• The tech community is trending away from fixing one big problem: the complexity involved in buying a home.
  • There's a lot of technology focusing on lending, but the other pain points of buyers and sellers still exist.
  • Building software that boosts an agent’s profile in the hearts and minds of customers remains a giant opportunity for tech companies to seize upon.

It’s April 2016. In the years I’ve been fortunate enough to write this byline, I’ve claimed that vast improvements in the consumer experience of buying a home were right around the corner.

Although there have been some significant improvements (dotloop and Docusign come to mind) in the process of making an offer and managing paperwork, I find myself wondering if we’ve done enough.

I sit in on hours and hours of user research calls with homebuyers, both those who are mid-process and those who just closed. And the same concerns come up as two years ago — lack of technology to manage the process, lack of control and the feeling of being overwhelmed by all the tasks and deliverables they’re suddenly responsible for.

What’s the surprise?

None of this is surprising given the complexity of buying a home, but what is surprising is that the tech community is trending away from fixing this problem.

One thing I always loved about dotloop was their tagline: “Peoplework, not paperwork.” It’s right on in that it takes people to make this work and thus solutions that are aimed at empowering those people to make a difference. And dotloop is has made a huge difference in making the transaction better.

Now, I look at where the funding is going (part of what we track to keep our chart updated — a new one is coming soon), I’m seeing a lot of activity around lending technology. Clearly the loan is a big pain point in buying a home, and I’m encouraged to see it being brought online in a big way by major lenders as well as startups such as Sindeo and Lenda.

Follow the money

I recently refinanced my home, and though Rocket Mortgage wasn’t available for the type of loan I sought, its very existence shows that we’re on a trend toward a more automated way of submitting and tracking the documents and information required to close a loan.

Big funding is also going to the rest of the process. Opendoor is the best example: it’s raised over $100 million from top-tier venture capitalists and named Keith Rabois among its founding team. And, for the most part, its approach toward improving the experience has largely been to take the peoplework out of the process.

Clearly this approach is working among the audience of consumers it’s transacted with, but I’m not alone in thinking that the added value a great agent brings to the homebuying and selling experience can’t be easily replicated by an automated system.

There will always be an audience for solutions such as Opendoor, and I’m certainly excited by its success thus far in a difficult ecosystem. But that kind of approach does leave behind the rest of the industry that is, and will continue to be, powered by people.

Powered by people

I’m optimistic that 2016 will continue to show progress in empowering the people who make a great homebuying experience work. Consumers expect so much more of the process to be online than currently is, and that’s a huge opportunity for great agents to differentiate.

Building software that boosts an agent’s profile in the hearts and minds of his or her customers remains a giant opportunity for tech companies to seize upon.

It’s messy to deal with people. But ignoring them limits our ability to improve this process truly (and makes it a lot less fun, in my opinion).

For their part, agents would benefit from raising the expectations of what technology can do for them, beyond customer relationship management (CRM) and the nuts and bolts of transaction management.

Solutions come from demand, and though the consumer is the one yelling the loudest that the workflow problems of homebuying need to be solved, it’s up to the agents to adopt the best solution that meets this goal.

“It ain’t broke” is no truer today than it was when I started writing this. Brad Inman’s “Latte Vision” is now more than three years old, and I still believe in it.

And I still believe that it’s peoplework that will get us there.

Jonathan Aizen is the founder and CEO of Amitree Inc.

Email Jonathan Aizen.

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