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Opinion Editorials

Are Realtors useless that aren’t technology experts?

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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?

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 Realtor.com 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.

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?

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27 Comments

27 Comments

  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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Opinion Editorials

Freelance is the Future? I call bull malarky

(EDITORIAL) Some have predicted that due to company needs and employees’ desire for flexibility, and even COVID, freelance is the future of work. But I have reservations.

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Freelance desk

Long gone are the days of punching a clock in Corporate America to be in your seat at your desk for an exact period of 8 hours on a day x 5 = 40 hours per week. If you work in an office setting now, usually you are expected to manage your time and finish your projects but companies have adjusted their strict butt in seat polices so that you can come in late after a doctor appointment or even leave a little early for Susie’s soccer tournament.

The truth is, with the advancement of technology and connected devices, many of us can work from anywhere (as long as there’s Wi-Fi or we have our hotspot). So, as long as your work gets done, there’s a little bit of room for “flexibility”.

When a company pitches this as flexibility, it’s really just a way of re-wording that you will work a lot so they will cut you some slack here and there considering most of us work well over our 40 hours a week. We can check email first thing in the morning, forward documents from the plane and even be on conference calls while in a line or in an Uber. You may work late on a Tuesday due to Wednesday deliverables which allows you to take off on Friday at 3pm when usually your projects are in a good place. There are also times where you will work on the weekend.

The opportunity to work anywhere has led to some considering that freelance is the future? I just don’t buy it. And this might be an unpopular opinion. I think that’s like turning the Titanic around. People rely on companies to offer a feeling of stability (or so we think) so that you know there’s a paycheck coming in every other week and you definitely have your fair share of projects (oh yeah, plus healthcare benefits).

If we all moved in to freelancing, we’d have a wide variety of clients, customers, teammates and paychecks that could be difficult to keep up with. We’d be forced to be the CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, CMOs, CFOs, oh, forget it, the entire C-suite of our own careers. It’s really difficult to generate new clients in the future while you’re working on a current project.

However, it’s equally difficult to have a lull so you have to be constantly engaged and pitching business (at the same time you have your current work). You have to be on your A-game at all times and out pitching yourself and your brand. You have to be creating content on all the social channels and be invited to participate in fancy conferences and meetings. This unfortunately is the life of freelance.

Does it seem like more people will do freelance? Yes. There’s lots of opportunity now thanks to the world wide web. But I predict they will do this in addition to their regular jobs. Is it possible that we may move to a gig economy? We are already there. You’ve heard of Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Fiverr and Upwork…It seems like that most people that have 2-3 gigs to make them whole are typically looking for full-time opportunities or would love to find something that can replace the others with more consistent work and not all the hustle. Are Small Businesses on the rise? Absolutely.

It seems that it depends on your desire for either slightly more predictable work and paychecks or if you’re a throw caution to the wind person and live that freelancer life. Also, if your skill sets are the ones employers are looking for on an ad hoc basis. No doubt many people live a freelancer life and love it. But I just don’t see it being the masses – I think it takes a special kind of dedication to rely on freelance and/or starting your own business. Plus, you’re off your parents’ healthcare at age 26. That’s when real the “real job” starts to sound really appealing.

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Opinion Editorials

Ways to socialize safely during quarantine

(EDITORIAL) Months of isolation due to quarantine is causing loneliness for many, but joining virtual social groups from home may help fill the need for interaction.

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quarantine

Quarantining, sheltering in place, staying home. We’re tired of hearing it; we’re tired of doing it. Yet, it’s what we still need to be doing to stay safe for a while longer. All of this can be lonesome. As the days turn into weeks and weeks into months, the alone time is getting to even the most introverted among us.

Solitary confinement is considered one of the most psychologically damaging punishments a human can endure. The New Yorker reported on this in a 1992 study of prisoners in detention camps in the former Yugoslavia, as well as Vietnam veterans who experienced isolation. These studies showed that prisoners who had experienced solitary confinement demonstrated similar brain activity to those who’d suffered a severe head injury, noting that “Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury.”

We aren’t meant to be solitary creatures. Your “pandemic brain” is real. That fogginess, the lack of productivity, can be attributed to many things, including anxiety, but being kept apart from other humans is a big part of it too. Be kind to yourself, give yourself grace, and join others virtually. Be it an app, a class, a Facebook group, a chat room, or a livestream, someone somewhere is out there waiting to connect with you too.

The good news? We are lucky enough to live in an era of near limitless ways to interact socially online. Sure, it is different, but it is something. It’s important. The best thing about this type of social interaction is being able to hone in on your specific interests, though I’d caution you against getting caught in an online echo chamber. Diversity of interests, personality, and opinion make for a richer experience, with opportunities for connecting and expanding your worldview.

Here are a few suggestions on ways to socialize while staying home and staying safe. Communicating with other humans is good for you, physically and mentally.

Interactive Livestreams on Twitch:

Twitch is best known as a streaming service for video game fans, but it offers multiple streams appealing to different interests. This is more than passive watching (although that is an option, too) as Twitch livestream channels also have chat rooms. Twitch is fun for people who like multi-tasking because the chat rooms for popular livestream channels can get busy with chatter.

While people watch the Twitch hosts play a video game, film a live podcast, make music or art, mix cocktails, or dance, they can comment on what they’re watching, make suggestions, ask questions, crack jokes, and get to know each other (by Twitch handle, so it is still as anonymous as you want it to be) in the chat room. The best hosts take time every so often to interact directly with the chat room questions and comments.

Many Twitch channels develop loyal followers who get to know each other, thus forming communities. I have participated in the Alamo Drafthouse Master Pancake movie mocks a few times because they are fun and local to Austin, where I live. Plus, in my non-quarantine life, I would go to Master Pancake shows live sometimes. The chat room feels familiar in a nice way. While watching online is free, you can (and totally should) tip them.

Online trivia in real time:

There are some good options for real-time online trivia, but I’m impressed with the NYC Trivia League’s model. They have trivia games online on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The NYC Trivia League seems to have figured out a good way to run the game live while keeping answers private from the other teams. They run games on Instagram Live with a live video of the host, and participants answer via the question feature. Clever!

Online book club:

First I have to shout out my Austin local independent bookstore, BookPeople, because they are fantastic. They run book clubs throughout the year, along with readings, book signings, and all things book-related. BookPeople hosts several online book clubs during these lockdown days, and most people will find something that appeals to them.

I’m also impressed with this list from Hugo House, a writer’s resource based out of Seattle. This list includes Instagram and Goodread book clubs, book clubs for Black women, rebels, and poetry lovers. The Financial Diet recommends the Reddit book club, if you are comfortable with the Reddit format. Please note that it’s a busy place, but if you like Reddit, you already know this.

Cooking class or virtual tasting:

This is doubly satisfying because you can follow these chefs in real time, and you end up with a meal. There are a couple on Instagram Live, such as The Culinistas or Chef Massimo Bottura.

You can also participate in virtual tastings for wine, whiskey, or chocolate, though you will have to buy the product to participate in the classes (usually held over Zoom or Facebook Live). If you are in Austin, Dallas, or Houston, I recommend BeenThere Locals. The cost of the course includes the wine, spirits, or cooking kit in most cases, and all of the money goes to the business and expert hosting the class.

Look for your favorite wine, spirits, cheese, chocolate makers, and chefs that are local to you to find a similar experience. Most either prepare the class kit for pickup or delivery within a local area.

Quarantine chat:

To interact with another quarantined person seeking social interaction, there’s Quarantine Chat. Quarantine chat is one of the ways to connect through the Dialup app, available on iOS and Android devices. Sign up to make and receive calls when you want to speak with someone. The Dialup app pairs you randomly with another person for a phone conversation, at a scheduled time, either with anyone or with someone with shared interests.

Quarantine chat takes it a step further with calls at random times. When your quarantine chat caller calls, you will not see their number (or they yours), only the “Quarantine Chat” caller ID. If you are unable to pick up when they call, they will be connected with someone else, so there is no pressure to answer. It’s nice to hear someone else’s voice, merely to talk about what you’ve been cooking or what hilarious thing your pet is doing.

Play Uno:

Uno Freak lets people set up games and play Uno online with friends or strangers. Players do not need to register or download anything to play. Uno Freak is web-based.

Talk to mental health professionals:

If your state of loneliness starts sliding toward depression, call someone you can speak to right away to talk over your concerns. When in doubt, call a trained professional! Here are a few resources:

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): The NAMI HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 am–6 pm, ET, 800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org.
  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to this text line 24/7 for someone to text with who will also be able to refer you to other resources: U.S. and Canada: 74174, U.K. 85258, Ireland: 50808.
  • Psych Central has put together this comprehensive list of crisis intervention specialists and ways to contact them immediately.

There are many ways to connect even though we are physically apart. These are just a few real time ways to interact with others online. If you want something a little more flesh and blood, take a walk around the block or even sit in a chair in front of where you live.

Wave at people from afar, and remember that we have lots of brilliant doctors and scientists working on a way out of this. Hang in there, buddy. I’m rooting for you. I’m rooting for all of us.

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Opinion Editorials

Working remotely: Will we ever go back? (Probably not)

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Now that the pandemic has opened the door on working remotely, there’s no way we’ll put the genie back in the bottle. But, here’s some ways you can adapt.

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Woman working remotely on her couch with a laptop on her lap.

When it comes to working remotely, will the toothpaste ever go back in the tube?

Mark Zuckerberg recently said, “We are going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work at our scale…” By 2030, Zuckerberg anticipates that over half of Facebook’s workforce will be remote. Many other companies are jumping on the work from home bandwagon. Working remotely has helped many businesses manage the pandemic crisis, but it’s unsure what form remote working will take over the next 10 years.

We know that employees are responding positively to WFH, as reported in this article – Employers: Lacking remote work options may cause you to lose employees. As offices transition to a post-COVID normal, here are some things to consider about your office and remote work.

What does your business gain from allowing workers to WFH?
The future of remote work depends on a conscious application of WFH. It’s not just as easy as moving employees out of the office to home. You have to set up a system to manage workers, wherever they are working. The companies with good WFH cultures have set up rules and metrics to know whether it’s working for their business. You’ll need to have technology and resources that let your teams work remotely.

Can your business achieve its goals through remote work?
The pandemic may have proved the WFH model, but is this model sustainable? There are dozens of benefits to remote work. You can hire a more diverse workforce. You may save money on office space. Employees respond well to remote work. You reduce your carbon emissions.

But that can’t be your only measure of whether remote work fits into your vision for your organization. You should be looking at how employees will work remotely, but you need to consider why employees work remotely.

The work paradigm is shifting – how will you adapt?
The work environment has shifted over the past century. Remote work is here to stay, but how it fits into your company should be based on more than what employees want. You will have to work closely with managers and HR to build the WFH infrastructure that grows with your organization to support your teams.

We don’t know exactly how remote work will change over the next decade, but we do know that the workplace is being reinvented. Don’t just jump in because everyone is doing it. Make an investment in developing your WFH plan.

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