The days of viewing tech as ancillary in real estate have disappeared. The race to deliver the best agent- and client-facing tools and resources rages on as several brokers agree that embracing digital innovation is critical to succeeding in the future.
Four panelists discussed the topic at length during a break-out session of RISMedia’s 2021 Real Estate CEO & Agent Leadership Exchange. Co-presented by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), the exclusive, full-day virtual event attracted thousands of industry professionals on Sept. 14.
Prem Luthra, president of Elm Street Technology, led the “Tech Innovations that Should Be on Your Radar” broker-track panel that unpacked emerging tech trends and how real estate brokerages of all sizes can adapt and innovate within their companies to stay competitive.
The panel consisted of Josh Harley, CEO and founder of Fathom Realty; Matthew O’Conner, COO, Terrie O’Connor REALTORS®; Denis Pepin, broker partner at United Real Estate Professionals; and Ryan Raveis; co-president, William Raveis Real Estate.
“Having been in this industry on the tech side for three decades, I have realized you have a spectrum,” Luthra said before asking each panelist to share their approaches to either building or outsourcing technology solutions at their respective companies.
Harley highlighted the benefits of the former, noting that Fathom opted to develop all of the platforms and resources that its agents use.
“Ultimately, this gives us greater control over the functionality of the platform and can begin to differentiate ourselves from all the other brokerages,” Harley said. “When you license with third-party vendors, you lose some of that, and you risk looking like many other brokerages.”
Pepin offered a favorable perspective on working with vendors to deliver tech solutions that focus on what his agents are using and missing.
“Technology is changing so rapidly, and I think we are going to see it exponentially increase even farther as we go along here,” he said. “Our belief is that we will look to those that specialize in that sector and depend on them to give us and feed us exactly what we need.”
Raveis and O’Conner also discussed their hybrid approaches to meeting their tech needs, with Raveis adding, “We found that we don’t want to spend all our time researching and developing tech for technology’s sake. Instead, we want to find what are the relevant technologies out there and sow them together, so it’s a seamless experience for our agents.”
Looking toward the industry’s future, each panelist agreed that technology’s footprint in real estate is destined to grow, and provided the trends that they predict will mature in the coming 12 to 14 months.
“I think we’ve seen such an inflow of capital into the real estate market in general and real estate finance markets that it is going to continue,” Raveis said, adding that the growing pools of vendors will continue to bring new products to the industry.
Pepin expects artificial intelligence (AI) to creep into the tech already in use within real estate as companies look to differentiate themselves.
Harley agreed, adding that the growth of video and virtual platforms exacerbated by the pandemic will continue to play a part in the industry moving forward.
“When COVID hit, we didn’t skip a beat, and yet we saw so many companies become paralyzed for a month or two as they try to figure out how to operate,” Harley said. “Now, I see more people trying to figure out how to do that.”
Despite the growing significance of tech in the industry, each panelist drew a consensus that agent buy-in and adoption of new digital tools and resources still pose a challenge that companies need to address.
O’Conner suggested that agents tend to reject new tools because they don’t recognize how to improve their businesses.
“Part of it is just making sure that you have the right tools that are addressing the needs of the agents and helping them address the needs of the clients,” O’Conner said.
Harley echoed similar sentiments, adding that the path toward building better adoption is to focus on the benefits of the tools and not the features when talking to your agents.
“Help them to understand why they want to use the product, not just how to use the product, and then provide online and in-person training and workshops on how to use it,” Harley said.
RISMedia is providing free access to select sessions from the event. Watch a recap of this session below:
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Real Estate CEO & Agent Leadership Exchange 2021 Sponsors
Buffini & Company
Center for REALTOR® Development
Inside Real Estate
Real Estate Webmasters
Realty ONE Group
Elm Street Technology
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®
Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®)
David Knox Real Estate Training
Pillar To Post Home Inspectors
Sherri Johnson Coaching & Consulting
Stay tuned for additional coverage from RISMedia’s Real Estate CEO & Agent Exchange.
Jordan Grice is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email him your real estate news ideas to [email protected].