I was reading an article the other day that led with: “Millions of workers around the world are at risk of losing their jobs to robots or AI (artificial intelligence), but it’s Americans who should be particularly worried.”
At first, I didn’t pay much attention to the daunting statement because my area of expertise is real estate, not retail or production. And last I checked, my two metal hips haven’t added a single contribution to the closing of any deal.
However, the threat of AI and job security peaked my curiosity when the article informed me that, 38 percent of U.S. jobs are at high risk of being replaced by technology such as robots and AI, according to a new report by PwC.
I must confess, I have never thought of myself as a rocket scientist, that’s why I never imagined that a robot or AI could take my place in selling homes in my local market. That is until now, and here is why I’ve changed my opinion.
If you look at our industry through a traditional lens, our formula for success has been based on a three-fold foundation:
- The development of personal relationships
- The alignment with the right firm and a professional branded image
- The occasional “farming” turf war to prove we are the most-qualified agent in the area, due to the excessive saturation of agents in the majority of ZIP codes
So, how is it that AI and other technology could possibly infiltrate our human bubble?
The answer is: It already has.
Before you panic and move to an aluminum covered bunker, let me assure you that real estate tech replacement will not happen overnight. Life-like robots and in-home cameras that replace live showings are not yet here.
In 2018, the reality for most industries is that AI is the wave of the future. Most people today will consider buying a home without an agent, but only a very small percentage of all closed transactions are completed without the services of a real estate agent.
Technology is advancing at stunning rates, and giants like Zillow and other online entities are continuing to develop systems and programs that put them in direct competition with the services we offer our clients.
Add to it that clients are learning to shop not just for homes, but for everything in new ways, and all signs point to the fact that if we don’t pay attention to what is happening, we will soon be irrelevant real estate agents.
The question then becomes, how do we maintain being relevant real estate agents in light of the emerging tech giants?
Relevance is being connected; important to the matter at hand.
“Realtors should be worried about their relevance. If they are no longer relevant, they may not keep their job. Someone without relevance might be called irrelevant.”
3 reasons real estate agents will remain relevant
1. AI and Zillow cannot define value
My father, who was both an attorney and one the smartest guys I’ve known, always told me “Son, a little bit of knowledge is very dangerous.” His point was that depending on information can be dangerous, when we rely on it to be the expert opinion.
As a relevant agent, you must remember that though Zillow is a giant company, it by no means is an entity that can define value. By its own admission: “Zillow’s accuracy has a median error rate of 4.6 percent. This means half of the home values in the area are closer than the error percentage. For example, in Seattle, Zestimate values for half of the homes are within 4.5 percent of the selling price, and half are off by more than 4.5 percent.”
As well all know, properties and their respective valuations are not solely driven by data. Therefore, as a relevant agent, you have an advantage that AI does not, which is articulating the subjective and objective value and assessment of properties.
- Humans: 1
- AI: 0
2. Alexa cannot hold your clients’ hands
Buying or selling a home is never a nerveless process. As we’ve all experienced, clients come in many packages with various personalities and visions for their ideal property.
Some buyers want a home on the water. Some want a home in the woods. Some care more about the bottom line of the deal. Others want to know how the roses in the yard were planted.
All, however, have one thing in common: they all are risking their savings and staking their dreams on making their home purchase transaction happen. Our job is to help them navigate the process.
As a relevant real estate agent, no matter how advanced technology becomes, clients will always need a human hand to hold through the stressful process.
Meaning, clients will always need our calming guidance and advice when the world of mortgage or inspections becomes overwhelming. They will always need our experience and protection over all points of the deal.
They will always need our patience and assurance if the deal goes into a stall, and they will especially need our caring and comfort if the deal falls out of escrow and their dreams crash with it.
The reality of our industry is that no matter how much technology advances, human buyers and sellers still need a human agent, as last I checked, asking Alexa for comfort before the close of the deal is no more soothing than shaking a Magic 8 Ball to see how your kids will end up in life. It still takes a hands-on agent, not AI robots and systems, to calm a buyer’s nerves.
- Humans: 2
- AI: 0
3. Siri is not always available, and she has no moral code
I recently bought myself a new car. I was in route to an important meeting and needed Siri to provide me with a quick piece of information.
I pushed her button, stated my request, and in turn, she flashed her iridescent “thinking” line, then disingenuously said, “I’m sorry. Something seems to be wrong. I cannot help you with that right now.” And with that, our conversation was over.
Ah, yet another relevant real estate agent advantage: the ability to be available to our clients.
This means being available with your time, available with your information, available with industry facts, available with answers, and most importantly, available with something that artificial intelligence can never provide, which is a code of ethics that does, in fact, care about the needs of your client.
- Humans: 3
- AI: 0
As our industry heads toward a technology-based future, I do highly recommend staying current on all the latest trends. However, to maintain your relevance as a professional agent in your area, remember we are not in an arm wrestling match with AI.
Instead, online services are here to provide us with extended tools to simplify our lives and expand our awareness.
Today, relevant real estate agents remember that, at the end of the day, the winning move happens when we show up as the best human version of ourselves, and then do what we know how to do best — service our clients, both professionally and personally, with soul.