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Digitized Real Estate – Outsourcing to the Internet

Remember when a social network was you local high school’s PTA meeting? Maybe it was running into a neighbor at the grocery store and doing a quick “catch up” about how Millie down the street is pregnant and what do you think of the new couple that just moved into 4912? The book club or meeting some friends at the local watering hole for something other than a tweetup or hook up?

Yeah.  Me, neither.

It seems that the social glue that holds us together is becoming more and more digitized.  Facebook is where you find people you haven’t thought about in 20 years or become “friends” with people you have never met and will probably never see, in the flesh.  Everything from tracking packages to tracking your pizza to getting your MBA can now all be done online.  How much longer before we simply order up sperm A to be matched with egg B so we don’t even have to meet each other to propagate the species?

Brave New World meets Soylent Green.

The Digital Real Estate Transaction

The conventional wisdom in the echo chamber known as the is that the Gen Y and Millennial (Gen Z?) twenty and thirty somethings could care less about “relationship” and just want to get the deal done.  If it’s a house, they’ll do all their shopping online, thank you very much, contact some digital real estate agent/company to put the deal together and wire the money to the title company.  Of course, they’ll want to track the progress with an up-to-the minute, state-of-the-art online progress graph ala the Dominoes Tracker espoused by AG honcho, Benn Roasales,  in his recent AG post.

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It’ll be more Second Life (or maybe closer to World of Warcraft) than IRL and it behooves us all to get with the program or be left behind.

Fellow AG columnist, Jonathan Benya, writes that videos sent via e-mail or transmitted online should be taking the place of the paper thank you note or phone call to update a client.

Maybe so.

The Dangers of Conventional Wisdom

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m totally onboard with the use of technology to assist with the successful and happy conclusion of a real estate transaction. If a potential home buyer or home seller doesn’t want to meet me or can’t because of pure physical limitations (e.g., they’re in Egypt and I’m in Maryland) than I am a gung-ho advocate of the use of whatever technolgy I can use.

Yet, I wonder if this groupthink mindset about tracking everything online is really useful.

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It brings to mind a recent event where the herd believed one thing and reality was completely different: that mortgage interest rates were due to rise precipitously.

At the end of March (just four months ago), the Federal Reserve stopped purchasing mortgage backed securities in their effort to stabilize the housing market.  Everyone knew it was coming.  Everyone (with the possible exception of fellow AG columnist, Fred Glick) forecast the rise of mortgage interest rates.  Some by at least a percentage point, others by more than that!  The housing market was set to tank even more than it had and, if you were a smart consumer, you would buy, buy, buy right now before we saw interest rates soar to 6% or 6.5%.

Fred  stood alone (almost) in predicting that private investors would step forward to buy the mortgage backed securities and we would all live to sell real estate another day.

In fact, herd mentality aside, mortgage interest rates have gone down!

The Moral of the Story

I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel and jump on the bandwagon for the pure Internet transaction.  Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part, but I like to believe that human interaction is still an essential aspect of buying or selling residential real estate.  Purchasing a home or selling a home is more fraught with human emotion than buying a pizza or selling your mutual fund.

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Communication with our clients is important. Tracking the progress of the transaction is important. Negotiating the deal is important.

And you need some real human interaction to make these things happen.  A pretty online progress bar is no substitute.

Written By

“Loves sunrise walks on the beach, quaint B & Bs, former Barbie® boyfriend..." Ken is a sole practitioner and Realtor Extraordinaire in the beautiful MD Suburbs of DC. When he's not spouting off on Agent Genius he holds court from his home office in Glenn Dale, MD or the office for RE/MAX Advantage Realty in Fulton, MD...and always on the MD Suburbs of DC Blog



  1. Sheila Rasak

    August 1, 2010 at 10:34 am

    A mentor once stated “if you’re not knee to knee with your client, you have no chance of representing them”. I firmly believe that for today this still holds true. Until a digital handshake is actually felt, I don’t see time changing all that much. Transactions are merely more streamlined and processed more conveniently.

  2. Benn Rosales

    August 1, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    “From the minute you enter your order (*the first time a consumer searches), your web purchase is personalized, it’s become your pizza, and the process is accurately reported back to you by the second. We as the consumer are no longer waiting in limbo, we actually know that Anthony just placed our pie in the oven to be baked to perfection (*semantic suggestions are relayed on the screen, from you), and I would argue that the days of ketchup sauce are over and their pizza actually IS substantially better.

    Beyond transaction management

    If real practitioners placed a value on the search process from day one that it meets the home buyer, you know, the day they began searching on your website, by reporting the consumer’s progress in searching, and semantically returning suggestions, the agent again becomes part of the search process. Continuing this same partnership as the consumer contacts the agent, with notes from the conversations, links to support the conversation, and so on and so forth.

    The pain staking detail involved in this automated process guarantees consistent service to each consumer, as well as informs them throughout the process. Rather than call them directly, a daily report is received that you (the Realtor) spoke with the lender and the notes from that conversation. Suddenly, the hidden process is revealed and value is apparent, more so than ever before.”

    read the rest

    *added for this comment

  3. Janie Coffey

    August 1, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    but do they have to be mutually exclusive? you can be highly technical and highly personal at the same time, they don’t cancel each other out, but can actually enhance each other. Additionally, I think the person on the other end, and their personal preferences, should really dictate which way we swing on the spectrum (if there is one) from high tech to high touch. Of course, just my humble opinion.

  4. BawldGuy

    August 1, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    It’s August/2010 and I don’t have digital signatures. No drip email. No newsletter. Almost none of the digital hi-tech I’ve been told would make me extinct in the next couple years — since 2005.

    Where are my ‘La Brea tar pits’?

    • Benn Rosales

      August 2, 2010 at 11:01 am

      Yet here we are, reading each other’s thoughts from San Diego to Austin. I feel as close to you today as I did the day we sat at Starbucks sipping go juice. I met you and we became fast friends, you became one of my great mentors and trusted advisors online via a blog relationship, solidified it with your endless starbucks giftcard face to face, warmly embracing both Lani and I- we’re a part of your life, originally connected digitally- and the world didn’t end. We sometimes jump to conclusions about originally when it comes to change, that it will radically alter our business, and our relationships for the negative. I know more about your life right now, then I do about some of my immediate family- digitally, but I’m positive, soon, I’ll be seeing you again physically. Imagine if we had documented what grandma and dad had to say in this fashion for all of us to learn… it just ain’t all that damn complicated as some make it seem. Known what I mean?


    August 1, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    there is no tech-based substitute for ESP. Energy, Smile, Personality!

    • Janie Coffey

      August 1, 2010 at 8:34 pm

      if we could all have a smile like yours Herman 🙂

  6. Ken Brand

    August 2, 2010 at 8:27 am


    “How much longer before we simply order up sperm A to be matched with egg B so we don’t even have to meet each other to propagate the species?”

    To me this IS the metaphorical point. The internet won’t replace the physical love making and sexual expression, what the internet can do is help us find the right partner, more partners, and new moves. It also helps others find us.

    Without the interent, and innovation, eventually, we’ll become overshadowed by the omni-present, attractive, and connected.

    There’s always an exception to rule, i.e. Bawldguy. But really, he’s omni-present and prolific with his mad writing skilz…which are digital, and online. In my view, he’s rock’n the online work harder than most. Sortof a digital wolf, in sheep’s clothing. (that’s a compliment, in case it doesn’t read right)

    Go, Ken M. Go.

  7. Phil

    August 2, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Yeah, I agree with what you’ve said as the moral of the story but I guess being in this new generation we have to adopt the new technology where people all over the world could save money just to communicate each other. We all know that there are advantages and disadvantages but it’s up to us how to deal with them and what’s best for our company.


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