Technology

Being ‘tech-savvy’ is not what gets real estate agents business

Broker Notebook

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I reject the idea that younger people can earn a living as real estate agents just because they are “tech-savvy,” and that this somehow gives them an advantage that enables them to compete with more experienced agents.

I believe that there is plenty of business for agents young and old, and that we should encourage young people to join our profession. But we might be going about it all wrong.

The Internet has been around for more than 30 years. Smartphones have been with us, in one form or another, for 15 years. Before that we had the Palm Pilot.

Many of us “old” agents have evolved, adapted and kept up with the times. Some of us have even been innovators and early adopters of technology like the iPad, which some experts told us would be useless for business.

In some real estate associations and offices, I see an emphasis on having young, “tech-savvy” agents teaching older agents about technology. I think the future of the real estate industry would be better served if older, more experienced agents spent more time teaching younger agents how to be real estate agents.

“Young Professionals Networks” (YPNs) for real estate agents have sprung up all over the country. Many of them offer opportunities for agents to go to bars and parties and social events and network with each other. They also offer occasional educational opportunities that focus on how to use technology.

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A better approach might be a formal mentoring program for new agents where they can work with more experienced agents and learn how to sell real estate. They could learn by observing and asking questions and shadowing experienced agents. Groups of agents and mentors could go to the bar once a month and talk about their successes and failures, and learn from each other.

I think the future of the real estate industry would be better served if older, more experienced agents spent more time teaching younger agents how to be real estate agents."

I started my own career in real estate as a licensed assistant to a top-producing agent so that I could learn the business. The first time I went on a listing appointment it was as an observer. It was like real estate graduate school — or maybe a finishing school, depending upon how I look at it. I was not young when I started.

Even though I had come from a technology company and did not have any trouble with email, the Internet or my first smartphone, there were many things I needed to learn before I could work with clients and sell houses. The agent I worked with was not what we call “tech-savvy,” but he sold circles around me. He still does today.

Being “tech-savvy” is not what gets us business. Knowing how to answer the question, “Why should I work with you?” has to come first.

Even today as I blog for business, it is the content that comes from my own experience that helps me attract clients — not the technology behind the blog platform or the computer I use to manage the whole process.

My biggest challenge was finding people who would work with me. Once I found them, I had to provide services worthy of my exorbitant commission.

My current real estate clients put a much higher value on experience than on the stuff the real estate industry calls “tech-savvy.”

They really don’t care that I use my phone to navigate from house to house and to look up important information as I go. Or that I can write an offer and get it signed on my iPad.

They just want to buy the house, and they want the best deal they can get. They want me to give them advice on how much they money they should offer. My clients are interested in my real estate experience.

Technology improves efficiency, plain and simple. We use it so that we can make more money in less time.

It costs more to write an offer on paper and make copies for all the parties and hand-deliver it to the listing agent than it does to write it on a tablet and email it to everyone. I can make more money in less time because of the Internet, and because I have a phone and a tablet that allow me to bring the Internet with me wherever I go.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.