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"Man vs. Machine"... Is Zillow the Amazon of the real estate business?

How can we survive Man vs. Machine?

In our most-read blog post to date, Dale Warner made a big case about why web-purchased leads should only account for 5% of your marketing budget, if not 0%. His argument was based on some real data about percentages of agent lead sourcing, that less than 11% of our leads actually come from web-purchased.

While excellent points were made, we were also very impressed with the comments that we received from our readers, both supportive and in counterpoint.

“I've generated revenue of 9 times the cost of the leads and now I actually have people to put into my database.” - Carol H

“Don't fall asleep at the wheel again and be complacent with just spending money on leads and forget that our sellers are coming from referrals and past clients RIGHT NOW.” - Kevin V

Kevin, in fact, wrote a very long and strong argument on the critical importance of taking a holistic approach against websites like Zillow. So we decided to ask him to come be a part of our podcast. The launch of our new podcast is quickly approaching but here’s a clip:

It seems the whole world is quickly becoming more and more disrupted by online merchants and resources. Just as agents are plotting their next moves to counter industry giants such as Zillow, so are retailers at the prospect of Amazon interfering with their customer relationships. Paired with advancing technology in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), it’s easy to feel anxious about how we’ll all fare in the face-off of human vs. machine.

But there’s good news: real estate transactions are highly emotional. They require an empathetic touch that websites will never be able to match. For instance, the best agents have inside knowledge about neighborhoods that websites just can’t access. So while some investors might not be emotionally invested when purchasing properties, couples and families will always demand a real estate agent’s personal attention and specialized knowledge.

Just today in fact, Keller Williams echoed this very sentiment in their brand new blog post, Five Tips to Becoming The Go-To Neighborhood Expert, a definite worthwhile read on this subject.

But What About VR?

The thought of couples touring homes virtually, in the comfort of their own living rooms, wearing VR headsets with data-driven HUD displays, is sure to make you to feel a bit uncomfortable.

Could this be the technology that overpowers the need for a personal touch? Answer: Only if you let it. (But these are things we should all be thinking about now!)

I can tell you that as long as we can help it, Realvolve plans on being the agent’s wingman in cyberspace. We ask ourselves every day, ‘Could a website like Zillow become smart enough and fast enough that could potentially cut in half the typical closing time by way of highly automated systems?’ If it turns out the answer is yes, then you can trust that Realvolve is going to make sure we support agents with even better automation—on a much more personalized level. Realvolve workflows are already a lifesaver for agents all over the world, but we really get excited when we imagine how our technology will evolve in parallel to the general advancement in our industry.

What Can Agents Do?

Here are three important ways to ensure you stay on top of current trends and continue to build a successful real estate business amid the rapid growth of technology:

Be the local expert

As Kevin explains in the video above, the solution is to become the expert in the neighborhoods you represent. Not an expert; THE expert. Learn as much as you can about your local communities. Take the time to research trends and forecasting. Show your clients that your knowledge far surpasses that of any online service.

Embrace technology

Second, agents need to embrace technology, not run from it. This article, published by Forbes, describes 10 technologies that agents are most excited about. Keep your head on a swivel and make a daily effort to stay up to speed with real estate-related tech news. (By the way, have you seen our recent blog post, 9 Lesser-Known Tech Tools for Real Estate Agents)? Another great resource will be our own podcast—click here to register for launch details.)

If you’re concerned about how VR could impact the industry, don’t sit around and wait for that to happen. Rather, make a point to be among the first on board. There are already companies who are building VR resources for real estate agents—VR Global is one worth checking out. Get in there and find out how you can be a part of the tech movement. Nurture relationships with potential VR partners—your favorite photographer, for instance. Start learning and preparing now.

Establish yourself as the innovative agent in town

Once you’ve made a move towards being the most innovative agent in town, it’s up to you to spread the word! Your advancement towards the evolution of real estate, no matter how big or small, should be part of your brand. Mention your virtual tours in all of your marketing materials.

Try to score some time on camera by reaching out to your local news. Whether sincere or by obligation, local news stations are always looking for a readily accessible story. They might be practically begging for a story about the local agent who’s using tech in new ways to differentiate his or her business! (Before joining Realvolve, I had a business of my own and I was featured twice by the Denver local news…all I had to do was ask!)

Whether or not you’re the first agent in your community to embrace VR and other new technology, you’ll likely be the first to show it off on the local news.

So, is Zillow the Amazon of tomorrow?

Maybe! And even if they are, Agents can still find ways to benefit from their rich resources.  People will always prefer the personal touch that only you, the local agent, can provide, but only if you really do strive to provide that value. Continue to provide your clients with on-the-ground insight about your community that a web service is simply unable to acquire.

This isn’t the end of the real estate agent—just the agent who fails to innovate. And that’s where Realvolve has you covered.

Mark Cafiero

Mark is passionate about the evolving nature of content marketing, is a creative problem-solver, and feels strongly that the secret to success for business lies within an empathetic approach to understanding customer needs and wants. Mark is Realvolve's newest addition as their Director of Marketing Strategy. Mark is proud to have some of his accomplishments featured in Timothy Ferriss' 4 Hour Workweek (extended version).

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