Tension abounds

Push and pull

I sold my house last month. Having spent most of my working life over the last 15 years immersed in the business of marketing and real estate, it was eye-opening once again to be on the other side of the transaction. To put on my consumer hat and feel what it was like.

A couple of things I observed…

A good agent is still a critical part of the transaction.

We had a fantastic team of agents working for us on both sides of our move. Amy, Jasmine and Nick were consummate professionals, phenomenal negotiators and rock-star problem solvers who went above and beyond to help my family throughout the process. I will be psychically indebted to them forever for everything they did for us.

Now that my wife and I have closed on the sale and purchase of our new home, I can look back and say that the idea that the real estate agent will ever be “disrupted” seems rather quaint.

That said, there’s no question that the role of the Realtor is going to change in the decade to come… 

The traditional real estate transaction is on shaky ground.

Even with this great experience, and as someone who is intimately connected to the industry, I can’t say with 100% certainty that, sitting here today, I would choose to go the “traditional” route in the future. The home sale process is still so messy, complex and freighted with anxiety that any alternative seems better. There wasn’t always a choice. Now there is.

The easy out that the iBuyer route gives consumers feels to me like a simpler road to travel in the future. And certainly the growth of this segment — as more and more consumers clue in — shows that more people are feeling this too. 

As I have written before, I believe certainty is increasingly going to be a big factor in consumers’ decisions. But certainty isn’t just about the sale price. In the heat of the moment, expediency and immediacy are big motivators in the decision process. 

In the coming years, I believe the window of time that agents will have to prove their worth will be under assault. How does that play out? One potential outcome is that commissions be tied to performance and start to slide in relation to time on market.  

Regardless, brokers and agents are going to have to adjust their value propositions accordingly. 

Why? Because… 

A lot of real estate technology is just window dressing.

As a geek, this pains me a bit to admit. But it’s true. As a home seller, it was flattering when we were flagged as a Hot Home on Redfin, got ranked #1 on Zillow, and got hundreds of shares on social. 

It was cool to see our home virtually staged with much nicer furniture than we could ever afford. And my kids loved going through a 3D model of their old bedrooms. 

But none of it helped us sell our home. You know what did help sell our home? 

Open houses. Reverse prospecting. The dogged follow-up and persistence our agent showed in chasing down every lead that requested a showing. 

I’m sure many of you reading this right now are nodding your heads saying, “Of course that’s the case, Joel. That’s what’s always worked.”

I get it. Count me guilty for often chasing the next shiny object. But it was a good reminder that all the tech in the world can’t help you if you’re not doing the basics.

Especially since…

Constant communication is key.

Our team was on top of this. Of course, I couldn’t help but quiz them on the tech and tools they were using. Color me impressed when they said they were using chatbots and AI to help them respond to inbound inquiries.

But you know who really has this figured out? The big consumer destinations. I got daily emails from them tracking our home’s performance and giving us insight and advice on how we could affect our home sale. Let me be clear: This was unsolicited, but I appreciated it more each day.

It became a morning ritual to sit down with my wife and review our Zillow Owners report. Little by little, Zillow and Redfin grew to be our listing consultants by proxy. Little by little, our affinity for those brands grew.

So while I say that a lot of real estate technology is window dressing, there is still a massive opportunity for a vendor or platform provider to help agents and brokers accomplish the same thing and address the loyalty problem in real estate. Homebot and others like Moxiworks are trying to solve for this. But the gap between what they offer and what the big consumer destinations are doing is immense.

So, what?

As I sit here today in my new house and think forward to a moment when I may have to consider my next move, I think about the push and pull of these competing ideas – the permanence of the Realtor’s role versus the inevitable shift in the way the transaction gets done – played out against the reality that technology, while increasingly necessary, is often deployed in the wrong places.

I’m not sure exactly how it will play out, but I know this tension will impact much of our work at 1000WATT over the coming years.