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Op/Ed

Algorithm predicts uncertain future for real estate professionals, now what?

A new study predicts that real estate professionals are at risk of being replaced by machines, but is that possible, and if so, how can the industry circumvent this?

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uncertainty ahead

Is it War of the Worlds all over again? I’m probably dating myself when I tell you that on the night before Halloween in 1938, millions of radio listeners were shocked when radio news alerts announced the arrival of space aliens. At that time, listeners panicked when they learned of the Martians’ attack on Earth. Many listeners ran out of their homes screaming, and others were said to have packed up and fled.

What radio listeners actually heard on this day was a portion of Orson Welles’ adaptation of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells. And despite the fact that this was fiction, many listeners believed what they heard was real.

The concept of machines replacing up to 50 percent of the U.S. workforce may incite a level of panic not much different from that which occurred on Halloween day in 1938. Unlike the publicity stunt however, the mechanization of America may, in fact, be true.

Will Machines Take Over the Work Force?

Just last month, Bloomberg reported that 50 percent of the U.S. workforce would be at risk of being replaced by machines. In a study entitled “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?”, Frey and Osborne shared what happened when they created an algorithm that analyzed the types of jobs subject to automation and predicted the probabilities of future automation for 702 different occupations.

The results were particularly favorable for those working as recreational therapists, since this field was the least likely to be automated with the probability of automation listed at 1/20 of 1 percent. If you believe that an algorithm can predict your future, this study does not bode well for telemarketers (automation probability of 99 percent). Loan officers came in at 98 percent and real estate professionals came in at 86 percent.

Will a Machine Replace the Real Estate Agent?

It’s true that a lot of what real estate professionals do every day can be automated or perhaps handled via computer by the consumer without need for an intermediary. That’s probably what resulted in the Frey and Osborne automation probability of 86 percent.

In 2013, Seth Godin wrote about this very issue. Godin stated, “If your project or organization depends on knowing things that other people don’t know (but could find out if they wanted to), your days are probably numbered. Ask a travel agent.” What Godin is referring to is the fact that years ago, we phoned a travel agent to make flight and hotel reservations. Now we can search locations, and make our own reservations online.

Not unlike the travel agent, real estate professionals have previously provided information that the consumer didn’t have: information about properties available for sale. Now, of course, much of that information is available online free of charge.

So, what can be done to avoid the potentially numbered days of the real estate professional? The solution “is obvious,” Godin says, “provide…non-commodity service and customization.”

How to Provide Non-Commodity Service and Customization

Real estate professionals must think long and hard about how they provide a unique value in the marketplace, and they must market that value to their current and future clients in order to assure that the machine does not wipe them out. And it’s a good idea to start on that now before “the war of the worlds” becomes a reality.

Here are four ways that a real estate professional can provide value in the current and future marketplace.

  1. Process navigation. Individuals who only buy and sell a few homes in their lifetime will need assistance in navigating an extremely challenging process. Real estate professionals know what to expect, how to avoid legal issues, and how to make the process of selling what is possibly the most valuable item in an individual’s portfolio as easy as humanly possible. Consumers may believe that they understand the process. But, will they know how to respond correctly when the seller takes the bathroom fixtures or if there is a rat infestation prior to closing?
  2. Paperwork preparation. Depending upon the state in which you reside, the paperwork required for state compliance can be upwards of fifty different documents or contract addenda. While a computer program may be able to spit out a list of documents, will that list be correct in each situation? Will the consumer know how to complete them? Will the consumer understand the legal ramifications of each document?
  3. Transactional Nuances. Lots of real estate transactions have very subtle nuances—little issues that are hanging out on the sidelines that need to be resolved prior to closing. These may include clouds on the title, financing limitations, encroachment or boundary issues, and zoning and permit issues. Only an experienced real estate professional would be attuned to these nuances in a way that can get the deal to the closing table the very first time. No computer can do that.
  4. Personalized Customer Service. While the Internet is great for getting the word out about a property or getting a document signed at record speed, there is no replacement for face-to-face communication. Personal consultations, as opposed to quick text messages, provide clients with the detailed information that they need in order to understand the scope of the real estate process. Additionally, busy real estate professionals have long lists of homebuyers who may be looking for a home that meets specific criteria. Agents can leverage personal connections to put a strong, solid deal together in no time flat.

What’s Next for the Field of Real Estate?

When asked about whether the future of the real estate professional will be mechanized anytime soon, Michael McClure, COO of T3Experts, stated, “I do think there will be a more-rapid-than-most-expect concentration of power in which those who leverage technology and other large societal trends most effectively will gain real competitive advantage and differentiation.” McClure also asserts is that it does not necessarily matter whether the information provided is accurate; those professionals who leverage technologies will have the upper hand.

Consumers will become increasingly reliant on the Internet as a research tool before selecting an agent to use in their next real estate transaction. McClure points out that previously “lots of agents have been able to hide behind the ‘ambiguity of information.’ That is, sometimes people don’t ask a lot of questions because they are simply not comfortable asking them.” McClure goes on to say, “I believe that’s a reason why the agent that does one or two deals a year can do one or two deals a year: because people often don’t dig very deep in researching agents.”

What McClure recommends is that agents “leverage things like advanced search technologies and the next generations of review sites.” It will be more important than ever, McClure states, “to actively manage your online reputation.”

How to Ensure That You Are Not Replaced by a Machine

There are actually some things that real estate professionals can do right now to attempt to protect themselves from the mechanization of their profession.

First and foremost, put a process in place to manage your online reputation. Set up Google Alerts for your name and the name of your company, if applicable.

Next, develop strategies to increase your online reviews. Utilizing the large syndication sites, Google, and Yelp, continue to build your online reviews. You can even install WP Customer Reviews, a plug-in for WordPress.

One final—and perhaps obvious—suggestion would be to continue to develop professionally. You need to be constantly reassessing your business model to be sure that what you are offering the public is “non-commodity service and customization” and not just Swiss cheese. (The profession of cheese sales, by the way, has an automation probability of 96 percent.)

Melissa is an in-demand business success speaker and author, as well as a real estate broker with thousands of short sale transactions under her belt. She leverages her experience as a short sale insider to motivate thousands of business professionals to plan their careers better, execute more effectively on their plan, and earn more because of it.

Op/Ed

How calendars can stop your procrastination, boost productivity

(PRODUCTIVITY) As the old method of pen-to-paper planning comes back in style, see how its use can help with time management.

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writing pen paper productivity

My favorite part of writing for this publication, by far, is the fact that it always has me keeping my eyes and ears open for inspiration. The simplest comment from a friend can snowball into an idea that becomes beneficial to others.

Such was the case this past weekend when my best friend, Haley, stopped by to help me unpack my new house. Haley is a graduate student, pursuing a master’s in interpersonal communication, and is a much smarter version of myself.

We got to talking about what was on tap for Haley’s final semester and she told me about a workshop she’s creating for the graduate school on the topic of how using planners/calendars helps with time management. The girl has an affinity for pen-to-paper planners, and has created an organizational structure for her daily life through their use.

Naturally, I thought, “hey, sometimes I attempt to give people advice on time management and planning, let’s bounce some ideas off of each other.” Haley then gave me a rundown of the bullet points she’s planning on covering for her interactive workshop.

1) Take everything as it comes. As a new task pops up, put it down on your calendar (whether paper or electronic) so that you don’t forget to do it later.

2) With these tasks, schedule deadlines for yourself. It can be tough to be self-motivate and have tasks completed by your own assignment. However, putting them down in writing will help you stick to them.

Only work on something if you’re being productive. If you stop being productive, you should take a step back and work on something else for a while,” says Haley. “This is why my personal deadlines help because it makes me work harder but I still have my own time.”

3) Schedule out your week starting with events that you cannot change. Start by writing down your work schedule, then appointments, meetings, etc. Then schedule in tasks that have more flexibility in time.

4) After doing this, take all of these tasks and prioritize what must be completed first and assess how much time each task will take. Be sure to give yourself an appropriate amount of time for each task.

5) For bigger projects, considering breaking them down a bit. “For bigger projects I break it down into steps, normally using a concept map to understand the core aspects of my task and what needs to be accomplished within each of those to make it more digestible,” says Haley. “Once I have the pieces, I place the pieces into my weekly schedule of events I cannot change.”

All of the pieces of this puzzle come together to create a calendar that will help you juggle every aspect of your life and boost your productivity. By implementing these ideas in my own planning, it has definitely helped me to become more of a self-starter.

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Op/Ed

How anyone can be more a more assertive real estate pro

(OPINION EDITORIAL) Being assertive is not the same as being bossy and while most people tell women to be more assertive, lack of assertiveness isn’t gender exclusive. Here are a few tips how to make your presence known.

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assertive broker meeting negotiation team

Merriam-Webster defines assertive as “disposed to or characterized by bold or confident statements and behavior.” I believe assertive behavior is the balance between being passive or aggressive.

You aren’t demanding, but you’re not dismissing your needs either.

Women are often told that they need to be more assertive, rather than passive, and men need to be less aggressive. I’m more of the opinion that assertiveness isn’t gender-specific. I believe every person needs some assertiveness training.

While I may not be an expert in assertiveness, as a freelancer, I have learned to be more assertive. Here are a few of my observations:

  • To be assertive, I had to stop feeling as if my work was unimportant. Call it confidence or self-esteem, but it was a definite turning point for me. I stopped using the word, “just.” I didn’t apologize for bothering people. I simply began stating what I needed to get the job done.
  • I defined what assertive meant to me. For me, it was the ability to stand up for my opinions and needs. This didn’t happen overnight, but it took practice. One of the key things I did was to try and be more assertive in other places, like when I volunteered. That gave me the confidence to stand up for myself in my work.
  • I use “I” statements. “I need to take next Monday off.” “I need more information about this project.” “I cannot do that this week.”
  • I’ve found that part of being assertive is taking the other person at their word and not holding a grudge. Don’t read more into their emotions than what is being discussed. Just because my co-worker hated the last idea I had shouldn’t stop me from exploring new ideas with the team.
  • It is very difficult to change old behaviors. I have mentors and coaches that I talk to about my successes and failures. This has helped me figure out what I’d do differently if I had the chance. Trust me, it isn’t easy to be introspective about the time you blew it, but it’s been very beneficial in all the areas of my life.
  • I’ve apologized when it was appropriate, but I don’t beat myself up, either. The other day, I missed one part of an assignment. In the past, I would have not taken any more assignments as punishment. Instead, I apologized that I missed it and fixed the assignment. Then, I took another block of work and moved on. It was freeing.

Being assertive isn’t easy. But it is very rewarding.

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Op/Ed

Why an “Enough List” is the answer to your never ending to-do list

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It’s 12:17 a.m. I’m laying in the dark basking in the glow of my laptop, next to my sleeping sons, as I go back and forth between the clock and my to-do list, then back to the clock, then over to my children’s faces.

At this moment I imagine I feel similar to many other entrepreneurs, small business owners, and work from home parents. The day is done, it’s after midnight, but you’ve barely made a dent on all the things that need to get done.

In the morning the day seems wide open, the world your oyster, and the list of obligations not quite intimidating, yet. It all seems manageable, in the morning. But all it takes is a hiccup to consume a couple of unexpected hours of your morning to throw off your entire day. A technology failure, an unhappy customer, an unexpected task, all of these can wreck a well-made plan. And even without these mishaps, regular distraction, email, a headache, or simply, writer’s block can disrupt one’s business processes as a whole.

So, what’s the solution? I’m already working 100 hours a week, maybe another 10 or 15 will make it all fall into place? No, instead it’s the opposite. Know when to turn it off . Enough is…quite literally…enough.

When I read Melissa Camara Wilkins’ article about having an “enough list,” I dropped my laptop, slow clapped for about five minutes, then found a lighter and swayed back and forth until I realized I had a deadline I needed to meet. Wilkins talks about how she makes a short list – of three things exactly – that will be the focus of her day.

They are not specific tasks, she states, but may be as general as “make that phone call I’ve been avoiding” or “write an article” or “send that email”, but she only makes three, simple, goals a day.

Wow. What a fantastic idea. I began to plan my day around this philosophy and then I woke up. Because, let’s be honest, I’ve got some serious stuff to get done. This idea sounds great on the surface but come on.

Who can seriously only focus on the examples provided in the article? Especially for someone running a small business or acting in a leadership position, the number of phone calls or emails that need follow ups, issues that need resolution, meetings that need your attention, and articles that need to be written are ongoing.

That being said, the takeaway from the article is good – know when to turn it off. Since for me (like many of you) my to-do list never gets completed, instead it gets whittled down to “nearly manageable” but often escalates to “all hell breaking loose,” I was looking for a solution to keep my days as stress free as possible.

So I used Wilkins’ idea as inspiration and I started my “enough list”.

I realized there was no getting away from my to-do list because, honestly, I need it to stay sane and know what expectations and deadlines are the most pressing. But now I also have an “enough list” that allows me to turn it off for the day.

This list designates when it’s ok for me to shut the lid of my laptop and put away my phone. Different from Wilkins, though, instead of putting tasks on my enough list, I put milestones.

I make goals for each day. My to-do list may be a mile long but for Thursday, I’m going to be satisfied with attending my two morning meetings, writing three articles, and responding to four key emails that I put off the day before. And at 6:30 I’ll turn off my laptop, put away my phone, have dinner with my family, talk to my children when they are in the tub, enjoy an episode of Breaking Bad with my husband after the kids go to sleep…and if I feel like it, because who am I kidding, check my email after that.

An enough list isn’t about putting a cap on your day; it’s more about prioritizing your time to make sure your to-do list doesn’t eat you alive. At least not today.

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