The impact of COVID on the real estate market is here to stay. The market has fundamentally changed, and that’s driving rapid adoption of technology, the likes of which we haven’t seen before.
Moving forward, the real estate world will be divided into two groups: those who use technology and those who don’t.
But we aren’t just talking about apps and tools to run a virtual open house. This next evolution of the market is about being able to extend technology and automation to create efficiencies and — perhaps most importantly — drive tangible business growth.
Let’s take a closer look at how technology will impact agents and brokerages respectively in the year ahead.
Agents and automation
COVID and the impacts of social distancing have changed the very fabric of how many Realtors operate. Without face-to-face interactions, agents had to get very comfortable, very quickly with technology to get the job done.
Now that we’ve settled into this “new normal,” agents looking to keep ahead of the curve will have to expand their reliance on technology beyond Zoom calls and 3D home tours. Instead of focusing on the front end of the process, consider how technology can extend and streamline each step throughout the sale.
For example, the pieces of a Realtor’s sales process that are traditionally in person, such as showings and open houses, involve a lot of critical operational activity: feedback, comps, activity notes, replies, clicks, chats, opens — all of that plays a part in a propensity to buy or sell.
If agents can leverage technology and integrate the systems into the entire process, critical functions (such as listing checklists and offer management) can be automated even further, making the entire experience more efficient and saving Realtors valuable time.
It’s important to note that this type of technology will never replace agents for the high-touch, personal experience clients need during the emotional buying or selling process. Instead, these tools and solutions will help to enhance the experience for both the agent and the client. They can ensure the agent is 100 percent focused on the client and the details that matter as opposed to being bogged down in the minutia of transaction management.
As the market gets more competitive, focusing on what Realtors do best — manage client relationships — and giving them the time to do so will be critical to keeping afloat during turbulent times.
Brokerages ready to scale
Brokerages have undergone their own evolution during these long months of the pandemic, but the stepping stones to building scale through technology were already in place.
The emergence of virtual brokerage firms is a good example of technology-enabled disruption. By design, these firms are highly scalable and highly efficient organizations; they understand how to leverage technology innovations to drive growth. So, while traditional brokerage firms were already on notice, COVID-driven competitive pressures have amplified the urgency.
And that’s not all. Zillow’s recent announcement regarding iBuying transactions is another example of just how imperative it is for brokerages to up their technology game plan. While the company won’t operate as a traditional brokerage, there’s no mistaking the implication for the rest of the industry — innovate or die.
And brokerages have heard the call. Many have started to essentially weaponize technology to fight back, even using it as a tool for recruitment.
While the necessity to automate in order to scale has been apparent for some time, to truly survive the year ahead, brokerages must upgrade their existing real estate operating systems and focus on driving efficiencies through automation. Seamlessly automating the entire customer journey — from lead capture in the beginning to the transaction at the end — will enable brokers to capitalize on the benefits of technology while still being central to the transaction.
In these unpredictable times, it is difficult to consider where and when to invest in technology, if at all. But given the need for real growth and scale, brokerages and agents alike would be wise to focus on innovations that can easily automate critical functions and drive efficiencies if they are truly ready to thrive in this next phase of the market.