OpinionTechnology

Technology isn’t real estate’s big problem

A recent special report revealed that far too few agents are willing to accept accountability for the state of technology in industry
  • Agents have more power in how software shapes the industry than they realize.
  • Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com are reflections of what the industry allowed.
  • Data is an agent's most valuable business asset.

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I was pretty surprised by some of the comments agents made about their industry in our recent special report, “Why and how real estate needs to clean house.

Obviously, what stood out to me was the blatant scapegoating of technology companies for the lack of industry practitioners’ capability to drive suitable technology solutions.

Let’s get right into the ground game; no need to dance around the ring: Zillow’s Zestimate is more often than not about as accurate an El Niño forecast. The only thing it does correctly is mislead.

But, agents: You had years to out-market and outsmart Zillow. The hard truth is that the industry largely missed the boat on how to best leverage listing data on the Internet. However, a group of entrepreneurs from outside the industry were in port, bags packed.

In response to a report question about hindrances to the industry, a practicing agent posited about third-party portals, “It gives consumers a feeling they know as much their agent.”

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Then do a better job of sharing your knowledge.

Or at least do a better job of providing it. If consumers are relying on “ZTR” (Zillow/Trulia/realtor.com) for their real estate wisdom, it’s because those sites offered it first.

I was especially irked by a survey respondent who submitted, “Tech companies and brokers trying to get an edge are publishing sales [and] listing data in formats on websites that are very user-friendly and attractive compared to industry websites that are not intuitive and frustrating for users.”

Then hold your industry accountable, not the technology companies. Don’t assign blame to those seeking solutions, whether or not they end up being the best solution.

I applaud ColoProperty.com, the result of two Colorado MLSs connecting to showcase its agents’ listings on its own portal, and its buyers and sellers straight-from-the-source data.

HAR.com is another such entity in Texas. It started offering “houses and rentals” in only Houston. Like everything else in the Lone Star State, it got big in a hurry. Now it’s Texas-wide.

In keeping with a critical facet of the industry’s “Fair Display Guidelines,” HAR.com does not allow agents ads to appear next to another’s listings.

These sites demonstrate what’s possible when savvy industry leaders recognize what the Internet can do for their customers. I hope they motivate like-minded efforts nationwide.

The “Cleaning House” report also gave rise to strong views on inexperienced or indifferent agents hampering the sales process.

Based on reader responses, 11 solutions were presented for reducing the negative impact of “shoddy real estate agents.”

However, you may not need any of those solutions.

This is where I believe industry veterans will be very happy with the impact of emerging technologies.

It’s the low-level agents, the unapologetically part-time agents, who will be pushed first into obsolescence.

If for no other reason, it will be because of their inability to keep pace with or afford new technologies.

Granted, there are a lot of emerging technologies. The report made mention of agents feeling overwhelmed by the options.

How do you think lawyers feel?

This is why I often review, and encourage agents to consider, technology tools from outside the real estate industry.

Look for offerings that are applicable to multiple industries showcasing features that overlap with what agents need to compete. Hiring. Sales. Project management. Marketing analysis.

In these options, you’ll find solutions competitors are not aware of and that integrate technological advantages from diverse business use cases.

Technology is your not your enemy, nor should it be a hindrance. It’s a vehicle for industry advancement. It just needs to be pointed in the right direction.

Trust me, it’s on its way.

There are a lot of things that need to be cleaned up within residential real estate. But don’t beat yourselves up too much.

After all, how do you think lawyers feel?

What do you think? Leave a comment and let us know!

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