Nothing stays the same forever, and the best businesses are those agile and flexible enough to change.
Without this ability to adapt, businesses risk becoming obsolete, or at the very least, are likely to face a gradual reduction in profit and cash flow.
The real estate industry has never been an exception to this rule. In fact, unlike some other sectors, like mining, or oil and gas, the real estate sector has had to adapt particularly fast – integrating new technologies in order to keep pace with the rapidly changing requirements of customers.
The growth of the internet has vastly empowered buyers and sellers with huge amounts of information now available with just the click of a mouse, and agents have done their best to compete in the new space.
- Estate agents can afford to spend more time negotiating and closing deals
The Pareto principle, named after economist Vilfredo Pareto, argues that, for many events, roughly 80% of the output from a given situation or system is produced by 20% of the input.
When it comes to the estate agents, as Dan Hughes, CEO of Alpha Property Insight explains, “the average agent spends 80% of their business day doing admin and marketing their product, not negotiating and closing deals. Technology allows us to invert that statistic so that 80% of a professional’s time is spent negotiating and closing deals and only 20% is spent on administrative tasks.”
With round-the-clock accessibility, self-service portals are already allowing property managers to move to this kind of ideal model. By providing a means for tenants to request work orders, view rent payment history and invoices and pay rent bills without the need for input from the agency, portals are delivering a better service and freeing up managers to work on more valuable, business-generation activities that boost the bottom line.
On-line buyer and seller registrations, out-of-hours email responders, E-signing services, personal task lists and cloud data sharing have all come onto the scene over the last few years. These technologies are not only creating efficiencies but are also changing how agents interact with their clients and driving new growth opportunities.
- Estate agents can implement highly targeted marketing campaigns
Most home sellers and agents are already very active on social media in order to nurture interest in newly listed properties.
Imagine if you could display listings of your choice to every married couple in their 30s within a 25-mile radius. Although this would be impossible to implement in person, with the ability of some social media sites to target posts and ads to core demographics, it’s achievable online. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and even Snapchat are opening up highly targeted marketing and advertising opportunities.
- Estate agents can gain greater insight into the property market and potential clients
The property industry is teeming with data. Market fundamentals, population trends, employment stats, price performance, property development in a given area, traffic and consumer survey results have opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
As demographic data becomes more abundant and reliable, targeting becomes much easier – for example, a married couple with children would tend to look for a location with good schools and low crime. As other data sets are gathered and utilized, estate agents will be able to highlight which houses match prospective buyers on a microscopic level and offer a better customer experience.
Home-value trends, the potential value of neighborhoods, appraisal management, automated valuation modeling and many other efficiency-related data-driven operations are now on the cards.
Taking big data one step further, predictive analytics can be applied to customers to better understand transaction and market data and use it to benefit the industry, agents and consumers.
Evaluating and interpreting historical data to predict future property outcomes and the value of real estate in a particular location is helping the industry take lead generation and prospecting to the next level.
Crystal balls used to be the stuff of fairy tales, but with the rise of big data and machine learning, it’s no longer the stuff of fiction.
- Estate agents can offer “virtual” viewings
One application that is becoming more popular in the gaming world and is tailor-made for estate agents is virtual reality (VR). High-quality photos are a bare minimum in a competitive market, but forward-thinking agents are already moving past pictures to offer 360-degree video in virtual property “tours”.
There are plenty of different kinds of virtual environments available. In some systems, viewers can choose their own route through the property and zoom in on features. Some are fully three-dimensional and are compatible with 3D goggles, while others are optimized for computer screens.
One major benefit of the technology is that it drastically streamlines the viewing process for both agents and clients: VR can facilitate viewings 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and allows buyers to view multiple homes efficiently from the comfort of their own home or wherever they may be. This broadens the prospective viewings available to buyers and means that they might just find a home they didn’t initially ask to see.
Of course, no buyer will make such a significant property purchase without visiting physically first, but the technology offers flexibility, and viewings can be arranged online to suit any requirements.
- Estate agents are offering new ways to invest in property
Buying a property through an estate agent is taking a page out of crowdsourcing’s book. Some new websites like The House Crowd and Property Moose are making it their mission to let anyone invest in property by offering consumers the possibility to partly take ownership in a real estate object.
By dividing the ownership, investing in properties becomes feasible for people who normally don’t have the resources to invest because of the size, risk or complexity associated with the investment. For estate agents, the possibility of part ownership can open up new sales conversations with buyers.
One recent interesting example has been the crowdfunding of a crumbling French chateau. Making headlines in national newspapers, the owners have aimed to raise enough money to collectively purchase and restore the historic building.
According to the famous quote from Jack Welch, the former chairman and CEO of General Electric, “change before you have to.” It’s an apt message for the world of estate agents.
The way tenants, landlords, buyers and sellers all interact with estate agents has changed dramatically and indelibly over the last few years. It’s important that estate agents not only respond and catch up to that change, but also plan for what’s ahead. Estate agents need to future-proof their businesses and change before they have to.