Part Eight: The Realtor Shift
Author: Jeff Agyemang
Dated: Wednesday, January 2, 2020
The shift towards the Mobile Age of Real Estate has poised many to ask the question, “What does this all mean for agents? Will realtors still exist 15 to 20 years from now?” In my opinion, the answer is both yes and no to the second question. Yes, real estate agents will exist decades from now, just maybe not in their current form. People often point to improvements in technology leading to the death of many travel agent jobs (i.e. Expedia.com) as an example of this trend continuing. An article on biggerpockets.com even asks whether realtors will be made obsolete by 2025, and points to our past position as “gatekeepers” in the industry fading with the growth of the internet and new technologies. They’ve literally predicted the death of my career to be 5 years from now… That’s insane! It’s true that the internet has stripped us of that responsibility as gatekeepers, and I believe that’s for the better. More transparency leads to a more educated and confident buyer, and that leads to better decision making in the market. But 2025? Geez that’s bold… The mobile age doesn’t wipe out all real estate agents like some kind of natural disaster. It offers professionals an opportunity to transition their business to appeal to, and serve, a new generation of educated consumers.
It’s been said repeatedly that real estate is the largest financial asset most individuals (and families) will purchase in their lifetime. There is a lot of value that an experienced real estate professional delivers to their clients. From helping them save/make money on their purchases to offering a memorable client experience during a very emotional process. The mobile age puts us in a position to improve our value proposition at very low cost to ourselves. We can easily pair human intuition, our experience in the field, and advances in technology to improve our services. For example, I mention in Part 5 of the series (Showings On-Demand) that I offer video tours to many of my clients. Understanding that people live busy lives, I often find myself using my phone camera to record showings, with minor commentary, for my clients before I forward them the video, and listing itself, via WhatsApp. In this they receive many useful benefits: 1) a full walkthrough of the property that they can review on demand and compare to its listing details, 2) a professional interpretation of all necessary information to make an educated decision, and 3) the convenience of not having to trade time out of their day for hours of home viewings.
It’s something so simple but can deliver huge value to the right clientele. This has helped me position myself as a realtor that carters to young professionals. In 2018, I began working with many young people studying law. Some were doing their articling at law firms in Toronto, while others had just graduated and were looking to get their careers started in the city. I was glad to help them transition in their lives and deliver a memorable client experience with the help of technology.
Better access to data sometimes gives people the belief that they now know as much, if not more, than a professional. Because, of course, if we all have access to the same facts than what really separates what you know from what I know? That is arrogance at the highest level! It is great that we all have better access to information but that hasn’t stopped many in my sphere of influence from asking me to help them understand what many different data points and new information mean. Words on a page mean
nothing if you do not understand how to interpret them. Experienced professionals will be needed because we help to interpret what is going on in an often-chaotic real estate market.
What this really does is help agents redefine our role to the public as advisors or consultants, instead of just sales people. In my business I have noticed a huge difference when I take an educator’s approach as opposed to a transactional one. The hot seller’s market we came off in 2017 still has many agents in “I can sell your home for $150,000 over asking in 7 days” mode. You do not know how many times I’ve heard people tell me stories of agents knocking on their door and offering to sell their home for some over priced number, without even discussing, or considering, where the homeowner will live after the sale. When we help consumers understand what is happening in the market, with new developments and how new government policies will affect them, we are offering so much more long-term value for the client (and ourselves) than commission from a quick sale ever could.
And I reason that long-term thinking is the key focus in all of this. As market conditions shift and consumers become more educated, the amount of real estate practitioners will in fact decline. Many will drop out of the business because they refuse to readjust their business model. Others will cling to reducing the price of their services as their value proposition. These approaches may work in the short term, however are disastrous in the long-term. Doing what has worked in the past while the environment continues to change won’t appeal to any target demographic and will not appeal to the new generation. Technology is progress and we cannot fight back progress. All we can do is embrace it and readjust our offerings as trusted professionals to better serve the public.
The Mobile Age of Real Estate will not replace realtors. It will make it easier for us to do business and serve more people. Advancements in real estate technology are affecting so many parts of the industry, from the middlemen to services rendered. And it is also offering advances in the kinds of homes consumers demand…