As real estate gets more deeply entwined with technology, we’re starting to see the waves of change reach consumers and fundamentally alter their expectations for what types of services a real estate agent or brokerage should provide. Long gone are the days of listing books and driving around town to get documents signed. Now it’s all about adding value through a broader variety of services.
It isn’t all about the listing anymore.
While it seems as though homes or other types of properties are at the very core of the real estate industry, anyone who has spent a few decades working in this business will tell you that it begins with the financial picture. As The Economist reported last December, 44 percent of mortgages are now provided by lenders that are not banks, which is up from 9 percent in 2009. The rise of non-bank lenders has exploded in the past 10 years, bringing with it an equally large increase in the number and variety of mortgage products available. Lenders of all types have had to come up with an entirely new set of offerings to stay competitive—and real estate agents have found that clients are coming to them for mortgage advice just as much as property advice. Those who find themselves ahead of the game have spent time researching the different types of mortgages available and the pros and cons of each.
An interesting side note when it comes to millennials, especially ones who are going to have a mortgage for the very first time, is that the online interface with the lender is almost as important to them as getting a good interest rate. Spending much of their time online, they have very exacting standards when it comes to a smooth, streamlined experience. When they ask which bank is easier to deal with, what they’re really asking about is which lender has a website that lets them schedule payments easily and access all the information they want in just a few clicks.
It isn’t all about location anymore.
Real estate agents have typically carved out their niche based on geography—either by being local experts that specialize in certain neighborhoods or types of properties specific to a location. While this isn’t going to disappear entirely, with the numerous technological tools now available, agents are able to make a profit in more niches without overextending themselves.
Years ago, it would have been considered unusual for an agent to specialize in properties that are completely different from one another, but it has since become the norm. This is largely a result of social media and the now-accepted practice of having multiple facets of a person’s life intersect in the same semi-public forum. While the culture shift started within the arena of friends and family, it quickly spilled over into the professional realm as companies and individuals started to rely on social platforms to promote themselves.
The many changes that have come to the real estate industry have now reached far into the hearts and minds of consumers, changing the way they think, feel and interact with agents and brokers. I’ve been a broker for over 30 years and co-founded a tech start-up to address many of the inefficiencies within our industry. Both of these experiences have shown me how once technology takes hold, it has a ripple effect far beyond its original goal. In the case of real estate, it’s going to allow us to broaden our horizons and provide a suite of services to consumers beyond what we ever have before.