“Tech” is the buzzword of the moment for real estate agents. For some, it brings about great excitement for the future of our industry. For others, it brings fear about the ultimate demise of the agent’s role in real estate.
No matter which side of the coin you are on, there is a bigger picture that is not often considered when bringing tech into the real estate world. “Tech” is an industry, not a “thing.”
It is far bigger than a single innovation, gadget or app. Although these products are important to our business, we don’t need to fear them in the ways that many of us might. They are just things.
It helps to look at the big picture and consider the impact that technology, as an industry, has on the real estate economy in many major markets.
Why are tech companies important?
The importance of technology is in the impact the tech companies will have on the real estate market. Meaning, the buying power of the employees is more significant than the app they are developing.
Employment, lending and real estate are all connected for obvious reasons. All three impact one another. If one falters, fails or screws up, the other two will suffer to some degree. We have seen this happen before.
During the dot-com bust of the late 1990s and early 2000s, homeowners with high-profile tech jobs and big salaries were being fired on a moment’s notice.
High-paying jobs became hard to find to support the lifestyles that the dot-com craze created. This had a significant impact on real estate.
Likewise, during the housing bust in 2008, the lending industry had a major impact on the real estate markets. The connection between these industries has to be acknowledged to see how important tech, the industry, is to our business.
If we can sustain strong employment on a large scale in technology-based companies, we stand to gain from that stronghold. Of course, some major markets will see the results before others, but it would be something that would impact the national real estate business over time.
Is tech the end of the agent?
As professionals in the real estate industry, we have this mindset that some technology is designed to replace the need for a real estate agent altogether. Just as in everything else in the world, there are two sides to the debate, and neither is right at this point.
However, is this idea feasible?
Comparing our industry to the travel industry has happened a lot lately. This is a vast exaggeration in my opinion.
We have to stop comparing buying a vacation to buying a house. They are not the same. The tech impact on the real estate industry will be very different in both scope and degree. Certain parts of buying a house simply requires a human to be involved.
I’ve been on two successful vacations out of the country where the first actual person I talked to was at the airport as I was leaving. No doubt that was a security implementation over a necessity. A vacation is a much smaller and different investment with a very different process.
There was no negotiation, inspections, attorneys, title companies nor other party trying to get what they wanted from the transaction. It was very much like buying a shirt online.
“Do you want this?”, “Can you pay for this?” and “Transaction complete.” I’m certainly not dumbing down the travel industry, but this was my experience with the tech-saturated process.
When it comes to real estate, tech can enhance an experience for a homebuyer or seller, but it can’t bring to light the details of a specific deal. Those with experience in buying or selling real estate find it a better use of time and resources to find a good agent. They wouldn’t trust this level of purchase to an algorithm-based platform.
When it comes to real estate, we want and need good agents.
If we want to ensure job security and be a part of the growth plan with the technology that is being introduced, we have to be good at our job. We have to add value above and beyond just reading what’s on the screen.
The things that can’t be replaced are an expert level of knowledge on the local level, high levels of service and strong relationships. Tech is not a scary “thing” that is out to replace the agent, it is a necessary industry that works in our favor.