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One lesson I’ve encountered in my tenure as a realtor is that learning to stay away from the shiny object syndrome is a big challenge. I’ve always admired technology and what it has done for my business and industry. I admit I am the agent who downloads every new application I can find and I love finding ways I can apply it to my business. Technology has made my life simpler in many ways, but I believe it has also taken some of the true essence of real estate away from us. We can communicate faster; we don’t have to drive documents around or even worse, fax them; we can instantly have all the information we need about a property at our fingertips; and we have numerous platforms to connect with the people we serve. However, everything comes with a cost. The cost is the threat of losing that personal, face to face connection with our clients.
Something on which I advise my team, and the agents I mentor and train, has always been preventing yourself from being replaced by technology. At the end of the day our clients need us for many things that technology cannot provide. My personal experience has taught me that clients, especially millennials, love using technology; they love being able to sign things digitally on their phone, look up schools in the area, browse homes in a neighborhood by using GPS and even utilize email and text to communicate while they are at work and can’t talk. What I have also learned is more than ever, people are longing for human connection, guidance and support. Believe it or not, millennials are craving this the most.
In my business I have used all of the technology possible to help my clients—find their homes, manage the transaction and make the escrow move as smoothly as possible—but I never abdicate the human element when dealing with the important steps in the transaction. There are things that must simply be done in person: showing the property, negotiating the offer, explaining the contract, reviewing repair requests, dealing with financing challenges, the list goes on and on. Can an app satisfy responsibilities like negotiate an appraisal challenge? The simple answer is no.
Human interaction creates what is most important in life, a relationship. Which leads me to the next reason I believe you should not relinquish your job to technology.
What is the number one way that most successful, thriving agents obtain business? The answer is repeat and referral. Throughout my career I have placed a huge emphasis on investing time with clients and people, connecting with them through several avenues including phone calls, face to face visits, client parties and social media. Nothing has brought me more success in my business than focusing on the relationships and not the transaction. None of this can be done without your personal touch. People do not refer a technological platform or tool when someone says, “I need a realtor I can trust.” They refer them to a person, and typically one with whom they already have a relationship. These relationships are formed through communication and the respect you gain as a trusted advisor, not because of the technology you utilized or the number of times you emailed them.
There have been numerous times in my career, including recently, that I have gotten referred to a client who had worked with a different agent in the past. The first question I always ask is, “How was your previous experience?” or, “What can we do differently to ensure you have a good experience this time?” The number one answer I get is, “Can you actually help me find a home?” When I ask what they mean by this they typically respond, “We always had to tell our previous agent what homes we wanted to see. They never helped us locate options. All they did was rely on us to find properties on the internet. Isn’t that your job?” The short answer is yes, of course!
It is our job. Here’s the bottom line: if you want your clients to be satisfied at the end of the transaction and refer you in the future, you have to be present, show your value and communicate each step of the way. That can’t and won’t be done by technology. Technology will not replace the human touch, emotions or connections necessary to ensure your clients become clients for life.
This leads us to answering the ultimate question, “How has technology changed the real estate industry?” The answer is that it has changed the way we conduct business, but not the core of how we do business. It has altered the quickness and accessibility of transactions, but not the value we provide as realtors. That is a human value; it’s the importance of being present for your clients when they need you to be their champion through negotiations, encouragement in transactions and a celebrator when they reach their real estate goals. One of my favorite things about real estate is giving a homebuyer keys to their new home. I’m sure we all can agree there is no app for that.