Fear of irrelevance: Agent v automation

It’s a conversation that now comes up over coffee and wine: with automation all around us, will there always be a need for a real estate agent, or will we become irrelevant?

I find myself pondering this question more and more as I look around and see technology becoming an ever-present feature in both real estate and modern life.

A lingering concern in the industry is that increased adoption of technology will result in job losses; however I’m realising that, ultimately, automation is about helping us to perform our roles and responsibilities better. Ensuring we remain relevant in an ever-evolving industry is about embracing change, not being afraid of it.

In the not too distant future, your clients will be able to view properties through a virtual reality headset from their couch or your office. The key is to ensure that when they visit the property, they are greeted by you, a real person, rather than a robot or hologram.

(Seriously, this is what they are predicting for the future of our industry!)

In order to adapt and remain relevant, we need to find ways to use automation to our advantage, such as using technology to streamline workflows. Employing virtual assistants to automatically send email replies or text follow-ups leaves you with more time to dedicate to strengthening client relationships. A simple “we’ll be in touch soon” provides instant gratification to your clients. It’s automation, but it’s personal. Let AI take care of the more pedestrian tasks such as entering data and it will free you up to deliver the best possible service to your clients.

Focus on developing and upskilling in areas where automation will never equal human interaction — for example, client communication, decision-making and relationship-building.

This will go a long way to ensuring you don’t become irrelevant in the changing industry environment.

Building relationships has become absolutely imperative. The old adage holds true: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. There aren’t a lot of cold opportunities out there anymore and I don’t think there should be. You should be known and you should be on everyone’s “shopping list” because of the property journeys you’ve been a part of and the relationships you’ve built. People will do business with people they trust. People feel safety and security when there is a positive review or referral. If we search online when choosing a restaurant, it makes sense that people want to read testimonials and hear referrals when it comes to selecting the agent to t rust with their biggest asset.

While the market adapts to new technological concepts, we have the opportunity to ensure the pendulum swings back to us as real people providing a service. We have the ability to listen and extract a brief from a buyer, to empathise and build rapport. AI and automated services can’t do that.

But if we fail in those aspects, we’re opening the door to extinction.

Written & first Published 14 March 2019 by Kate Strickland. Kate is a director of Marshall White Brighton. An accomplished real estate professional, she is positioned at the forefront of Marshall White’s training and leadership program. Kate played softball for Australia and represented Victoria in a number of sports. She holds degrees in communications and business.