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Is the Real Estate Industry Doomed?

Can anyone give Realtors peace?

What will the real estate industry look like in 5 or 10 years? Will it be fractured? Defunct? Obsolete? What will replace it? Technology? Will transactions be streamlined so people (read Realtors) are no longer needed or desired? These rhetorical questions are being asked by Realtors at every gathering. No one has an answer – no one person has a consistent belief – no one person can give us peace. Everyone believes real estate is in a state of change – ushered in by others.

What about other professions?

I had been a practicing registered nurse for nearly 25 years. I learned one valuable lesson – there are some things that cannot be replaced by technology. Barbers, chefs, nurses, doctors, and plumbers. The human hand, and yes – human judgement is instrumental to these professions. What about Realtors? Can Realtors be replaced by technology ?

An old trick.

I’m reminded of an old teaching trick I used with my clinical nursing students. Presume a man has just entered the ER after a serious accident involving a power saw and his right hand. (sorry for the image – but go with it) I’d ask my students to “assess the patient”. They went in the room, gathered information and came out to present their results. I’d ask them once again to go “assess the patient”. They’d enter the room, listen to his lungs, evaluate the bleeding, check his pulses, pupils – they would do a more in-depth physical exam, and again present their results. Once again I would ask them to “assess the patient”. Exasperated – they would say – “But we HAVE assessed the patient – 2 times now”! My response – no they had not. This time, I told them “find out WHY he had the accident – did he black out? does he have a history of heart problems? Does he have a history of seizures? What about his medications – does he take blood thinners? Is he diabetic? When did he last eat? Was he right hand dominant? A concert pianist, retired? Did he live alone? Couple this information with the PHYSICAL data they had collected in his exam, combine it together, synthesize it into a plan of care – and now you have “assessed” the patient! That moment was their epiphany. In my experience with nursing – the general public frequently summarizes the function of a nurse as someone who “passes pills and empties bedpans”. Anyone who knows a nurse, or has been taken care of by a nurse – knows this is an over simplistic depiction of a nurse. Much the same as simplifying Realtor duties as someone who “fills out contracts and shows houses”.

Can human judgement be replaced?

The world of real estate is all a flutter with MLS data, online transactions, publicly available information, tax data, data sharing, lead conversion – all centered around the over simplistic view of what a Realtor does. Yes – MLS data and writing contracts are important like physical exams are important in “assessing” a patient, but the judgement side of the process – the human side is the 800 pound gorilla commonly overlooked. I don’t believe a computer will replace the judgement a Realtor provides. I don’t believe technology can anticipate the market, read the “tells” of a buyer or seller, coach a seller or buyer through negotiations, explain the process of escrow and hold the clients hand through closing, nor inspect a property for title encumbrances or encroachments. Technology has its place. Efficiency can be gained with technology – but technology is a tool. It helps the Realtor provide better judgement and function more efficiently. There is data, and there is information – two distinctly different subjects.

What’s Next for the Real Estate Industry?

The human body is amazing. The healthcare industry doesn’t need to intervene in every malady that afflicts man. Much of the time, the body takes care of itself. It is the healthcare system we engage when things don’t go well, or when one needs someone who understands the human body to tell them all will be well. So are we doomed in real estate to be replaced by technology? Certainly some parts of our duties can be more efficient with technology. Some functions can be automated. Can the human hand and judgement be removed from real estate? Many will try to replace the Realtor, some will improve inefficient aspects of the industry, but my view is the human Realtor will remain so long as humans do. Please share your comments!

Image Credit: The Future of Work… Complete with Robots by Nicole Kemp

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