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“New Technology – Big Data vs. Privacy” at RISMedia’s 2018 Real Estate CEO Exchange (Credit: AJ Canaria of PlanOmatic)

How many apps have you “granted permission” to? How many have your preferences saved? Convenience has unquestionably taken precedence over security, even as breaches color our headlines, and cyber crime shapeshifts in unpredictable ways.

For brokers, balancing consumers’ information with their privacy is a requisite for trust—and an obligation. To address the challenge, five industry members took to the stage at RISMedia’s 2018 Real Estate CEO Exchange, discussing data-driven insights as a mechanism for more—and seamless—transactions, and how brokers can ensure information is protected.

“Just as tech is evolving, our understanding of and our definition of privacy as a society is also evolving,” explained Jessica Edgerton, executive vice president of Operations at Leading Real Estate Companies of the World® (LeadingRE), during “New Technology – Big Data vs. Privacy.” The discussion was moderated by Jon Coile, CEO/president of Champion Realty.

“Eighty-three percent of consumers are willing to give up personal information in order to get a personalized service,” Edgerton said. “There is [also] the opposite correlation: If those same consumers do not trust the company, and do not trust the way that that company is processing their data, then that goes away.”

How can brokers establish and maintain trust? Whether in-house innovation or from an outside source, diligence is key.

“We have to be great stewards of our data, and have those conversations with our vendors,” said Craig McClelland, COO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers. “If we’re building [technology] in-house, we have to make sure we’re abiding by policies so we’re not going to put ourselves in harm’s way.”

One component not to overlook: the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which went into effect this spring. For brokers in the U.S., there are implications, including how their data is managed and shared.

“Talk to a consultant, because it is complicated, and it will reach into many different areas of your business,” advised Edgerton. You need to make sure that your vendors have their ships in order. You are the data controller; they are the data processors. Under the GDPR, you are absolutely responsible for that data and their use of that data, and the fines are hefty.”

Beyond compliance, corralling your data is essential to leveraging it successfully. According to York Baur, CEO of MoxiWorks, every contact in your database equals $1,000-plus in revenue over 10 years.

“Do you own your database and your own agents’ databases?” asked Baur. “How many of you have them? That is their business, therefore; it is your business, and it is the most underleveraged asset, I would submit, in this entire industry.”

“We have these pools of agents, and we have this data, and all this local information,” McClelland said. “We have to own the local information and make intelligent moves with [it]. There’s only two worlds you’re going to live in: You’re either going to own your data locally, or someone else is going to sell it back to you. We have to take that local data and make it into actionable items in the business.”

“Write down your data sources, listings data, your roster, your agent performance, your buyer data,” Charles Williams, CEO/founder of Buyside, recommended. “Collect that data…then put that data to use to drive useful insights.”

What then? Once your data is merged…is AI the application to bet on? Blockchain? Predictive analytics? How do brokers make sense of it all?

“Blockchain is valuable for property records and transaction history; [however] distributed networks are susceptible to viral infections,” said Alon Chaver, CIO of HomeServices of America. “One of the issues people often don’t think about: When you dispense with what should be some funds, there is no central authority to go to and say, ‘This is a mistake; I want my money back.'”

According to Chaver, while the ability to anticipate consumers’ needs—and effectively intercept them to meet them—is powerful, brokers have a broader responsibility, as well.

“It’s a developing brain,” Chaver said. “Where’s the wisdom come in? Where’s the human touch? I think most of you, when you talk to a particular set of buyers, you can probably predict they will most likely end up buying a house in a neighborhood similar to where they came from. The problem with predictive analytics is that it perpetuates social inequalities. Is that the right thing to do? Are we asking the right questions?”

However you apply your data, there was agreement on two points: Data is not eradicating the personal touch; and, although there is appeal in new technology, adopting it with care is important.

“What we have to do—and we as vendors have this same sensibility—is make you and your agents smarter about the people you interact with, because it is going to be a long time before a machine is doing that on a human’s behalf,” Baur said.

“There’s lots of shiny objects; there’s lots of toys,” Williams said. “I think the most important thing is to really figure out what drives your ROI, what drives your company’s future, what drives your core values…and really decide if that technology fits within that. Make sure you don’t drift from your overall mission.”

For continuing coverage of this year’s CEO Exchange sessions, stay tuned to

DeVita_Suzanne_60x60Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark