The real estate industry is constantly changing in tandem with the emerging technologies. In fact, besides becoming a daily part of our lives, technologies are also disrupting the real estate industry business model.
We hear from KW Malaysia regional deputy operating principle Jonathan Lee, real estate negotiators Joanne Ong and Winnie Chong and senior real estate negotiator Naqiuddin Mohd Derus their thoughts on the changing environment of the real estate industry and what it means to be a tech-enabled agent.
With the business model being disrupted by the usage of technologies, how will property agents navigate the scene? Will they be enabled by technologies in their way of doing business or will they be displaced by technologies?
Commenting on this, Naqiuddin shares his concern that a business model that is driven by technology will affect the loss of human interaction where selling or buying big ticket items such as property involves emotional processes, thereby unable to fill the gap needed to process the emotions involved in the purchasing and reselling process.
Besides the missing gap of this emotional process, he elaborated that companies or agents that are driven by technology are not hyper local in a sense that they are unable to understand the community and the culture of a certain area that gives value to potential buyers interested in a specific neighbourhood.
Chong further supported the comments made by Naqiuddin where she foresees that the technology driven business model may not work in the sub-sale market.
“A motivated agent is needed in closing deals as the process requires close relationships, good negotiation skills and strong market knowledge,” Chong explained.
Being a tech-enabled agent
No doubt that technology has become essential in aiding our daily lives, but to put it aside completely is unnecessary. Instead, Ong believes that agents need to keep up with the latest technology and utilise it to their advantage in order to provide cutting edge solutions for their clients.
She explained that an agent who prefers conventional marketing and not using technology to their advantage will lose out in terms of their time, money and opportunities.
Adding to that, as the internet has given vast information for clients to scour; Lee believes that instead of chasing for clients, agents should focus on promoting their businesses online to ensure the longevity of their business.
“Agents that don’t embrace digital marketing would not be able to sustain their businesses in the long-term. I believe that there is still some time for agents to reinvent and scale up at the digital level.
Creating digital touch points, generating leads online and growing their database are some of the ways agents could focus on, said Lee.
Naqiuddin weighs in that agents should use technology to their advantage instead of having technology to dictate their business.
“If agents rely on agent-enabled tech, these agents will always be in the passenger seats - having no control of their destiny and the market they are working in.”
This is because these agents will have less control over their expenses as lead generation is getting more expensive (sometimes even up to RM100 per lead). He explained that this is an inadequate costing for agents as they may not necessarily be good quality leads.
“In the end, someone else is taking part of your pie,” he said.
Providing value to clients as a tech-enabled agent
Lee cited an example from a survey that was conducted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) where 88% of the buyers have used agents to help them purchase a home while 89% of sellers employed professionals to market their home.
“This shows that consumers want to interact with smart and competent agents in their home buying and selling journey. Agents that can interpret data for their clients and bridge the gap between the known and unknown would become the agent of choice,” said Lee.
As KW Reapfield aims to empower its agents to embrace technology in aiding their real estate business, being a tech-enabled agent meant that technology serves as a tool in aiding the agent to perform their role for their clients.
Sharing on how they add values through their adaptation to technology, Chong shares that she has set up her own Facebook page solely for her real estate business. This page is also where she will share real estate updates and interesting articles related to real estate. Additionally, she utilises KW’s tool, the KW Command, which helps generate leads and follow-up on the leads in the database in a cost-effective manner.
Naqiuddin, on the other hand, provides community and lifestyle updates for the TTDI neighbourhoods on Facebook and Instagram while also providing 360° virtual tours of listed properties for his clients.
With the utilisation of technology, Ong noted that agents still retain their fiduciary duty of assisting the customer’s experience in the selling or buying process. Therefore, transparency and communication are still vital for both parties so that seller and buyer are able to make an informed decision.
“As an agent, we owe a fiduciary duty to our client on top of the expected work scope of an agent. Selling a house for our client means more than hanging a banner outside a house. It is about informing and educating our clients on the current market, the buyer’s behaviour and needs, and adopting effective marketing strategies,” said Ong as she believes that communication and transparency are important in real estate transactions.
“We take our client’s goals and needs very seriously. We have a consistent communication channel and reporting system to ensure that we are always aligned with our client’s objectives,” Ong adds.
Lee said that the threats of technology-based companies are real and its disruption towards the real estate agent's business is inevitable. He hopes that agents will take the initiative to move towards a platform-based business before tech companies take over and displace agents from their role.
However, he also noted that agents should not be caught up in focusing too much on technologies and keep a bigger picture in mind.
“Agents are so focused on generating sales that they miss out on the bigger picture of building a business that can provide them with consistent income every month.”
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