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Agent extinction is not inevitable — if you’re on top of your game

January 16, 2020 | Inman

Technology is transforming every industry including ours. We need to stay sharp to survive


Photo courtesy of
CT757fan / Getty Images

Just as fighter pilots make critical time-sensitive decisions and are entrusted to fly multimillion dollar machinery, agents in a commodified market have to adjust and deploy their knowledge, expertise and situational awareness to provide top-shelf service to clients, who entrust them to maneuver and execute on their behalf.

Let it be known — I am an aviation geek. Always have been. And as such, I have watched the new Top Gun: Maverick movie trailer more times than I’d like to admit. In fact, I am so excited for the upcoming flick that I am renting out an entire theater for the premier and throwing a client appreciation party that I hope everyone will enjoy.

But as I sat with my eyes glued to my laptop to watch the trailer for the umpteenth time, it occurred to me that there is something greater afoot. At 1:58 of the trailer, there is a pivotal moment when the movie’s commanding officer gravely intones: “The end is inevitable Maverick, your kind is headed for extinction.”

Maverick responds: “Maybe so sir, but not today.”

How does this relate to real estate? In my mind, the commanding officer symbolizes the real estate juggernauts, the online leads and platforms like Opendoor, Offerpad, Sundae, and more, who are trying to dictate where the real estate market is going.

As for Maverick? He represents the flesh and blood Realtors and local area experts like you and me. And this entire scenario feels a lot like what we are currently experiencing as iBuyers and online leads try to eliminate the traditional real estate agent.

But are you going to cower in fear and let something as impersonal as iBuying push you out of the business you love? We can’t let that happen.

The commodification of the real estate transaction

I recently tuned into The Tom Ferry Podcast Experience, Episode 37, 8 Ways to Become Undisruptable in Real Estate,” and Ferry hit the nail on the head. If you have time to listen to the whole podcast, I highly recommend it, but it’s minutes 21:00 to 23:00 that really grabbed me. Here is an excerpt:

“The consumer trusts Uber drivers more than real estate agents. That’s not a good sign my friends. And like some agents that don’t sell houses are also Uber drivers, so maybe there is a crossover. There’s definitely a connection.

“But my point to you is, in the world we live in today … we are going through the industrialization of a real estate transaction. That what Henry Ford did for automobiles, [and] what Amazon did for eCommerce is happening in our space.

“So if your expertise was nurturing a single transaction in a file, from contract to close, you’re going to become obsolete. That work is going to be done by a machine, by a robot, outsourced to somebody else, and done far better than any one of us inside this room. And then the question becomes, if that’s your thing, what are you going to do now? Think about it.

“If you are in New York City, board packs need to be disrupted … everybody in New York City knows what I’m saying. And that’s going to be done, just like, about $2 billion dollars that have been invested in our industry that are only focused on one thing, the transaction management piece.

“How do we make that so turnkey, so easy, that the agent hits a button and magic happens and the buyers and sellers are taken care of? Now, will we have to negotiate crazy people off the fence? Will we have to deal with the other agents? What do you guys think?

“Of course! But the transaction and the paperwork, done. What are you going to do when that happens?”

Will the fighter pilot always have a place? Does Maverick’s kind live on forever?

You bet we will! No robot, algorithm or flashy new platform can replace good, old-fashioned, human interaction. It’s that plain and simple. But it’s up to us to ensure we don’t get left behind.

The moral of the story — be the best you can be. It’s crucial to continually take the steps to become as highly skilled and highly trained as you can. Know your markets backward and forward.

Know your clients’ needs backwards and forwards. Be like a fighter pilot: You need to use your heightened situational awareness, knowledge, networking and multitasking skills at full throttle during every transaction.

Pilots make critical time-sensitive decisions and are entrusted to fly multimillion dollar machinery. In the same way, our clients trust us, the experts, to help them make what is arguably one of the largest, if not the largest financial decision they will ever make.

I am talking going beyond sales, relationships and results. I am saying, nurture your sphere of influence. Master your customer relationship management (CRM). Be ready to act courageously and decisively, negotiate ferociously, synthesize a lot of information quickly, take risks and think on your feet.

Continuously hone your strengths and work to strengthen your weaknesses. Focus on increasing your skills in these areas and real estate agents won’t be headed for extinction, nor will there be an end in sight for our kind.

Obviously iBuyers have a place in the future. Just like CarMax did for the automotive resale industry and drones did for modern military aviation, next-generation ideas are welcome. But only to an extent.

Technology is something to test out, embrace and use when it makes sense for you and your clients, not let it overrun your industry and allow it to eliminate your position. And like players in other industries, we might have to adjust our roles in the industry, but they’ll never go away.

In summary, we must use technology to stay competitive, but don’t let technological trends replace you. Now, who’s with me?

Troy Palmquist is the founder and broker of The Address in Southern California. Follow him on Facebook, or connect with him on LinkedIn.

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