Residential real estate has experienced a significant amount of change this past decade. There have been seismic shifts in the brokerage landscape, a historic economic upheaval, new rules for title and added scrutiny to the lending process. We, as industry insiders, see these changes firsthand every day.

As the CEO and designated broker of a leading real estate company in a robust market, I would encourage my peers to go beyond the actual temperature of the housing market and look at deeper issues:

  • As leaders, what type of governance do we exercise for our industry?
  • How do we want to operate as brokerages or as agents?
  • Are we providing the type of buying experience that today’s consumer seeks?
  • Are we aware of the impact technology is having on our world, and are we ready to adapt our operations to keep pace with that change?

What every company’s priority should be

Satya Nadella, CEO credited with the recent revitalization of Microsoft, said, “There are four initiatives every company must make a priority.”

They include: reimagining the relationship with the customer, empowering employees (agents), optimizing operations while simplifying business processes and transforming current business models.

The real estate industry must heed this advice.

Being slow to change our business practices leaves us vulnerable to losing market share to the wide array of tech-based real estate platforms that are becoming increasingly more prevalent.

I personally do not want my brokerage to be the next Blockbuster Video. As challenging as it may be to constantly stay on the forefront of the many advancements in technology, we as a brokerage, are committed to being adaptive to technological progress.

In working with our technology partners we have a multitude of goals. First and foremost is providing our client with a real estate experience that is beyond reproach. We also endeavor to provide our agents with technology that provides them with time-saving, cost-saving platforms that improve their ability to communicate with their client.

As a brokerage, we want to constantly reinforce our brand image, manage administrative costs and enhance collaboration among our agents.

The goal is to make sure that each and every tech partner that we engage addresses the aforementioned goals that we have in place. At times, it can be challenging to see beyond their promises to evaluate actual performance.

Just like in real estate, it is best to negotiate from a position of knowledge when dealing with a technology vendor. Do your homework in vetting a new technology partner, and don’t hesitate to get additional, outside help before making a commitment.

Some suggested pitfalls to avoid with a new technology partner include the following:

  • Avoid long-term binding contracts.
  • Do not hesitate to ask for references that are utilizing the platform here or in other markets.
  • Ask upfront how nimble they are and if they are open to making market-specific changes that will help you differentiate your agents and client experiences.
  • Make sure they have a development team to back up those specific changes.
  • Many technology companies will white label their services to reinforce your branding, ask about if that is even an option; you may be surprised.

Make technology an asset in relationship building

Our Blockbuster analogy and the nearly countless other examples are a wakeup call for our industry. At last count there were a half dozen startups that want to commoditize the real estate process. The most disconcerting aspect of this is the supposed affinity millennials have for working with an app over a human being.

The real estate industry will need to create ways to make technology something that enhances the work of the real estate professional, not be intimidated by it.

I have no doubt that we as real estate agents will continue to compete for share with apps that dehumanize the selling and buying process. Adaptation and proper training will hold the key to using technology to our advantage.

That is the goal that I have for my brokerage: to place as much emphasis on technology as a core component. Technology will drive enhancements to customer experience and differentiate our brand in a crowded and historically non-adaptive real estate space.

Real estate is a relationship-driven industry. As leaders, we must embrace technology and utilize it to be an asset to our agents and our clients. This is not the time for business as usual for the real estate industry.

We must invest in technology solutions that play to the strength of what we do best — putting the customer first, understanding the nuances of their need and providing the expert guidance that a software program simply cannot.

Sarah Richardson is the founder, principal and designated broker of Tru Realty in the Phoenix metro area. You can follow Tru Realty on Facebook or follow Sarah individually on LinkedIn.

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