New world, new roles for real estate agents in on-line era
The other day while I was filing my documents and articles I have written during the past four years, I came across one piece I wrote about real-estate business and the online world, which was published in August 2009. So I had another look at it, and to my surprise, it seems what I wrote about hasn't changed much.
I was hoping to see big leaps in term of digital platforms involved in marketing, buying and selling properties as well as technological major discrepancies since then, but I was shocked by how little things have changed.
Does this mean that, unlike some other industries, real estate has very little to do with the changing face of the digital and online environment? Yes and no.
In terms of embracing new tools and applications, I might have to say that developers have made very little progress in adopting the latest technological platforms into our business processes, especially in marketing field, where lots of other industries have been successful in bringing about new ways to lure consumers.
This might boil down to the actual bricks-and-mortars nature of the business.
But if we look at real-estate agents, I would say it is a totally different story, and it is changing in a way that worries me.
Nowadays, with the technologies that make the Internet very mobile and more accessible than ever before, consumers are more or less constantly connected to the online world and one another via their smart phones or tablets. More and more transactions are done not at tellers and physical outlets but on the go in people's palms with just a swipe of their fingers.
We are now talking about transferring money in the region of Bt100,000 via these mobile tools.
So what is it about this change that has affected the agency business?
First of all, we are now seeing portal sites as well as forums that allow consumers to exchange information, make comments, transfer know-how and insights, and sometimes make decisions on properties.
The Internet platform has taken over some roles of real-estate agents.
Consumers no longer depend on agency personnel or consultants to sit down with them and convince them whether they are looking at the best options available on the market or the best bargain they are getting from particular property deals.
Neither do they need to learn from agents about local surroundings, neighbourhoods, and appreciation rates in the next five years for the property.
They can explore these by themselves by going online and having a look at hundreds of sites that offer property stocks, price comparisons, and recommendations as well as legal information, and it can be done any time, anywhere they want.
No need to make a phone call and make an appointment any more.
What roles are left to be fulfilled by agents, then? What kind of services can they offer that customers will appreciate and see as worth paying for?
I quite agree with an article in one foreign newspaper that says the agent's role should be focused on managing value-added services associated with their expertise and the customer's convenience.
What does this entail? It means constant management of issues that come along the chain of actions of customers, issues that require physical presence and psychological input that should eradicate all worries and nagging problems before, during, and even after transaction between buyer and seller.
This is what consumers desire, but it is something neither artificial intelligence nor digital tools can do.
I think it is time the whole agency industry took a good look at the model it is currently employing, the kind of personnel it is hiring, and the direction in which it is heading.
If you think that the most valued proposition you can offer consumers and the most effective artillery remain your expertise in real estate, then I can't help but feel pity for you. The world has changed. And just like other industries, if you don't evolve and embrace new things, then doom is near.