The tech world is talking more and more about artificial intelligence (AI) and other forms of technology that could supposedly emulate some of the things human beings can do. Does this mean that REALTORS® are replaceable by AI?
The logic goes that AI use will be able to anticipate our needs and wants more accurately and more quickly than we humans. And as we use AI and devices with AI, they ‘get to know us’ even better. The move to AI, through smart devices, smart searches and predictive thinking, is already underway. Some real estate brokerages even automate the online on-boarding of new clients through an AI ‘bot.’
On the flip side, real estate buyers and sellers have been harnessing the human intelligence of Realtors through agency relationships for decades, for good reason and with great success. They believe that putting the knowledge, abilities and experience you have accumulated to work on their behalf will get a better result than they could achieve on their own.
If there ever comes a time that consumers think they won’t get a better result by using you, they will simply stop calling. So, what exactly do our clients want from us that technology cannot deliver, at least not yet?
According to an Inman article I read recently, this is what home buyers and sellers said they valued most about their real estate agent (in descending order):
Honesty and integrity:
- honesty and integrity
- knowledge of the purchase process
- knowledge of the real estate market
- communication skills
- negotiation skills
One of the most critical things for a client is to be able to trust you. They need to have confidence that everything you do and say is the truth; the whole truth and nothing but the truth. An honest person is going to tell you the truth. A professional with integrity will never put their interests before the interests of their client. That means sharing everything you know, not just what you want your clients to know. If a consumer doesn’t think you are honest and have integrity, they will never become a client.Knowledge of the purchase process:
They are hiring you in part because you know things they don’t. If you can’t articulate and apply your practical knowledge of the buying or selling process, then what good are you? You need to be able to talk to your client about their goals, what steps are needed to achieve them, and how you’re going to help them navigate from start to finish. There are a lot of potholes on this road and you need to know what they are and how to avoid them.Responsiveness:
I don’t know about you, but when I reach out for help, I want the help to be there. I get irritated fast if I can’t contact someone and it prevents me from accomplishing what I’m doing. Talk to clients about communication and their expectations of you in that regard so they can find you when they need you.Knowledge of the real estate market:
Real estate is such a hot topic in our area that everyone seems to have thoughts and opinions, but they will rarely be as fully informed as you are. They will generally be informed only on what they are specifically looking for. With so much information available today, people are doing a lot of research, having constant conversations with friends and family and will have formed strong opinions before they even talk to you.
However, they need you to interpret all that data to ensure they’re considering all the relevant facts. For example, they may know a lot about two bedroom condos in White Rock between $350k and $425k, but they may not know about interest rates and financing options, current market incentives, strata documents and why they’re important, clauses to include in a contract, what’s negotiable and what’s not, external market forces that may be relevant, stigmas they may not be aware of, and other factors that could be key to whether they proceed with the transaction. There’s a lot more to consider than price and clients depend on you to fill in the whole picture so they can make an intelligent, fully informed decision.Communication skills:
Your client needs to feel you understand them. What they need, what they want, what they can afford and what they are afraid of. Not only that, they need to know you can get things done and communicate effectively not only with them, but also with the other parties in the transaction.Negotiation skills:
Some call it an art and most of us at least recognize that some people are better at it than others. At bare minimum, the public expects you to be a better negotiator than they are. That means you do more than hit ‘send’ to deliver your offer to the listing agent if you’re a buyer agent.
I love a Maya Angelou quote. She said, “Words mean more than what is written on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.” I don’t think she was thinking about contracts when she wrote that, but I think it applies perfectly.
An offer to purchase, well-presented by an organized, prepared professional, is an utterly different document than one that is emailed, printed and dropped on a table. That means not advising a seller to dissuade buyer agents from presenting offers in-person just because it’s easier or more convenient. There will be times when the buyer agent can’t present an offer, but I believe in-person presentations are of paramount importance. You and your client will both be in a better position to determine the real value of an offer if it is properly presented and explained by the buyer’s agent.
We all need to be careful not to train the public to think that the click of a button is the same as a face-to-face meeting and discussion with a professional agent, otherwise we will be replaced by AI one day. If you are not personally impacting the outcome of a transaction, what are you being paid for?
Note that all the headings above are skills that can be learned and improved on. It is also worth noting that none specifically refer to technology and yet technology definitely has an important role to play in a real estate transaction from start to finish.
Your clients have access to all the technology they need to complete a real estate transaction on their own and a few will. However, I believe the vast majority want and need more. They want the human touch. They want the confidence that comes from having a deeper understanding of the whole process that they can only get through engaging a professional with the intelligence and experience required for the job. And there’s nothing artificial about that.