The technology-driven disruption of the real estate industry has not turned out to be as dramatic as many thought it would. The real estate agent is not being replaced by artificially intelligent machines, and my Roomba is not out showing houses for me during the day.
Technology has been a wonderful addition to the real estate industry, but it has not and will not replace the real estate agent. Business models will most certainly change, and the goals of different real estate companies will be redefined.
In the 30-plus years I have been in the real estate business, many startups have come and gone, each one promising to be the “next big thing.” The industry disrupters they claim to be end up doing little to disrupt anyone — except those with unstable business models — and often leave their hopeful clients dissatisfied and confused. For most people, a home purchase or sale represents the most emotional and largest financial transaction they will ever experience. Can you imagine a very personalized business relationship being supplanted by a frustrating discussion with a Siri- or Alexa-style app?
The real estate model that I believe in and run my business according to is a client/agent satisfaction platform. If a company takes care of its agents with updated tools, including technology tools that have a shelf life, it will benefit its clients. Our agents are equipped with usable, manageable tech tools that are specifically designed to meet the agency’s needs. Much of the tech we have incorporated over the years benefits the agent and the client at the same time. Our personalized client relationship management and transaction program gives added structure and organization to the agent, and provides the client with complete transparency into our client files — they know what is going on.
One of the biggest complaints that sellers tend to have is not hearing from their agent and not being kept in the loop. As an independent company and not part of a big-box corporation, who have to concern themselves with shareholders’ profits, we can focus solely on the clients’ and agents’ satisfaction — and we have found they generally go hand in hand.
Picture this: An out-of-state seller gets an alert that the alarm has gone off in their home in New Jersey. Who are you going to call? A technology platform, the Ghostbusters or your real estate agent? I’ve personally gone to a client’s home at 10:30 p.m. to turn an alarm off, and I’m not the only agent I know who has.
Real estate is a hands-on business, and while technology can help, it cannot replace a live, caring person who cares about your transaction.
For buyers, the use of search sites has empowered them to look for their own properties to consider buying. However, while in some cases this is great, many of these sites are full of inaccurate information, leaving buyers feeling frustrated when that home is not available, was never on the market or when the online list price is off-base and they lose out on a potential purchase because of an algorithm misguidance. Buyer web search tools also do not include listings that are “office exclusives,” which cannot be seen by the search sites.
I recently saw that a relatively new real estate business called itself a technology company. I don’t ever wish for our brokerage to be anything other than a people business with the benefits of technology at our disposal. As much as I personally love technology and look forward to the many more benefits it will bring, I do not expect that our AI vacuums and robotic apps will take over the work of showing houses to clients.
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