Just in case someone out there doesn’t yet know, the real estate industry has completely changed over the last 10 years and it’s never going back. In fact, the changes and the rate of those changes are only speeding up! And I’m not sure who knows that better, the general public or those of us who have been in the real estate industry for a while.

Does anyone remember personal travel agents? Personal stockbrokers? Private financial information? Customer service departments? They all went online and are now done by digital assistants and you. For better or for worse.

For example, unless you’ve been living under a coconut on a deserted atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, you’ve heard of Zillow. And, if you’re a little more current you may have heard of Trulia, Homes.com, Redfin, eXp Realty, or a half a dozen other online companies offering a myriad of services directly to the public and leapfrogging real estate-related professionals. Services, information, and transactions that were once monopolized by localized real estate brokerages and their MLS’s throughout the country are now being democratized and done directly for, or by the general public.

Old school realtors and agents are certainly familiar with the numerous companies that are nibbling and all but feasting on our once hard-earned commission incomes. But I’m not sure we fully understand how comprehensively these companies have turned the old real estate industry paradigm on its head and altered or deleted our entire job descriptions.

THE OLD WAYS AND DAYS ARE OLD AND GRAY

In the old days, if you wanted to buy a house, you would meet with a real estate agent, go visit properties and sign all documents in person or via snail mail with wet signatures and notaries. And if you wanted to sell a house you would do the same thing while the historical sales, pricing, marketing, and strategies were all controlled tightly by real estate agents.

TODAY’S HIGH TECH HAS BEEN FREEING FOR BUYERS

These days, there is so much free information online that buyers know more about the houses they’re interested in than the buyer and seller agents. And, just about the only thing an agent is still necessary for – just yet – is getting a buyer physically into the house to experience it first hand with all their senses. Today’s buyers – especially those under 35 – love not having to rely on a real estate agent middleman. All of this capability also frees up a buyer’s time and puts them in control of their real estate endeavors.


HIGH TECH REAL ESTATE BENEFITS SELLERS TOO

Sellers are now able to sift at lightning speed all the comparable homes for sale in their neighborhoods and get a general idea of what price range they should be able to expect to sell their home. They can also review all of the agents before calling any single one of them. And they can now ask more discerning and powerful questions of the agents they’re considering. After all, an agent who has “completed” hundreds of transactions also might mean they were on a team and really did only one of the many aspects of those transactions. Kind of like installing the hood of a car in a factory – you technically “completed” hundreds of cars but that’s not the same thing.

Loyalty to any one particular brokerage, title company, contractor, agent, neighborhood or type of home is for the most part out the window. Choice by the consumer is paramount with high tech now – for better or worse – and in the hands of the general public.

ADJUST AND ADAPT OR LOSE YOUR EDGE

Interestingly, the general public doesn’t have to do anything to come up to speed with the new technologies, services, and perceived advantages. The new high tech online applications and services are constantly searching them out. Not unlike a trawler in the open ocean with a 3-mile net taking the fish – and everything else too – before the fish ever get to the lone fisherman competing for fish from the river bank.

All of us full-time professionals in and related to the real estate industry are the ones who need to catch up, keep up, and get ahead of the wave of things to come. It is our primary livelihood teetering on the edge of the abyss of history. If we learn, adapt, and plow ahead, we just might hammer out a relevant and relatively lucrative niche with which to sustain our careers and incomes. And if we don’t, we’ll be crying in our beers with the old school travel agents and stockbrokers.

STAY TUNED FOR MORE

Of course, real estate agents do pack some ominous competitive advantages. And, both buyers and sellers have specific tools available to them giving them more power than they’ve ever had regarding their real estate portfolios. Stay tuned.