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Are Realtors useless that aren’t technology experts?

Agree to disagree?

I’ve read Broderick Perkins’ real estate column for a while and it’s usually interesting news on housing, but today he caught my eye with a new angle, an interesting angle that I think some of you will agree with.

Perkins said of Realtors, “If your real estate agent can’t hack it in the virtual world, chances are he or she also can’t pass muster in the brick and mortar world. The two worlds are becoming ever more intertwined.”

Sounds fair, right? At first, I agreed because we’re very deeply immersed in the tech and real estate industries. Most of our friends can code in their sleep or negotiate a tricky short sale from the comfort of their leather car seats. Tech has always been a major emphasis here at AGBeat, but does a lack of tech savviness imply a bad Realtor incapable of business?

I would argue otherwise. Take a moment and think about the top of the top producers that you know personally. Do you have him or her in mind? Do they twiddle their thumbs on Twitter? Do they update Facebook about what they ate for dinner? Do they blog pictures of their kids? Do they argue in blog comments in the form of literary quotes or worry about the new gadget? Do they stand in line for the new Apple product?

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A few might, but most of you with that top producer in mind will say no. Why? Because they don’t have to. In our ideal world, everyone would read every article here and experiment and memorize all of the housing stats and be able to regurgitate them to consumers, but the truth is, most top producers live in their MLS program for stats and have a massive, matured referral network. Twitter what?

Why it matters

If consumers are being told or are believing that a brick and mortar agent will fail without technology and begin judging based on what blog platform agents use to dictate their quality as a Realtor, we’re in trouble.

The core problem here, with all due respect to Perkins, is the shifting value proposition. Some firms will succeed because of technology and grow because of Facebook, but most current top producers will laugh at the idea of tweeting because they firmly assert their value proposition as a negotiator, not as a technologist.

Realtors, let’s have some perspective here- you should know about the world around you. You should know that the new iPad app emphasizes geolocation and adds/subtracts listings from the search as a user drives around. You should know that Facebook is currently the social media darling while Twitter is waning a bit. But are you a failure if you can’t quote every tech stat or gadget? Are you a failure because you don’t know the sales of the Xoom or what a Xoom is? Are you a failure because you don’t know what PHP is or how to cheat your way into a massive Twitter following? NO, YOU ARE NOT.

Are you a failure if you can’t identify basic real estate glossary terms? Are you a failure if your negotiation skills are worse than a screaming toddler’s? Are you a failure if you can’t read your client’s needs and help them sort their priorities? Are you a failure if you don’t know local trends in your market? Are you a failure if you’re not an amazing resource for your clients? YES, YOU ARE.

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The ageless value proposition of a Realtor remains after all these years- negotiation and empowering buyers/sellers with pertinent information and well, practicing real estate. Technology is just a tool, not an indicator of success or failure, just ask the top agent in your market when the last time they tweeted was and if they know PHP.

What do you think?

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Liz Benitez

    May 3, 2011 at 8:32 am

    In my world the top producers have been around for years and years. They have a client following, a referral based business. The tech. world is a way to get your name out there, a way to get known. Well they are already out there and known quit well. What do they need to tweet for?

    • Lani Rosales

      May 3, 2011 at 10:14 am

      Liz, well put!

    • sfvrealestate

      May 3, 2011 at 8:19 pm

      So true, Liz. I think about some of the senior citizen agents in my office who consistently pop million dollar listings for clients that they've worked with for decades…

  2. LesleyLambert

    May 3, 2011 at 10:09 am

    Even though I am a card carrying "Geek Girl" agent, I disagree with the thought that if you aren't tech savvy you will fail as an agent…for now, anyways.

    Tech is something that I love, outside of real estate, it just adds to my real estate toolkit that I am good at it. I think from a marketing perspective, it is getting more essential that agents understand online marketing, but agree with Lani that they don't need to use most of the social media platforms to succeed.

    Will this change in the not so distant future? I think it will begin to shift towards needing more tech skills and am trying to beat the curve by getting there now.

    • Lani Rosales

      May 3, 2011 at 10:15 am

      It's like the phone- everyone needs one, but what color it is, how many buttons it has and the like matters not. Eventually, everyone will be on the phone, but some people will stick with land lines on rotary phones while others will have an iPhone.

  3. Emmanuel

    May 3, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    As a full-time Broker as well as trainer, specifically on technology and real estate, I wholeheartedly agree. The unfortunate reality is that when a real estate professional is unable to connect via an online or mobile presence, they may be viewed as irrelevant to some. Think about how you feel when you Google the professional YOU are about to hire. It's human nature.

    There are realtors out there with a wealth of knowledge that need to hire a "tech" person so that the virtual world can actually connect with them and benefit from their expertise.

  4. Jill Kipnis

    May 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Lani, this is a really interesting question. Certainly there are many successful Realtors who are not tech-savvy, and have built incredible networks. However, the use of technology is second nature to the younger demographic. With more and more first-time homebuyers entering the market and using their iPads and smart phones to assist them in their home search, and sharing information through social media, it is important that Realtors be able to communicate with potential clients where they already are–online and on various kinds of technology.

  5. BawldGuy

    May 3, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    I'm extremely interested in this conversation, and encouraged by your take. It's usually worth at least a chuckle to me whenever I read about top producers with experience being on top only because of the time they've put in. I suggest even if you subtract referral biz from their tally, they're still moppin' the floor with the geeks.

    Puttin' my money where my mouth is, I recently took on a local agent in SD who's half my age. He'll not be ALLOWED to use FB or Twitter for biz generation. I suspect he'll make six figures from 6/1-6/1 without breakin' a sweat. Well, OK, maybe a couple beads on his brow. 🙂

    What drives success is results, and till the techies figure that out once and for all, they'll not catch the guys on the top of the ladder. They've been talkin' a good game since 2006, but objective onlookers have yet to hear the answer to their only question: Where's the beef?

  6. Ben Fisher

    May 4, 2011 at 12:26 am

    Different perspective here… Tech can be used to get newer realtors in to the business and get more leads starting off. Not from a social media standpoint, as I am not a follower of SM for generating business. But from an internet marketing standpoint.

    New agents may not have referral business and repeat clients, but can get a start into the game by building a great web presence for themselves.

  7. Joe Loomer

    May 4, 2011 at 3:19 am

    Talent attracts. Be it on social media, via tech-based application of real estate, or through working past client referrals for business. Like the way the post ended. Implementing technology in our business in 2008 changed our lives and increased our market share – but ONLY because we used the systems and models we implemented to effectively prospect to our SOI, past clients, and core advocates. In other words, technology helped us with old-school prospecting to get us belly-to-belly.

    Navy Chief, Navy Pride

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