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The Year Of The Tech-Enabled Agent

As an agent, your time is precious. It is often best spent building relationships with clients, and sharing expertise. While some would argue the increasingly digitised landscape of real estate appears to threaten that, we would disagree.

Tech & Real Estate

Our increasing reliance on digital platforms and tech-based applications is impossible to ignore. The ability of smart tech to streamline complex or highly repetitive tasks, is perfectly-suited to tackle the unique challenges of the real estate industry. The question is how?

With literally thousands of property-focused products in the market already, and more on the way, industry experts warn that #techfatigue in real estate is on the rise. The truly tech-enabled agent sees potential everywhere, but with Apps covering anything from cloud-based storage, to secure tools for managing client data, tracking down property investment opportunities and details-focused activity tracking - how can you pick out the winning Apps from the time-wasting toys?

The first all-important question to answer is how these innovations can provide value.

As an agent, your time is precious. It is often best spent building relationships with clients, and sharing expertise. While some would argue the increasingly digitised landscape of real estate appears to threaten that, we would disagree.

The Importance Of Expertise

Even the most savvy buyer or seller will acknowledge that the successful matching of a buyer to a new home, and a seller to their purchase-ready buyer, is an intricate work of constantly-moving pieces. Add to that, the valuable local knowledge that a seasoned agent can bring to a simple “2-bed apartment near the station?” kind of request, and we’re looking at saving a naïve buyer months in property searches, and potentially thousands in rent. 

Meanwhile, a trusting seller looking for a quick sale of his “delightful 2-bed apartment near the station” might need some help – from a knowledgeable agent – to understand that the area is not short of properties just like his, and he would do well to lower his expectations if a quick sale is really what he wants.

So while it might seem tempting to “see what happens”, or “wait for the inevitable backlash”, the safer option for the tech-enabled agent involves curating the best of what’s on offer and actively putting digital first.

Then there are those buyers, empowered by property-focused Apps, who are intent on “going-it-alone.” While they may be completely happy to window-shop and portal-browse for weeks or even months before taking decisive action, ultimately they – particularly first time buyers – can be paralysed by the one inescapable truth: that property is a very big purchase,  possibly the biggest thing most of us will ever purchase, and with mortgage-length consequences. While the well-informed agent has answers to many of the issues impeding progress here, the challenge is reaching these buyers who have eschewed traditional real estate avenues in favour of a digital-first approach.

So while it might seem tempting to “see what happens”, or “wait for the inevitable backlash”, the safer option for the tech-enabled agent involves curating the best of what’s on offer and actively putting digital first. Not digital only - this is an important distinction. Choosing the right technology enables the agent to be a better agent, to better serve their client base, to be a valued member of the community, and to ultimately let everyone around them know about it. This is the Digital First equivalent to letterbox drops and first-person recommendations. But navigating the ocean of available tech is easier said than done…

Finding The Right Tech

The challenge for agents looking to embrace the benefits offered by innovative tech, comes in filtering the mass of options suddenly available to them. Categorizing Apps in terms of the benefits they offer helps to align tech-adoption with your objectives.

While there are many benefits to be found in Apps focused on personal well being and time-management, these may not be a first priority for many agents. Tools designed to share client data between agents might be crucial in improving client relationship management for a busy office, but not so useful for a solo agent or franchisee. While uploading photography with a polished, professional finish will impress customers, it’s important to draw a line somewhere between good quality images and Ultra High Definition 10MB graphics.

The most useful Apps will usually be those designed to improve agenting, by amplifying an existing skill set or adding new capabilities.

The most useful Apps will usually be those designed to improve agenting, by amplifying an existing skill set or adding new capabilities. As we identified earlier, one of the key ways to do the former is through saving the agent time. Apps that can assist in streamlining the multiple daily tasks of a busy agent, or automating the more repetitive ones are a good start. With so many to choose from, some offices choose to employ a divide and conquer strategy. One agent road-tests a photography-focused App, while their colleague tries out one focused solely on Offers. Although this may prove valuable in fixing areas that are crying out for an overhaul, it may not align with those all-important objectives we defined earlier.

In our research with real estate agents, we found the following often coming out on top in terms of their requirements from tech:

  • Any product that can reliably automate repetitive tasks. If this saves as little as 30 minutes a day, what difference could those 10 extra hours every month make to your output?
  • Products that can reliably handle delivering regular tasks - like sharing results with clients. Guaranteed delivery of promised assets to clients, even in the middle of your busiest week? Sounds good to us. 
  • Smart products that help to share existing content with relevant audiences. These shortcuts can help to build overall traffic to your website without time-consuming editing and formatting.
  • Products that help to build your brand - either your agency or your individual brand. This can save valuable time promoting yourself on other platforms, will help to build trust, and ultimately give your listings more appeal.

Let’s Go?

With the property market being so diverse, and brokerages and property agents being so different, it’s unlikely that one platform or technology will answer all your objectives in one go. The secret for the truly tech-enabled agent is to align his tech-adoption with his objectives.

Step 1. He starts with the big, space-creating applications, that will free up time and relieve pressure on his schedule - through automation of repetitive or regular tasks. This will help in preparing for step 2.

Step 2. Look to the areas with the most opportunity for improvement - The website? The social media strategy? Where could a calculated change make the biggest difference?

Step 3. He steps back to assess, acknowledging the initial objectives may have shifted after implementing successful changes in steps 1 and 2. 

Step 4. With steps 1 and 2 operating successfully to provide and protect essential growth, he can now look to implement smaller solutions that address specific issues to further add value.

The repetitive tasks, while essential to the real estate business model, do not sit comfortably within that “personal interaction” bracket.…the tech-enabled agent no longer needs to burden their crowded schedule in creating these seemingly “faceless deliverables.”

The Ultimate Goal

The smooth operation of a healthy estate agency or brokerage has benefits which ripple across many elements of the business. By minimizing time trapped at the desk or in lengthy goals-setting meetings, the tech-enabled agent can now return to doing what they do best; getting back to personal.

It has long been a truth, universally acknowledged in the real estate industry, that relationships are built, properties are bought and sold, and important decisions are made with the help of face-to-face, personal interactions between human beings. While AI and techprop innovations seemingly threaten to undermine this long-serving industry bedrock, the truth probably now lies closer to a redistribution of how our agent utilises their all-important available time. The repetitive tasks, while essential to the real estate business model, do not sit comfortably within that “personal interaction” bracket. Especially with more and more sophisticated Apps and platforms at our disposal, the tech-enabled agent no longer needs to burden their crowded schedule in creating these seemingly “faceless deliverables.” 

Allow the Apps to build a convincing castle, and leave the agent free to meet the client face to face to build relationships, buy and sell properties, and make those other important decisions. 

To those critics who talk of full-automation, redundancies across the real estate sector, and the rise of the robo-agent, it’s important to remember that all burgeoning technologies experience a similar critique. And while it would be naȉve to ignore any clear threats to our industry, we must also allow ourselves to entertain the possibilities. 

The primary effect of an increasingly-digitised world on the estate agent-client relationship, can only be to strengthen the personal element of that relationship. Traditionally, the agent provides reassurance to the client that they will help them to navigate the potentially uncertain world of real estate. With the standard updates, statistics and check-ins expected as part of that service largely handled by automation, the agent is capable of upscaling that level of support and assurance to provide a carefully-curated service, tailored specifically to the client’s needs and wants. 

The result being a smoother, streamlined property journey for all parties; buyers, sellers and agents feeling empowered and supported by tech-adoption; relationships built on transparency and trust; and faster transactions with outcomes that create customer satisfaction across the board.