I spent a few days in Dallas this week for the 2010 Gathering of Eagles, a conference for the nation’s largest real estate brokerage companies put on by Real Trends each year.  While our industry has more conferences that most of us can attend, I always find the Gathering to be an excellent event and a good way to get a pulse for the state of the real estate industry.  Some quick takeaways:

·         State of the Market – the tone of this year’s event was decidedly more positive than last year’s.  While I don’t think many leaders are expecting a robust market any time soon, most feel that the worst is behind us.  Brokerage companies see the current environment as an opportunity differentiate themselves and seem more willing to invest (albeit cautiously) to take market share.

·         Network Level Innovation – There was an interesting panel featuring the leaders of the leading real estate franchisors and networks.  I heard good commentary from all of the participants but was particularly engaged by Pam O’Connor, CEO of The Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, and Mark Willis, CEO of Keller Williams.  Both leaders clearly articulated the ways in which they differentiate what they do from other franchise organizations.   It’s easy to see why both companies have continued to be successful in even the most challenging of environments.

·         Lead Generation – More and more attention continues to be paid to lead generation, and all aspects of the who, what, where, and how to be successful at it.  In the “boom”, many companies seemed to take a ‘who needs it’ approach to the space, but now it’s clear that the brokers and the networks know they need to create compelling lead generation strategies if they are going to effectively compete for consumers and for agents.

There were many other excellent talks as well.  Steve Murray, CEO of Real Trends and host of the event, as always, provided valuable insights about where Real Trends sees the market heading over the next few years.  This insight is a big part of why so many leaders make their way to the event every year.  Rich Barton, CEO of Zillow, did a great job of engaging the audience with his take on what’s to come, and the important role that the iPad and technologies like it will play in the future.

And speaking of Rich, it sounds like he and I both hit a few tennis balls with the same pro at the hotel.  I didn’t know Rich was a tennis player until the pro mentioned that another guy from Seattle had just been out on the court, and that the two of us should play when we get back to the Seattle area.  When I asked how I would do against Rich, he just kept saying “too close to call, but it would be a great battle”.  So what do you say Rich – Can I interest you in an online real estate tennis match?  Perhaps we could even make it interesting – for charity, of course.