Realtors have reached the technology “Red Zone,” but can they score?

Technology was developed to improve the real estate transaction, then disintermediate agents, but did it all just become a big distraction with a marginally improved process?

Realtors remain standing

Though more than 90 percent of home buyers begin their search for homes on the internet today, the Digital Age has not disintermediated real estate agents as many claimed it would 20 years ago. In fact, a greater percentage of buyers worked with an agent in 2015 that in 2005.[1]

The pressure of expertise

Years ago visionary leaders like Bill Chee and Richard Mendenhall understood that Realtors would have to make the transition from gatekeepers of information to masters of the technology if they were to survive and thrive in the Digital Age. Only they could become the critical link consumers would need in a world full of too many data and not enough knowledge.

Realtors had to be experts, not only in selling and buying houses, but also on the technology that makes the transaction faster, more transparent, more participatory, more efficient—and more profitable.

Realtors as a whole have made the transition in a remarkably short time. They have led one of the more remarkable technological revolutions in the history of modern commerce. The game is not over. Real estate professionals have reached the red zone but won’t cross the goal line until they master the glut of technology tools available today and create the level of seamless service demanded by a new generation of tech-savvy consumers.

Consider:

– Inside brokerages today, technology chaos reigns. Most brokerages have no technology plan. Many are managing relationships with five to eleven vendors, and many applications have overlapping features and few, if any, ever work together. Very few brokers have a company intranet where all of the technology tools provided to staff and agents are collected on a single landing page.

The cumbersome nature of this lack of organization leads to the poor adoption of new technology by agents, and low degrees of satisfaction by brokers. [2]

– Huge numbers of Realtors are not using the technology their MLSs provide them. Only 58 percent of Realtors log into the MLS daily. That is about the same percentage that closed a single deal or more in the first six months of 2015, according to a study by the WAV Group funded by Realtors Property Resource (RPR).[3]

– Transaction management is hobbled by a lack of integration inherited from the days before digital technology. The key players in the transaction — the broker, the agent, the lender, the mortgage broker, title, and escrow — remain siloed. “The overall effect is to produce something like what you see at a wedding dance: mostly middle-aged people busting their idiosyncratic moves with a little sense of rhythm,” wrote Brian Boero of 1000 Watt Consulting two years ago.[4]

Has it become a distraction?

Has the technology that promises to make the transaction more efficient and profitable for real estate professionals, in fact, taken them away from their sweet spot - helping people buy and sell houses - to spend valuable time trying to sort out what to buy and how to use it?

“Brokers and agents have become vendor managers, but that is not how they want to spend their time. There is no shortage of tools available to the Realtor today, and they spend valuable time each week trying to understand what’s available and adapt it to their needs. Realtors want someone else to provide the technology solutions they need,” says Prem Luthra, president of Elm Street Technology and a veteran of more 20 years in real estate technology.

The wrong solution can be costly. “Consumers are into immediate gratification right now. I have personally seen a consumer who has found a listing on a site click on ‘get information’ or ‘schedule a showing,’ wait for two, five, ten minutes then go to another search portal, look up that same listing and click again. Realtors are paying for that lead multiple times, which is not a good use of their time or money,” says Luthra.

Finding the solution

New platforms that simplify and make it easier for agents to maximize their investment in technology promises to be an important part of the solution. Luthra’s company, for example, is combining Listingbook’s popular client servicing platform with MLS-powered features and new technology that relieves agent workload by providing automated blogging, automated listing postings to social media channels, automated property tour videos, and mobile responsive IDX websites.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the new technology that makes using technology easier becomes the key that helps agents cross the last few yards to the goal line set by Realtor visionaries two decades ago?

[1] http://economistsoutlook.blogs.realtor.org/2016/10/19/internet-real-estate-agents-some-things-change-others-remain-the-same/ [2] Broker Technology Adoption and Satisfaction Study, WAV Group, April 2014 [3] http://www.pncrealestatenewsfeed.com/study-shows-wide-variation-in-agent-productiv [4] “Seeds of Change” 1000 Watt Consulting, 11/7/14

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