped me because I was still in contact with those men and women many years later, they referred me to their friends, and so on.”
Dickow also wrote a real estate column for a local newspaper for more than a decade. “So anything that you can do like that, get involved. I've got a sailboat and, you know, people on the water are super friendly. People in your harbor are super friendly. You’ve just got to remind people what you do, though.”
Rentals and Multiple Listing Services
As the conversation turned to rentals, Dickow discussed an agent who only worked with rentals, noting the “huge lack of MLS resources for rentals. I mean, yes, we can put them in, but it's minuscule” compared to the number of listings for sales.
“I think there are up-and-coming companies that might be able to provide more tools for rentals, like a hub for rentals. I just don’t know that the MLS is that hub,” he said. It seems like there just could be another company that's doing it and doing it well, that could be like a plug-and-play” for rental listings.
The role of real estate associations in furthering diversity, equity and inclusion
According to Dickow, “With everything that's happened in the last two or three years, it's brought the whole, diversity, equity and inclusion [conversation] back into the forefront.” At the associational level, “We had no idea, really, what our makeup was. Do we have people of color in our association or don't we, and if we don't then what are we doing to kind of bring those people into the business and help them be successful, which I think translates also into impacting how we serve our clients?”
“We need more people of color sitting at the table,” said Dickow, to correct historical inequities in homeownership, the need for diversity in associations, and the need for more diverse leadership at local, state and national associations. “We’ve got to have more diverse voices at the table. It’s imperative, I think.”
“In San Francisco, we try to lead the way in a lot of areas and, especially during 2020 during the lockdown when we were able to take a minute and step back and say, ‘What are some things we need to be concentrating on?’ — this was one of the big ones. So I’m very proud of the organization for the steps that we’ve taken so far,” said Dickow.
In addition, Dickow mentioned the Alliance for LGBTQ+ Realtors. “I think they’ve made really good strides. While it’s still a young organization, I think they’ve got a lot to offer as well.
Finally, a closing question for guest Marc Dickow: What is your favorite deal that you’ve closed?
“Well, I think I would have to say my favorite deal was a young couple that my partner, Mark, and I helped. They were buyers looking in the San Francisco market. This is not an easy market for first-time buyers because of the price points, obviously. and these guys were friends. Well, they were the son and daughter-in-law of clients that I've worked with for years.”
“Actually, I've helped all the kids now, all three of their kids find homes. and this was the last one — helping them get into their first home — they have two kids and one on the way.”
“So, they got out of their cramped apartment and got into a really great single-family home. And that comes to mind. I do love helping first-time buyers and I will continue to do so.”