As the real estate industry continues to grow and evolve with new technology and marketing platforms continually arriving on the scene, the role agents play in the buying and selling process is evolving right along with it. From The Agency’s Beverly Hills headquarters to our Turks and Caicos office, we spoke to a few of our agents about the role technology plays in real estate, what they believe the future holds for the industry, and the measures they’re taking now to adapt in the face of rapid change. From selling homes via virtual walkthroughs to developing the world’s first off-market listing service, there is one thing on which they all agree: when it comes to being an agent in the 21st century, innovation and adaptability are key.
How does technology factor into your business?
Chris Dyson, Agent, Beverly Hills & Creator of ThePLS.com, the first private, national platform created for agents to share, streamline and search off-market listings exclusively within the agent community: “As an agent, I found that technology, at least in terms of the public websites, were in many ways working against me. Agents’ listing Information was being freely shared and then ultimately sold back to them, which was one of the main reasons I was inspired to create ThePLS.com, The Pocket Listing Service. ThePLS.com is using technology to strengthen and make the agency community more relevant. It helps connect agents outside of their typical spheres of influence and gives the agent community access to inventory clients wouldn’t usually have access to, letting agents control their off-market information and market it more efficiently.”
Ian Hurdle, Managing Partner, Turks and Caicos: “Technology allows me to connect with clients and other agents at the push of a button; that obviously has a direct correlation to the volume of business I can produce in any working hour. The ability to provide complete imagery via photos and video allows me to service customers anywhere in the world without them having to physically visit the listing. I cannot imagine posting a listing presentation to someone in Canada versus the time it would take loading the photos and a market report to a dropbox folder and emailing them the link to view—massive files in seconds. Technology gives us that speed of service.
Cindy Ambuehl, Agent, Brentwood: "It is a huge component of our business. If you want to be successful in this business you need to stay on top of the trends in technology. The days of people only finding properties in the newspaper are over; now all generations—not just millennials—are searching online on all of the additional property websites. It is extremely important to not just understand technology, but to also understand the market."
Emil Hartoonian, Managing Partner and Principal, Calabasas: “Technology has definitely improved end-user awareness and resources when it comes to fact accessibility. I believe where agents can distinguish themselves is in the way we implement technology internally to embrace opportunities and connections to our offerings. By enabling a constant flow of reach between all ends of the company, we are able to build opportunities amongst ourselves. When it comes to The Agency, our proprietary CRM platform maps relationships across our existing network of clients to provide customized opportunities for our offerings—this is hands down one of the most significant competitive advantages we have as part of The Agency.”
Guy Azar, Agent, Calabasas: “New technology is an asset in real estate. I always have my iPad at open houses and use the Open House app so I don’t even need a sign up sheet. When I show a property, I use the iPad to write an offer on the spot. I use the CRMLS app on the iPhone, which allows me to simply aim the phone in front of a house and get all the info I need in seconds. At the end of the day, I believe technology has helped make agents more effective and more efficient.”
Janet Jensen, Partner, Los Cabos: “So much of what we market in real estate is visual—drones, video services, and 3D virtual tours help us do that. Digital photos, listing documents and signatures let a property go to market in minutes, then it snowballs out into the buyers’ world, and they can contact an agent instantly. A property can be sold off a real estate sign, however, more often than not it’s the photos that create real interest. Then there is Facetime—I have toured a house with buyers on FaceTime video and they bought it!”
What do you think the future holds for the real estate industry in the face of changing technology?
Chris: “As with any field, our role as agents is to embrace technology and figure out how to use it to our clients’ advantage. ThePLS.com does that by giving sellers the option to test price points without accruing days on the market and then list to the MLS with compelling information and feedback. Agents are embracing the platform, which will continually grow and adapt to advances in technology and new industry demands.”
Ian: “I think the industry, led by The Agency, is gravitating toward new and innovative ways we can promote a property versus the old fashioned approach of simply taking a picture and popping it in a magazine—a ‘hit and hope,’ as I like to call it. The plus for me is that because our customers are tech savvy, the process can be collaborative and innovative with both parties working together to achieve the goal of either buying or selling a specific property. As a Turks and Caicos agent, I have an exciting product in a challenging location to access—I cannot wait for customers to come to me; I have to go them, and technology allows me to do that.”
Cindy: "Change is always a good thing— it is all a matter of understanding and embracing it. I think the change in this market requires agents to up their game and truly be on top of the market and inventory because buyers are more sophisticated than ever before; they have access to neighborhood data and property data they never had before. Quite often, buyers are calling us after already evaluating tends and market values on their own. You must pay attention to the trends, to the changes, and adapt your business accordingly."
Emil: “Many people in real estate are creatures of habit, and I see this as the most detrimental element to anyone’s career. Change is inevitable and embracing change is critical if you want to survive. Technology is only going to advance, but real estate is and always will be a relationship business. Technology only enables us to harness that relationship and do more in less time. Adapting to that dynamic and understanding its value is imperative."
Janet: “As long as there are experts in the technology field and agent tools remain user friendly, the sky’s the limit. For resort areas like Los Cabos and the second-home market, technology increases accessibility and makes us more effective agents. I see more virtual home tours on the horizon, resulting in sales with buyers who are hundreds of miles away.”