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The coronavirus pushed the real estate industry to innovate at warp-speed, with professionals and companies at all levels releasing cutting-edge products and systems to adapt to a world void of face-to-face communication. Connect Now moderator Kendall Bonner and panelists Rainy Hake Austin and David Walker encouraged agents to keep riding this wave of innovation and learn how to leverage — not fear — technology.
“I certainly don’t think technology, whether it’s artificial intelligence (AI) or other advanced technologies, replace the human experience,” Hake Austin, president of The Agency said. “But I think they enhance [the human experience] in an interesting way.”
For example, Hake Austin said agents often struggle to maintain relationships after a transaction closes, and technology can help them build a robust database, know when to follow-up with past clients, and identify new clients who are ready to start their homebuying or homeselling journey.
“[They] can use technology, maybe not AI, but more advanced technologies like predictive analytics within a CRM to allow them to figure out the best people to reach out to stay in front of their clients,” she said. “But really, for their own perspective of what was their greatest return on investment, [tech] can also tell them who is most likely going to buy and who’s likely going to sell. [It] can allow them to manage their most precious resource, which is their own time.”
In addition to keeping the lines of communication open after a transaction, Triplemint CEO David Walker said agents can leverage technology to create a stronger value proposition. Walker said his brokerage uses property data to identify listings that are most likely to hold their value or appreciate in the upcoming years, which is an invaluable piece of information for sellers.
“The area that I’m really obsessed with is: How do we empower agents to offer more value to their clients?” he said. “At Triplemint, we built a flight-to-quality model where we analyze every single property in the markets we service, and we put a quality score and a value score on them.”
“So we can say, ‘OK, based on previous recessions, which properties are most likely to hold value over potential future economic uncertainty and which properties have the best pricing to market at a current time,’” he added. “That’s using AI and data science to empower an agent to now go and offer something really unique to their buyers and sellers that they can’t get anywhere else.”
Even with a wealth of tools and technology at their disposal, Hake Austin and Walker said many agents are still holding on to the idea that real estate is all about relationships, and technology is, at its best, a nuisance and, at its worst, an enemy.
“It’s not all [about] relationships anymore,” Hake Austin said of the luxury market. “It’s really about an experience.”
Hake Austin said high-end buyers and sellers are expecting a “more robust and more customized experience,” that can be only be provided by utilizing AI, predictive analytics and other advanced technologies. She explained tech does some of the heavy lifting of crunching numbers and finding listings, and it leaves more room for agents to flex their interpersonal skills.
“As personalization plays a larger role in real estate, and in all consumer experiences, behaviors and choices, now more than ever, agents need a way to personalize the experiences, like personalizing recommended properties for their searches,” Hake Austin said. “But also an agent still needs to be able to leverage their personal network to bring forth, you know, maybe off-market listings they might know because of relationships they have in the market.”
“So technology certainly does not replace agents’ network, their knowledge of the local markets, communities, trends that are out there, their business skills in negotiations, their ability to acknowledge the contracts,” she added. “But I think that consistently across all segments of the market, there’s an expectation from clients, that you’re going to be able to now personalize their search experience that can anticipate their needs.”
Although technology is a key part of meeting the needs of today’s consumers, Walker said agents and brokers must remember that technology won’t yield results without a solid set of systems to attract and retain lifelong clients. When an expansive CRM database, consistent sales training and processes, and strong tech stack are in place, he said, it’s hard for your agents not to shine.
“[Tech is] creating tremendous opportunity for brokerages and agents to be able to leverage their relationship building, negotiation and human sales skills better,” he explained. “So I see this world of AI and technology actually enhancing the opportunities for real estate agents to bring their most human selves and offer more value to their clients.”
“But there’s no technology that can solve good and bad behaviors for humans,” he added. “At the end of the day, as real estate agents, we run our own businesses, we need to have total dedication. We have to commit to what we’re going to do.”
Looking forward, both leaders said technology will only become a bigger part of the real estate industry. Instead of fearing new tools and platforms, Hake Austin encouraged agents to embrace tech as a way to become more versatile and move outside their comfort zones.
“We have to be lifelong learners and push ourselves to be better all the time,” Hake Austin said. “I don’t think the fundamentals of sales and real estate really have changed; we just have new tools and platforms to leverage, and people are afraid to try new things because [older business practices] are what they’ve been successful at.”
Meanwhile, Walker said agents and brokers need to use technology as a magnifying glass to identify issues with value proposition or implementation.
“I think [the fear of tech] comes from a lack of comfort in the value they bring to clients,” Walker said. “Every agent I know who’s totally confident in the value they bring has zero fear that technology is a threat to them.”
“If you’re an agent out there, and you feel like technology is a threat or it’s scary to you, you’re probably not getting the resources from your firm that you need to leverage it well,” he added.