With increased digitization, the large implementation of artificial intelligence and big interruptions across traditional, age-old business models worldwide, has the process of buying or leasing a residential or commercial space changed significantly enough to make real estate agents irrelevant?
It’s a matter that has, unquestionable, became a problem for agents pondering the future of their careers, and for a significant number of property buyers and potential tenants – especially ones that have had unpleasant experiences that make them evaluate just how much value agents actually add to the proposition.
A changing landscape, again
Services like Booking.com and Expedia are case-study good examples of how the travel industry’s intermediaries, or middlemen, saw their key services turn redundant, disrupted by online businesses. “Innovate or perish” became the new motto for travel agents and the ones who were skillful enough to manage have found new ways of staying relevant. They did this by leveraging the experience, personal understanding of traveler profiles, and often unique alliances, to help travelers save time, money and the effort of comparative analysis. Establishing the various modes of transport, accommodation options and vacation packages have made consumers to book directly with destinations or use a new type of travel agent called “travel designers”. In fact, studies have found, rather shockingly, that leading the influencers on this trend are millennials – creating a new category of young specialized travel agents.
Evolution, not elimination
So, can this relationship with intermediaries evolve, and does technology take on the role of eliminator or facilitator? While we are asking ourselves if this might be a way to search, find, view, select, purchase and transfer a property without the need for human intervention, the real thing, as it stands today, is that humans are more soothe by the presence of and interaction with another human.
This is especially true when the purchase of a large-ticket item is the issue. An intelligent, scrupulous real estate agent engages with his or her prospects significantly, and can answer questions, eliminate doubts and offer reassurance intuitively, based on a mutual dialogue.
How can technology catalyze or facilitate this? For the near future, until the time that people can be physically or virtually teleported to a property and evaluate it with all the senses of sight, smell, sound and touch, and truly recreate the moment when walking into a home for the first time, technology will especially be used to provide a housing for agents to initiate, manage and maintain relationships. Technology can automatically generate all the necessary contracts, simplify communication with prospects, index past history of clients to optimize the interaction, rapidly and exactly select properties by client preference, and market to a previously researched audience in more specific, valuable and meticulous ways.
Relationships will always be relevant
Good agents realize that relationships are very important, and are generally playing the long game, which is why they are often more filled with important information that can affect a decision and can potentially save clients a lot of unnecessary stress. Good agents get their commission by drawing out the right detail at the right time, and by thinking not just about today’s sale, but whether the individual will feel comfortable in the years that follow.
Human reassurance goes a long way, especially when it’s time to sign complex, long-term contracts. While technology can help prune through the intelligent generation of tenancy contracts, SPAs and the like, rarely will people accept terms that haven’t at least been checked by a human.