Has Technology Made Realtors Obsolete?
In the last decade, there has been a dramatic shift in the real estate business. The future of real estate agents is one that is currently a hot topic of debate.
Technology has allowed each buyer, with access to the internet, the ability to come to the table more informed than ever before.
So, if buyers have all the information needed, why do people still use realtors?
In the home buying process, there are aspects that need the professional expertise and service only someone who does it for a living can provide. Access to real time information has not made realtors obsolete, but it has definitely changed certain aspects of the job.
There is still the ability and place for realtors to add value to their customers’ home buying experience.
The Real Estate Shift
Buying a home is one of the largest purchases that most families will make in their lives.
The internet has allowed buyers to be more informed about their options through programs like Zillow, RedFin, Realtor.com, PadXChange, etc.
However, even with this information at their fingertips, research shows that people are still utilizing the expertise of a realtor more than ever. They are just more informed by their personal research.
While buyers come to make better decisions with access to this information, there are certain aspects of the process that can go smoother with the guidance of a professional.
We are dead smack in the center of an industry shift and some people don’t even see it.
The home buying process from cradle to grave is a lengthy one and although there are certain facets that technology can aid in, there are just as many aspects that benefit greatly from a realtor.
Realtor Tasks Shifted by Technology
There is no doubt that there are some services that realtors previously solely provided to their customers that are just not needed anymore, starting with the basic home search.
Buyers have been able to utilize this information for themselves and most do their own basic searches before even contacting a realtor. Companies like Zillow can provide a framework of information about the market and what is available.
A buyer can look and see how the schools and surrounding areas rank, which is important to a lot of people. With Google Maps now, they can even take a look at most neighborhoods from the street level.
In addition to the home search, the ways that contracts and closings are completed have been dramatically changed with the use of software, apps and even email. Many people are able to buy a home without attending the closing in person. Online payment systems have made it very simple to transfer money, as well, for home inspections or even closing funds.
Why Do Real Estate Agents Still Exist?
If buyers have access to all this great information, why are people still using agents?
Simply put, there are some tasks that just can’t be replaced by technology, although technology can immensely improve the agent’s productivity and efficiency in completing the task for their buyer.
While some of the tasks that people depended on realtors for are different now, there are certain parts of the process that you can’t erase the human aspect out of.
The first thing that technology can’t replace is expertise. If a buyer finds a realtor that is familiar with the area and is knowledgeable about their profession, this can save buyers a lot of time doing their own research. It is the service that you provide in this area that becomes the true differentiator and will help you stand the test of time in this industry, no matter what technology brings to the table.
Home buying is an extensive process and a real estate agent is critical not only for the transaction to go smoothly, but to help if things go wrong. What if there is an issue with something not being disclosed? What if the condition of the house is different than expected on the final walk-through? What if the seller backs out of the deal? There are so many things that can happen before closing, that having a person dedicated to the buyer’s interests can increase the protection for the buyer if something unexpected happens.
Most agents have access to a whole team of people to help, whereas a buyer operating on their own would not.
This goes right into the fact that agents usually have a great network to pull from, especially ones with a lot of experience in a local area. They often times know the lenders that give the best rates or can provide contacts for professionals that can give quotes for repairs. If an inspection comes back with an issue, a buyer can then get an unbiased quote to see if they still want to continue with the deal. Again, it’s your service that provides the value tech cannot replace.
Another thing that can’t be replaced is the fact that the agent is a great buffer between all the parties in the buying process. It can be awkward to negotiate directly with the seller when it comes to settling on a home price or renegotiating parts of the contract if the inspection comes back with issues. When dealing with any type of legally binding contract, having a professional familiar with all the terms is crucial. One seemingly small error can cause big problems for a buyer or seller.
If the buyer is someone not currently in the local area where they are buying, having an agent is extra important to make sure that there is someone that can see the property in person. Technology can work against a buyer in this aspect, since not all problems can be identified with pictures or even videos of properties. An agent can attend an inspection and lend their opinion to any problems.
What Can Realtors Do To Stay Relevant?
While a majority of information required for buyers is more accessible, there is still a critical place in the industry for realtors. That being said, each realtor needs to do the things necessary to stay relevant and elevate their value to customers.
One big thing you can do is to leverage the technology available to help serve buyers. For example…
Imagine you are driving and get a call from a buyer to see a house, but it’s not actually your listing. The next step would be to stop driving, go into MLS and find the listing agent so you can contact them. However, with mobile apps like HeyZipper from ZipperAgent, you simply say “contact the listing agent at 50 Main Street, Shrewsbury MA” and the smart assistant goes into MLS, pulls the property, sends it to your phone, finds the agent, tees up the number and dials. You are able to speak to the listing agent in seconds all while you’re still driving.
This is one simple use case. Combine this with many others and you now have a different way to work where speed, flexibility, simplicity and a new level of customer experience improves the agent’s value in a world where it’s currently being questioned.
Realtors have to adapt to the new technological advances, or they will get left behind. People in general tend to shy away from change, but instead of fighting it, try to embrace it.
Home buying is a stressful process and if a buyer thinks they can get amazing service from a realtor, they are definitely still willing to pay for it.
While buyers may have information to help them find a home at their fingertips, the rest of the process (negotiating strategy, financing, inspections, actually closing successfully) can still be difficult. This is one place where you can excel.
Take notes on the previous section of this article on tasks that technology can’t replace and work on making those aspects the best you can for your clients. This will give them a positive experience and help people see the value in your services.
A Deep Dive Into Your Own Process
If you are a realtor, look into your own workflow and process with an objective eye. Think about ways that you can leverage technology to help drive your business to success, such as the example discussed in the section above.
Use the programs and mobile-centric software available to better serve your clients. This will not only help you do your job more efficiently and faster, but also make you more money in the end. Isn’t that the point?
Make sure that your process is one that is organized and streamlined. Once you have a system in place that works, you will see your productivity increase dramatically.
The good news is that you don’t need to create your process from scratch.
Mobile apps and CRM software can help with this. The right tools can help you schedule more showings, organize communications, and respond faster to leads in general. The higher the quality of information you have when responding to a lead, the better the chance of converting them to a client. Start with gathering better intelligence on each lead via information pulled about social profiles, buyer search preference history, etc.
Does that all sound too good to be true to find in one place? I promise, it isn’t.
When looking into your workflow, think about if you are using the right real estate tools to your advantage. If you find that you aren’t make the change.
In this area, we are happy to help. Let our team of experts help you diagnose where your gaps are so you can be more successful in the field.
Jump on the bandwagon now because the technological advances aren’t going away and you don’t want to be left in the dust as they move forward.