This month’s National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Power Broker Roundtable discusses embracing new technology wisely.
Christina Pappas: Cutting-edge technology. Every broker says they have it. But do they? What is cutting-edge technology, anyway? Where does it come from? What do we use it for—and is it worth what we pay for it? These are questions worth pondering in a competitive time when it seems as though everybody is on the lookout for the shiny penny that will take their business to the next level. Today, we’ll hear from three brokers known for open-mindedness and innovation. Thad, your company is wholly grounded in avant-garde technology, from email security systems to an app called Charlie that gathers information on people you’re about to meet before you meet them. Are you out looking for these kinds of advances, or are they finding you—and what do you do with all this technology?
Thad Wong: Actually, we’re building some of our own technology now, because the truth is, when everyone has cutting-edge technology, nobody really has it. There is no single, one-size-fits-all answer. We all need different solutions, and cutting-edge technology at its heart is only what is useful to you. So yes, we are into new ways to make what we’re doing easier or faster or more effective. The bottom line is, “Does this improve the service and performance of our agents and the experience of our buyers and sellers?” If it does, I want to try it—and if I like it, I might be open to investing in it or partnering, especially if it’s a great start-up product.
Rei Mesa: The measurement for us is return on investment. While we’re very disciplined about spending, we’re always reviewing and evaluating new products. How does this technology advance our goals? How will it make us better? If we see it as a go, we’ll budget for it.
JP Piccinini: The question for me is, “Will it make us more productive?” If it’s yes, I will never regret the cost. That’s an attitude that has never changed for me, not even during the downturn.
CP: How do you find these new products—and how do you vet them before youbuy?
JPP: Mostly, the vendors come to us—and there’s a host of them out there bidding for your business. The hard part is separating the pretenders from the contenders. Quality is the first requisite. I want to know who stands behind a product. I want full and ready vendor assistance if we’re going to roll out something new.
TW: That’s one of the reasons we like to invest or partner. Even the best start-ups need capital. I know they’ll be there for us all the way, even as they gain a bigger footing, and it’s nice to profit from their growth.
RM: It’s always in the vendor’s best interest to stay with us. After all, they’re invested in our success.
CP: Let’s talk for a minute about AI—artificial intelligence. From a chatbot on your website to engage customers to an algorithm that predicts listings, AI is fast becoming the focus of our industry.
TW: As it should be. AI is giving us ever better tools to help bring buyers and agents together. We appreciate that, and we want to be a part of it. We understand that at a certain point, the agent’s skill takes over—that technology can generate a lead and match a buyer with a property, but it can’t go with them when they want to tour it or negotiate on their behalf.
RM: That’s a good distinction, and it brings up another point. No matter how good a product is, if it isn’t used, it’s worthless. We are always meticulous about rollout. We talk about it, we demo it, we make sure the agents know well in advance that it’s coming—and often, we rely on support from the vendor to help them understand and buy into its value.
CP: AI is another tool that can potentially help increase our agent’s productivity. And when rolling out new technology, we host a huge Tech Day every year with a lot of fanfare, so that vendors can demo their new products and get the agents excited.
JPP: I get that, and I know that to be successful, you have to embrace change. That’s never been more relevant than it is today. Whether it’s better access to data or cultivating leads, or whatever you need to take it up a notch…in the end, it’s still about finding the best ways to improve the real estate experience. As technology advances and we embrace new tools, it can really be a win-win for everyone.
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