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Last year turned out to be one of the most challenging times our industry has seen in over a decade, yet we were able to adapt to our clients’ needs in a relatively short timeframe and keep business operations moving forward. Real estate proved to be one of the verticals that not only stayed afloat, but saw impressive gains in terms of buyer demand and rising sales prices.

This all happened with the help of multiple technological solutions, from video tours to remote document management tools—and the good news is that real estate is going to emerge stronger as a result. While many of these platforms had already been around, they were slow to become integrated into an agent’s standard toolbox. One of the biggest obstacles was the fact that agents were concerned that interacting with clients in a completely digital format would be misconstrued as the agent not giving them the attention they needed or deserved. But the moment it became a necessary way of doing business, it suddenly became much less fraught with the possibility of turning away clients. Thankfully, it became the norm without us having to overcome too much skepticism and mistrust.

The better news is that we now have the opportunity to integrate these tools in a more forward-thinking manner. All the previous technological revolutions that have taken place within real estate grew in a responsive fashion rather than a proactive one. Online search sites, for example, were very rudimentary at the beginning—and only added features as they got to know user needs. But we know our clients better than anyone. We can take the existing tools and bring them together in a way that makes the most sense for our needs and those of our clients, whether that means customizing a digital package so it is branded to a specific team or rolling out brokerage-wide initiatives so clients know that when they work with a specific brokerage they are getting a full suite of digital services from their agent. We can demonstrate our value to buyers and sellers in ways that are tailored to their expectations even if we don’t meet them in person.

Disruption has often been what leads to new beginnings, and this year will be no different. As we all gear up for the spring selling season, we have the time to take a step back and look at ways to get the most out of all the software platforms we had to bring on board so quickly last spring. Now that we have more options at our fingertips, we can bring an even greater level of value to the clients we serve, and our industry will be even better than before.

Chao Cheng-Shorland is co-founder and CEO of ShelterZoom, the technology company behind DocuWalk. For more information, please visit www.docuwalk.com.

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