By: Ryan Tollefsen, Unity Home Group at Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group
Updated: July 27, 2017 | Published: June 29, 2017
For better or worse, technology has changed the way most business is transacted, and there is no doubt that real estate has benefited from improved efficiencies. If you remember the days prior to online listings, virtual tours, and e-signing, you understand just how much things have changed. But with the move toward mobile, emphasis has shifted from efficiency to another dimension. Not only are paperless transactions the norm, but mobile-centric technology has essentially transformed the landscape. Access to information, customer expectations, and client service are very different than they were even five years ago. And there are more changes to come.
Although there is little resistance to this change, there are many lessons to be learned. Even self-described tech enthusiasts who have embraced technology for a couple of decades agree that technology is sometimes a double-edged sword. According to one thoughtful broker associate I spoke with, reliance on technology can lead to problems in a "people-oriented" business, and "losing touch with customers" is a real fear.
A second concern is that older agents sometimes have trouble "relearning" how to transact business in a mobile universe. It's not just a new way to communicate, but a fundamental change in the way things are done. It would be hard to find a successful real estate agent today without a smartphone and a tablet; but the new mobile world is filled with apps and capabilities that, according to Kathy Connelly, SCRP, senior vice president of corporate services for Prudential Georgia Realty, "may be as impactful as the internet itself.”
Many others agree that while the internet reshaped consumerism in important and essential ways, how consumers manage their lives with pervasive mobile technology all around them is still uncharted territory.
A Landscape of Apps and Social Media
It's a changing world. Some of the more obvious new trends include:
- The substantial upsurge in mobile searches for real estate information. Brokers and associates who don't spend the time and money to update websites and cultivate a mobile presence will be left behind in terms of attracting and serving clients. Being able to refine searches by anything from specific neighborhoods/areas to homes that utilize green technology is becoming the norm rather than the exception.
- The ability to access information remotely. Whether you're selling real estate, checking comparables, documenting a property's condition, or checking on lender documentation, chances are good that you can find, access, and react to inquiries and information without ever setting foot in an office or making a phone call.
- Transaction timelines can be simplified and shortened.
- As sophisticated mobile apps are improved, and the interfaces become more reliable between office computers and mobile devices, the need for office support and staff may decrease. Will the future be totally in the cloud?
- Relocation and the buying and selling of property in far-flung locations is less problematic. While the advantage of "local knowledge" is not likely to disappear, it may well be that regional, and perhaps even statewide or national firms, will seize a larger share of the real estate market.
- Branding benefits from social media exposure. Among the favorites with real estate professionals are LinkedIn for its networking capabilities, YouTube because of its visual appeal, and personal blogs that allow a broker or an individual associate to show some personality and focus on individual specialties. Many firms and agents maintain Facebook pages, Pinterest accounts, and Houzz boards. Each serves a different purpose, but all increase visibility and are part of a successful marketing effort.
- Brokers who are affiliated with national and international companies also use social media. Social media is utilized as a way for associates to "connect" informally and to share experiences and expertise, as well as to forge alliances.
- Personal development in the form of ongoing training, advanced learning, webinars, demonstrations, and conferencing. It's all a part of mobile technology, and the future is sure to provide even more sophisticated opportunities.
Is There a Downside?
Most observers see the benefits of mobile technology, even though they may not be looking at the future through totally rose-colored glasses. There are some concerns. Pam O’Connor, SCRP, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, speaks of the continuing need to build personal relationships. Her company's mantra is, "Technology is a tool, people are the priority." Others echo that view.
Another concern is the cost of maintaining the newest technology, a factor that most admit is likely to be a continuing challenge. All agree that the goal of using technology to make the business of real estate transactions "cheaper, faster, better, and easier," will cost money.
Although there are differing opinions, just about everyone agrees that there is no going back. The genie is out of the bottle, and the challenge for the future is to "stay ahead of the game," according to Marc Krebs, CRP, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. He agrees that cloud technology is the next big frontier, and he adds, "The key is to not fall behind."
Ryan Tollefsen is the founder and team leader of Unity Home Group. Ryan specializes in negotiating offers, marketing, managing the team, setting goals and achieving them.