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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

Malls repurposed as housing could bring back discrimination

(EDITORIAL) Recycling dead malls into community colleges and libraries are smart ideas, but is there a deeper, darker implication behind the affordable housing idea?

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malls changed into housing

Clever investors want to transform defunct malls into affordable housing. This sounds like a win-win-win at first. It’s helpful, useful, practical–and doesn’t necessarily require federal funding. What a warm and fuzzy idea that can help people and make use of existing structures. Yaaaay!

We need more affordable housing. Nobody will deny that. According to Pew Trusts, the 2018 U.S. housing market was at its least affordable in ten years. Adaptive reuse is a brilliant idea on paper. However, “affordable housing” is not merely a phrase; it holds legal connotations and requirements, both on national and state levels. It’s…complex.

Then my inner skeptic popped up and whispered in my ear, “Careful. What if it’s a trap?” History tells us to be wary of separating people by socioeconomic status (often–though not always–related to race). I started thinking about the long, troubled history of the “projects” in the U.S., which served to effectively segregate low-income families from the post-New Deal era until modern days. This in turn led to less investment in the area, meaning residents had to contend with fewer schools, grocery stores, public transportation routes, and the like.

Perhaps the adaptive reuse of the malls is not so nefarious. After all, these malls are already in residential areas. Therefore, one hopes, decent schools, supermarkets, and public transportation already exist, just as in other areas of a given city. The residents of one mall, one housing development, should not significantly change the housing market and available local resources by much, right? It will be a seamless integration of a whole new group of people into a neighborhood, right? We hope that’s true.

Maybe it won’t be a case of white flight, AKA “There goes the neighborhood” all over again. After all, the ethnic diversity isn’t specified beyond “workforce, student and 55 plus housing,” future residents, as defined by Richard Rubin, CEO of Repvblic, the company leading the charge to invest in old malls and big box stores. It sounds like a positive thing that the new, “recycled” housing developments he’s investing in don’t require federal funding to get built.

Affordable housing is a challenge wherever you look. Investors in multi-million dollar, sexy and modern high rises aren’t traditionally going after the affordable housing market, because what’s in it for them? In Austin, where The American Genius is based, developers already balk at the idea of including the mandated affordable housing units required for new construction. Some developers have even paid the city millions of dollars to get around the requirement.

Adaptive reuse by recycling dead malls into affordable housing feels like a creative, beneficial idea. Yet, I encourage us to delve a bit deeper and ask the hard questions. I mean, there must be a reason there are more movies about hookers with hearts of gold than real estate investors with hearts of gold. This calls for cautious optimism, but also reading between the lines and paying close attention to the details as this type of housing develops.

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Op/Ed

Want to move past your burnout? Stop using multiple lists

(EDITORIAL) How my evolving understanding of “burnout” helped me learn an important distinction between being busy and being productive.

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too busy to burnout

When I used to hear the word “burnout” I would picture the freaks from the gone-much-too-soon series, Freaks and Geeks, as they would bum around outside, smoking in between classes. Now when I hear the word “burnout,” I think of myself a few years ago as my brain was being fried by life.

I wasn’t smoking between classes, rather running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure out how to manage all of my tasks at hand. I’d make a to-do list, see everything I had to do, and drown in overwhelm.

I’d spend my days fretting over how busy I was, and nights catching up with friends via phone, talking about how busy I was and how there just wasn’t enough time in the day.

Notice that nowhere in here was I actually doing anything productive. I fell into a vicious hole of being so consumed with how much I had to do, I wasn’t taking the time to do anything but stress.

At first, it made me feel interesting and somewhat important that I had so much going on. I quickly realized that no one cares and it’s not that interesting (I also quickly remembered how much I love to just relax and not have something planned every day of the week).

This is where I learned the of the most important lessons to date – being busy does not equal being productive.

It got to a point where I was running on fumes and eventually had this epiphany that how I was operating was doing nothing to help me. This was in part brought on by seeing someone close to me behave the same way, and I was able to actually look at how defeating it was.

From there, I made it a point to change my tune. Instead of wasting time writing and re-writing to do lists, I challenged myself to make one master to do list and accomplish at least one item upon completion of writing the list. This helped shake off the cobwebs and I was able to feel a bit of weight off of my shoulders.

The ideas surrounding the hustle mentality had me so consumed and all I was doing was hustling my way to nowhere. After feeling the burnout, seeing someone else operate that same way, and seeing that hustle mentality mocked, I was finally able to break free and get stuff done.

And, guess what? I have even more to do now, but feel more calm and collected than ever. I just have to repeat the mantra: being busy does not equal being productive. Being productive – especially in silence – is so much better and much more rewarding.

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Op/Ed

10 Productivity tips to get the most out of yourself and your team

(EDITORIAL) Keeping up productivity can be a hard goal to shoot for, so sometimes It helps to see what others are doing. Here’s our list of 10 ways to stay productive

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productivity in a team

Funny thing about inverse relationships, they are so counterintuitive. Like working hard. That is an example of doing what you think will be beneficial, but usually just makes the job what you expected, hard. When it comes to productivity, harder isn’t smarter, as the saying goes.

And, if you are sick of the word “hack” we hear you. But, finding ease in work will allow you to be more productive and with better results.

We offer you this list of stories to meet your productivity needs. Here’s to finding work-life balance, seeking ease in the moment and rocking out a productive day!

1. If you’re trying to be more productive, don’t focus so much on time management. Instead, consider energy management to get more out of less effort.

2. Meetings suck, wait I mean they are a time suck. Yeah, that’s it. Everyone knows some meetings are unnecessary and could easily be handled through an email. Yet, many supervisors are hesitant. But, there’s an app for that now. Here’s to meeting less and actually getting work done.

3. Kondo your desk, for God’s sake. If you say you are more productive with a messy desk, yet you have a sandwich from last week and those TPS reports you were supposed to turn in weeks ago somewhere under a pile of crap, you need to clean up your act. Nobody wants to get a report covered in coffee, chocolate and mustard.

4. Are you agile? I mean, really. Is your team as productive as it could be? Whether you are a PM or a real estate agent, if you need a tool that helps your team stay agile and nimble, this will help you and your crew kick ass and take names.

5. Cut the team some slack. Too many messages and you forget what you were originally doing. Slack thought about that and has a way to make the app work for your team so you can be more effective and keep the workflow moving.

6. Working remotely has some serious benefits, notwithstanding working in your PJ’s. Convincing your boss you will actually work and not binge on Netflix may be the challenge. And, for many folks, working from home is a much more productive option. Yet, anyone who has worked remotely also knows it can be easy to get caught up in work and miss human interactions, leading to burnout. Here’s how to make the remote transition work for you.

7. Sometimes more is less. That is the truth when it comes to work where quality beats quantity all day long. Our 9-5 workdays may be good for some, but not for all. And, putting in 80-hour weeks may seem righteous dude, but what do you really accomplish? Kick productivity in the butt and consider are you using your hours wisely.

8. Want to be a baller in the workplace? Then get focused. According to the experts, those at the top of their game aren’t necessarily working harder or smarter, they are just hyper-focused. Here are some good habits to have if you want to get ahead.

9. If it seems everyone has a podcast, you are correct! Some of those podcasts are useful, especially if you are trying to get ahead and find ways to use your productivity to the fullest. Here’s a list of podcasts that will fill your free time with useful information.

10. Creative folks love to start new projects. They can be like kids in the candy store any time they have a new idea they must explore. The problem is that whether you are an artist, writer, graphic/web/software designer or developer, you may start a lot of projects and finish few. Here’s how to finish what you start!

By now, you know what information to keep and you are ready to get your rear in gear. We wish you all the success with your future projects. We know you will be diligent and hyper-productive!

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