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Will Realtors be replaced by technology by the year 2031? You respond

There is always talk of disintermediating the real estate industry, but could it happen by 2031? Some say yes, others emphatically say no. What say you?

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We’ve written about Quora.com and its question slash answer slash wiki community of users and their potential uses in the real estate industry. One of the topics I follow is “Real Estate Agents” to monitor consumer sentiment regarding the profession.

Recently, a Quora user asked “Will technology replace the need for human real estate agents in the next 10-20 years? Why or why not?”

Before I share my personal beliefs, it was interesting how the community weighed in.

The business of real estate will change

Quora user Lanny Baker who has no bio but whose Facebook profile is that of Zip Realty’s CEO, (so we cannot verify whether or not it is actually Baker, but nonetheless), Baker said, “Looking at the growth and scale of eBay Motors, eTrade & Charles Schwab, and TurboTax & QuickBooks there are at least a few interesting examples of technological solutions encroaching on well-entrenched human-powered services (used car sales, stock brokerage, tax and SMB accountancy), . Most of these are higher frequency activities for consumers than is residential real estate, which means the incentive to seek out a more efficient alternative, and the market opportunity for those alternatives, may be bigger in these other areas. In each of those examples though, the conventional wisdom for a long time was that “people will never do this online, it is too big, too complicated, the risks are too great.” And then, that changed…”

RealDirect CEO Doug Perlson said, “I believe the role of the real estate agent is changing, and while the agent may not “go away”, I envision a platform that lets sellers distribute their listing to every place a buyer may be looking (search, classifieds,social nets, MLS), use interaction data to allow the seller to make informed decisions on what to do next (pricing, etc.), and provide CRM like tools that make scheduling and contacts seamless through the sales process (think Open Table for home showings). A seller can use these tools to manage the process with the help of a real estate “consultant” who unlike a typical agent is motivated by commission, but is a salaried professional.”

Paperless Real Estate specialist Jessica Stoner pointed to the reasons time won’t change why consumers hire Realtors and answer the question simply, “Yes and No. There will remain a role for the the traditional full service agent. This will still be sought by a portion of the public. However, the online power of the people is changing real estate forever.”

Real estate and technology attorney Elizabeth Baum points to technology as more of a catalyst, “I don’t think technology will completely replace real estate agents in all transactions, but it will fundamentally change the role of the agent. There will always be some need for quality facilitation of a complicated (or at least intimidating and costly) transaction, and there will always be people who would prefer to outsource a lot of the steps involved in a real estate transaction (ie., sorting through the MLS, getting a house ready for sale).”

Agents aren’t going anywhere

Max Cangelosi, a consumer who is not involved in the real estate industry said, “With today’s technology in a vacuum….no. But I think it’s certainly possible in the residential space given the consumer protections in place.” Cangelosi continued with examples ranging from LegalZoom contract use to Zillow’s true understanding of a home, ending with “I think that the issue is less about technology as there are hundreds of thousands of incredibly hard working agents who built their careers in this industry.”

Austin Realtor Malita Jones points to the value proposition of agents, saying, “I always say it’s not about finding the house – it’s about representing clients through the contract process – I work on contracts and the house buying / selling process constantly – even my smartest clients get really confused on how things are handled or who pays for what – or what to do and not to do to keep themselves out of court in a few years.”

Agentleaf.com CEO Matthew Holder said, “Its unlikely. A great example is Kelly Blue Book for cars. No matter how sophisticated Kelly Blue Book is at determining fair market vale (about as accurate as Zillow is at predicting home prices) people will still feel the need to negotiate. People will also feel the need to be protected from liability, which is where an agent comes in. This could only be replaced by a more sophisticated market structure where incentives and knowledge was more easily shared…not likely to happen since the incentives are towards hoarding information. There are many things that can be automated, but the future of real estate is in making the agent’s job easier, cheaper, and increased efficiency in the market.”

Where do you stand?

I lean toward the camp of a shifting value proposition of Realtors with technology acting as an aide to the industry rather than a replacement.

Do you think consumers can be swayed to believe that technology will replace Realtors or is the public level headed enough to see a simple shift? Where do you stand?

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33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Joe Manausa

    March 8, 2011 at 9:05 am

    Lani, I think “replace” is a little strong, but certainly “redefine.” I see real estate agents evolving to more of a customer service solution, since the research and property selection tools on the internet are growing very fast. Perhaps a cross between a current “transaction coordinator” and a (other industry) customer service rep for pre and post closing Q&A.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 8, 2011 at 9:16 am

      I agree, although I think the most skilled negotiators will end up in the top producer spots as much of the rest can be aided with tech. Thoughts?

  2. Matt Thomson

    March 8, 2011 at 9:42 am

    We’ll be replaced, but it won’t take til 2031. Think about it. There’s already self-check lines in many grocery stores. What we do isn’t any more complicated than grocery checking. I mean, if you can purchase groceries all by yourself, and if you can buy a $12,000 car with no legal ramifications whatsoever all by yourself, why will it be another 20 years before you choose to buy a $300,000 home with tons of legal ramifications all by yourself.
    Spooky.

  3. Matt Thomson

    March 8, 2011 at 9:46 am

    You really need a “Delete” button on this blog for guys like me who it send before we think.
    Despite my dripping sarcasm, I am fully aware that our roles will change, as they already have dramatically in the past decade.
    Consumers are given a ton more information, and in many cases are better at sorting through the data than many real estate agents. That may be a result of the buyers knowing more of what they want so they can sort better, it may sadly be that many consumers feel the need to educate themselves while agents stop learning once they get their license.
    Changing roles doesn’t mean being replaced. Keeping up with tools and learning how others are using those tools and keeping a fiduciary rather than functionary mindset should keep agents in business for many many years.

    • Lani Rosales

      March 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      “Changing roles doesn’t mean being replaced,” you say and I agree!

  4. Lynda White via Facebook

    March 8, 2011 at 9:52 am

    Hee hee and I just commented on that very question on Quora about an hour ago! 🙂 No, we will always need the human touch.

  5. Joe Sheehan

    March 8, 2011 at 10:28 am

    As I was thinking about this question, I realized that if I am still above ground in 2031, I will be 76 years old. Hopefully I will be living in a warm-all-year-round climate and the most worrisome thing on my mind will be what restaurant offers an early-bird special and a good seniors discount. 🙂

    • Lani Rosales

      March 8, 2011 at 2:20 pm

      Joe, that’s an interesting point and one that must be nice to think about. I’m not a Realtor but I’m still in my 20s so I should probably think about Robots while you think about buffets, deal? 😉

  6. Jill Kipnis

    March 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    This is such an interesting question, and I wish I had a crystal ball! While technology has certainly changed industries including publishing (with eReader devices) and music (the downfall of the physical album), it’s hard for me to picture undergoing such a huge transaction like buying or selling my home without the assistance of a Realtor. I think Realtors will increasingly use technology to help with the paperwork for each transaction, but the process of pricing a home, staging a home, working with an inspector, etc. requires the human touch of a Realtor.

    At least in today’s market, I think we can agree that using a Realtor is critical:
    realtor.com/blogs/2010/12/31/realtor-expertise-is-critical-in-todays-market/

    –Jill Kipnis, Community Builder @Realtor.com

  7. cbass

    March 8, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    yes, but probably much sooner. most will soon be playing checkers in the park with former travel agents, book & music store owners, and blockbuster employees.

    • Jonathan Benya

      March 9, 2011 at 1:24 pm

      I’m so sick of the comparisons being made between Realtors and every other occupation that has been supplanted online. It’s a completely different ball of wax, guys! Yes, the role is evolving, yes it will continue to evolve, but replaced? Hardly!

  8. Jonathan

    March 9, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Choosing a property is inherently a community decision. People love to share that experience with someone, or get advice from a trusted source. That want to be assured that they are making a good decision. For that reason I don’t think technology will replace Realtors.

  9. TJ Bell

    March 9, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    “Real Estate Consultant” sounds pretty 10 dollar an hourish to me with some of the work being outsourced to a call center in Thiruvananthapuram.

    I think that’s the real issue. The industry will continue to change but will the value proposition be there in 10 years for people to pay $12,000 in commissions on $200,000 transaction.

  10. Ralph Bell

    March 10, 2011 at 12:41 am

    I see mortgage brokers being replaced before REALTORS. I see the current compensation of REALTORS changing. But I also see pink elephants and flying monkeys.

    Regardless of what you think or not think about the future, REALTORS as always will have to adapt to change if they want to be successful.

    And maybe by 2031 HUD will finally accept the use of electronic signatures 31 years after the Electronic Signature Act was passed. And finally by 2031 my local MLS will allow you to access it with a web browser other than Internet Explorer.

  11. Missy Caulk

    May 3, 2011 at 7:33 am

    A few years ago, our GMM (General Membership Meeting) at the Ann Arbor Area Board had a newly relocated Google Executive in to speak.

    He said, he thought he could do it on his own, armed with Google Maps, the listings,the values etc…

    …but he couldn't because he still needed someone to let him in the houses.

    Rather than call all the listing agents he chose a buyer agent. I know the agent he chose and he is NOT technology minded at all, now retired.

    • Lani Rosales

      May 3, 2011 at 10:02 am

      Missy, that is SO telling. What a great story to tell clients! 🙂

  12. matthew holder

    May 3, 2011 at 10:14 am

    Hey all.

    I feel Realtors have more to fear from being replaced by attorneys than tech. People are quick to compare the real estate industry, which deals with selling assets of extreme variance from home to home and neighborhood to neighborhood. Cars, hotel rooms, etc. have a much smaller (and more manageable) variance between feature sets, which makes it easier to comparison shop and create fairly accurate valuation models. Combine that with the life decision and high investment of purchasing a home and you have one hot mess to sort out with a clean tech solution.

    Has anyone considered that real estate agents are the most efficient solution? And that tech will help increase their efficiency and help them further focus and specialize their efforts?

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Opinion Editorials

20 bullsh*t buzzwords that should be banned from tech forever

(OPINION) As the language of tech ebbs and flows, there are linguistic potholes so over-used, so annoying, they make you want to scream. Here’s 20 of the worst offenders.

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buzzwords

There’s specific lingo in any industry. Buzzwords, if you will. Get a group of friends who work together for beers after clocking out, and chances are you’ll get lost quickly once they start trading war stories – outsiders beware.

But, there’s one community who puts even nurses (marry a nurse, and you’ll learn what prophylaxis means) to shame with insider speak and bullshit buzzwords: the tech community.

Tech folks are like business and marketing people but mutated. There’s so much free-flowing jargon that goes unchecked and evolves a la Origin of The Species within days. The words and phrases become gospel and, before you know it, people are sharing these nonsense phrases that become the industry norm, leaving anyone on the outside scratching their heads, trying to decipher the tech code.

But, as the language of tech ebbs and flows, there are linguistic potholes so over-used, so annoying, they make you want to scream. There are words used so out of context that make you want to turn them into a snarky meme and pass it around the office because you’re a jerk like that. (Well, I’m at least a jerk like that.)

These are some of those words.

The words that need to die a horrible, 24 hour, “what does it all mean” death.

Words that should be locked away in a prison so vile Charles Manson would be like, “Nah, bro. I’m good.”

Please don’t use these words in your marketing, pitch meetings, or just ever. They suck.Click To Tweet

Strap in and lock it down, here we go:

1. Sync
Can’t we just say “everyone knows what’s going on” instead of sync? This is one of those metaphors alluding to tech as melded with the products and culture, serving as interchangeable. We’re people, not iPhones to be plugged into our laptops. We don’t need to sync. We can meet up.

2. Robust
Robust is coffee, a strong tea you imported from India. It’s not a tech software experience. A can of Folgers can claim to be robust, your project tool cannot share this claim.

3. Pain point
Are we still using this one? A pain point is an elbow that’s got an owie, not what a customer thinks sucks.

4. Delight
I’m delighted to eat an excellent meal or get an unexpected call from an old friend. I’m delighted to leave work early to have drinks. I’m not delighted to use enterprise software. Sure, it makes my day easier. Does it offer a view of heaven when I can use self-service? I think not.

5. Disrupt
One of the godzillas of Jargon Mountain. I get that this worked in context a few years ago. But, now? You’re not “the Uber of…” and you’re not “disrupting” anything.

You built a parking app, Pat. You didn’t change the world.

If you dethrone Facebook, you’ve disrupted the world. ‘Til then, keep your pants on. Your algorithm for the best pizza place in town ain’t changing the block, let alone the face of communication.

6. Game changer & Change agent
Does anyone buy into this one? Was the game changed? This goes in the bin with “Disrupt.”

7. Bleeding Edge
Some jerk in some office decided “the cutting edge” wasn’t enough. It wasn’t hyper progressive enough, so they labeled their work the “bleeding edge”.

If this phrase were any more douchey, it would have a neck beard and a fedora and argue the tenants of socialism on IRC with strangers while sipping Mountain Dew.

8. Dog food
Who came up with this? When did a beta test get labeled as “dog food” I’m still lost on how this one became the industry standard. “We’re eating our own dog food.” This doesn’t even make a lick of sense, people. Just say we’re testing something. It’s a lot easier.

9. Alignment
What happened to just saying you agree? I thought alignment was for tires, not for working. I’ll give you parallel, but alignment? Not buying it.

10. Pivot
Pivot is just a fancy, non-finger point-y way of saying change. And typically, that change is reacting to something not going the company’s way. “Pivoting” means reacting to bad news or undesired outcome and making everyone involved feel smarter about the process.

11. Revolutionary
Unless you’ve built software that cures cancer, does something better than Elon Musk, or gets you laid faster than Tinder, you’re not revolutionary. You’re an element of evolution in a steadily progressing world.

12. Internet of Things
I still don’t even know what the hell this means. Really. It’s one of those phrases people use and pretend to know but really don’t.

13. Bandwidth
I thought bandwidth was Internet stuff, not how busy you are at work. Can’t we say, “if you’re not too busy,” instead of, “if you have the bandwidth,”..?? These are people, not routers.

14. Low-hanging fruit
You mean the easy work? “Easy win” even applies here. But the whole gardening metaphor is tired. It’s ok to say, “Do the easy work first” in a meeting. Hiding behind a metaphorical phrase doesn’t make the work any less important.

15. Deliverables
Do we need to break everything down into words to make the process more complicated? Aren’t deliverables, just work? It’s an adjective to describe what work you’re completing… so… it’s just work. Throw in a “key, ” and you’re jargon-y as all get out.

16. Circle Back
Translation: I don’t want to continue talking about this right now, so I’m going to schedule more pointless meetings to discuss this thing I don’t understand and don’t want to talk about in a few days. Likely, scheduled on your lunch break.

17. Action item
What happened to the good ole’ “to do List”? Instead, we’ve got “action item”. You come out of a meeting with a sore ass. The boss pounds on your for the stuff you need to do. You’re up to your ears in homework, yet, it’s not work you need to do – it’s “action items, to be delivered upon.” WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?

18. Take it offline
If there was ever painful corporate-speak, this one is a granddaddy. Instead of burning minutes in a meeting, someone will announce, “let’s take it offline.” Always happens. What about, “let’s talk about this face to face,” or “I’ll swing by your desk”, or “let’s figure this out.”

We appreciate you not annoying the rest of us with your A+B problem, but we’re not all living in the matrix. Or, at least we think we’re not.

19. Buy-in
Committing to something – a culture, an idea, a feeling. We’re equating life to a poker game and expecting everyone to get the idea, too. So lame.

20. Rockstar – Ninja – Wizard – whatever descriptive verb
This one. Holy horse crap. Can we PLEASE STOP with trying to slap a descriptive label on good work? I get it. You want to exclaim your person is a badass, and they’ve got chops. But this labeling of people in fantastical ways just sucks. When did the craft of a ninja, or the fantastical abilities of a wizard relate to code? And the rockstar thing?

Dudes, you’re not Keith Richards, you wear a startup hoodie and complain when you’re not getting free lunch at work.

Also, these names suck because they imply some male-dominance-cum-brogrammer mentality. They’re shadowy ciphers that are such machismo, it’ll barf up a steak. When a woman gets labeled a “ninja” it’s in an entirely different context, and that’s not cool. Writers have to get creative and use terms like “acrobat” or “juggler” to give off a sentiment of equal playing field, and it’s obnoxious. Just stop with these lame titles.

And there you have it. 20 bullshit buzzwords that should be banned forever and ever. Comment away, and add the jargon you loathe in the comments section. If it goes well, maybe they’ll ask me to write a part two, and we’ll make even more people mad.

This editorial was first published here in 2017.

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Opinion Editorials

Study says women need to be seen as “warm” to be considered confident

(EDITORIAL) A new study reveals that despite progress, women are still successful when they fall into a stereotype. Let’s discuss.

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selflessness hard working entrepreneur

About 15 years ago, I took a part-time job in a mental health clinic handling bookkeeping and billing. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I attacked the job with what I felt was confidence. For the first few days, I simply felt as if I was an imposter. I kept asking questions and pushing forward, even though I didn’t make much progress. Within just a few days, I felt the hostility of the office manager.

It got progressively worse, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck I’d done to make her so confrontational with me. I thought I was pleasant and respectful of her position, and I was getting along with the other employees. When I talked to our boss, I was told that I intimidated the office manager. HUH? Me? Intimidating? I was a complete mess at the time. I could barely put together a business casual wardrobe. My emotional health was so fragile that I rarely went anywhere new. And she found me intimidating?

Researchers have been studying how people judge others. Susan Fiske, researcher out of Princeton, found that competence and warmth are two of the dimensions used to judge others. Based on that research, Laura Guillén, Margarita Mayo, and Natalia Karelaia studied the competence and warmth at a software company with 236 engineers.  Guillén and her team collected data at two separate times about these engineers and their confidence and influence within the organization.

They found that “men are seen as confident if they are seen as competent, but women are seen as confident only if they come across as both competent and warm.

Women must be seen as warm in order to capitalize on their competence and be seen as confident and influential at work; competent men are seen as confident and influential whether they are warm or not.”

We encourage women to be confident, but based on current research, it may not be enough to close the gender gap in the workplace. A woman must be seen as helpful and dedicated to others to have the same influence as a man. As a woman, it’s easy to be seen as the #bossbitch when you have to make tough decisions. Those same decisions, when made by a man might be considered just “business as normal.”

I guess the lesson is that women still have to work twice as hard as men just to be seen as equals. I know that I have to work on empathy when I’m in an office environment. That office manager isn’t the only person who has thought I’m intimidating. I’ve heard it from it others, but you know what? As a self-employed writer, I’d rather be seen as undeterred and daunting than submissive and meek.

This editorial first appeared here in 2016.

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Opinion Editorials

Don’t avoid starting a business just because you’re broke

(EDITORIAL) If money isn’t always a prerequisite to entrepreneurship, how can you start something from nothing?

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starting a business

Breaking into the business world can be an intimidating venture, especially if you don’t have the money or experience to back up your ambitions. Experience, however, can be earned – or at least approached through a “fake it until you make it” style approach. But what can you do if you dream of launching a business but you don’t have the cash? Is money a prerequisite to entrepreneurship?

Money helps but isn’t a requirement for those hoping to start their own business – you simply need to get creative. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few things to consider.

One of the best ways to build your confidence around the topic of entrepreneurship is to refocus your attention towards those who also started from nothing, but have since made it big.

Steve Jobs started out tinkering in his garage as a teenager and went on to found the tech giant Apple, while multimillionaire consultant Sam Ovens publically discusses his finances – he was broke just a few years ago but had made over $10 million dollars by the time he turned 26.

Such stories attest to the fact that anyone can ascend to great heights.

Even though many people think money is the most important part of any business endeavor, successful people will tell you that true self-understanding far outranks cash on the list of necessities. Take some time to reflect on your goals and on how you view yourself as you pursue them.

If you think you can’t achieve your goals, then you won’t be able to. The mind is a very powerful thing.

If introspection reveals that you’re low on self-esteem, work on improving your view of yourself and begin developing a more positive perspective. You may find it helpful to write down what you think and then revise this description, working all the time to internalize this improved view of yourself. Though it may seem like a pointless process at first, you’re actually participating in your own transformation.

Another key determinant of success that far surpasses money is passion.

People succeed when they pursue goals that matter to them on a deeper level.

Typically this is the case because passion leads you to accumulate expertise on your chosen topic, and this will draw people to you.

One incredible example of the transformation of passion into profit is 17-year-old Jonah, who makes thousands of dollars a month selling watches online. Jonah comes from a family of jewelers, so he had ready access to the necessary knowledge and cultivated an outstanding selection of timepieces on his site, but it was his ability to combine his material knowledge with real understanding of his customers that made his business successful.

At the end of the day, he wanted his customers to have the perfect watch, and he brought his own passion for the field to bear on creating that experience.

Finally, if you hope to start a business but don’t have any cash resources, the best thing you can do is learn your field and network with those in it – without bringing them on board as professional partners.

It helps to have contacts, but you can’t grow a fledgling business by paying others to do the hard work.

Hunker down and work from home, working at night if you have to keep your current job, and start from the position of humble aspirant. If you show you’re committed to the real work of starting a business, you’ll find that others support you.

If you hope to start a business, but don’t have the money, don’t despair – but also don’t put your dream on hold. The only way to build the foundation you need to live that dream is by doing the hard work in the here and now.

Lots of people started just where you are, but the true successes are the ones who had the courage to push past the barriers without worrying about the financial details. You already have what you need, and that’s the passion for innovation.

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