Recent message in front of a Sunnyvale church
Continuing….wondering whether we’re at an inflection point where the all-encompassing embrace of technology will finally begin to wane. As more folks get overwhelmed by the cumulative effects of too much tech and begin to resist the temptation to integrate one more device and password into their daily lives.
Where is real estate’s place in all of this? How does tech’s powerful drive to make everything faster and easier clash with the more traditional role Realtors used to have? Will algorithms replace Realtors? Will buying and selling a home morph into a completely online experience accessed entirely by smartphone?
The jury’s still out of course. But anyone who has bought or sold a home in recent years has had a chance to observe the relationship between the benefits of technology and the ways that too much tech can actually make their big life transition a lot more unsettling.
It’s not that tech itself is bad. There are plenty of ways it makes real estate better. It’s more that lives can spin quickly out of control whenever the ease and speed of technology starts to become ends in themselves. Specially when they aren’t modulated by any real advice from someone who knows what they are doing.
As more key parts of the real estate process are digitized it becomes easier for buyers, sellers and agents to switch to auto-pilot. Using something as notoriously inaccurate as a Zillow Zestimate to determine a list price is a perfect example. The information is fast and free but it is also devoid of any useful context to base important decisions on.
These days, Realtors are anxious to hurry their clients through the mountain of inspections and disclosures that accompany transactions. And there’s often an appalling lack of discussion about the intricacies of those documents. Some agents send huge zip files by email and invite their clients to review and affix their digital signatures to every page, without saying a whole lot more.
Another example is the increasing number of escrow sign-offs that are being done remotely by mobile notaries these days. It’s easier for buyers/sellers to skip the drive over to the title company but unfortunately there’s no Realtor or Escrow Officer around to answer important last minute questions when they arise.
There are lots of other examples of course…. To survive, Realtors are going to have to figure out ways to: slow down parts of the process even as other parts speed up, provide ongoing context in the face of way too much information and keep things human even as they get less so.