Remember shopping before Amazon? Banking before ATM machines? If you are a dinosaur like me, you may even recall a time when gas station attendants happily cleaned the windshield of every car that pulled in.
For better or worse, those days are gone forever.
And soon the real estate industry will be transformed in the same way.
In fact, it’s already happening. Only ten short years ago something called Zillow came on the scene and revolutionized the way people buy and sell homes. Nowadays chatbots regularly pop up on real estate websites, while others automatically answer text messages, whenever someone does something that identifies them as being interested in a property or making an inquiry.
A few weeks ago, I saw a beta demonstration of a new virtual assistant that is being developed for real estate. It left my jaw on the floor. A very attractive and astonishingly real-looking animated figure answered questions and pulled up properties on command with a speed and accuracy that would leave most real estate agents in the dust.
Apparently the developers of these cutting edge I.A. programs have tapped into a valuable insight: those in the early stages of buying or selling a home would rather interact with a non-human avatar who won’t pressure or hard-sell them. Only later, when prospective buyers or sellers have narrowed down their choices, are they ready to talk to a live agent.
So are real estate professionals headed for extinction?
Yes and no.
As things stand today, many Realtors do an underwhelming job. Some are downright incompetent. These will be the first to go. They simply won’t be able to compete with the precision and convenience of virtual agents.
The same may also be true of most good to great Realtors, especially ones who have been slow to embrace technology. At best, they will become the real estate equivalent of mom and pop grocery stores trying to compete with Walmart.
Yet I have to believe that even a hundred years from now – when not only the typical real estate transaction but also perhaps the very concept of ownership might bear no resemblance to what we have today – there still will be people who want to work with exceptional flesh-and-blood agents rather than robotic ones.
Empathy. Reasoning. Intuition. Three things that only another human being can provide.
These are the same three things I focus on when working with clients. So that, now and in the future, I will always have something of value to offer that even the most advanced bot can’t match.