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Why relational service will always win over technology

By Geoff Smith

In the few decades that I have been a real estate agent, I’ve seen my fair share of market cycles and industry disruptions, but nothing quite compares to the technological shift we have seen through the current COVID pandemic. As our industry continues to adapt to the economic landscape, technology will inherently be by our side supporting what we do and allowing us to continue serving our clients while also keeping our communities safe; but we also need to make sure we don’t lose sight of the traditional services and values that our industry is built on.

While many agents are using automated processes, I believe personal service with phone calls and face-to-face conversations, connecting with people to truly understand their property goals and building long lasting relationships will never be replaced by technology and should always come first. Big data is also placing a wealth of knowledge at our fingertips but also seeing home values bundled into broad categories that don’t reflect their unique value; and online tools such as video walk-throughs and augmented reality are increasing functional accessibility for buyers, while at the same time creating new barriers around relationship building for agents.

Digital Communication

Digital communication, such as email, SMS and web marketing aren’t anything new, but I’ve certainly seen our industry’s reliance on them increase over the past 12-18 months. While digital comms are increasing our reach and providing us with the ability to connect with ten times the number of people than ever before, we need to be mindful that they don’t reduce our ability to build relationships with each individual and develop a deeper understanding of our clients’ needs through what is most likely one of the biggest emotional transactions of their life.

The introduction of online property platforms, such as Realestate and Domain have broadened our reach, allowing us to promote properties to local, national and even international audiences all at once. This exposure has seen the quantity of enquiries increase tenfold over the last 20 years, but not necessarily the quality.

Over the past 12 months, the Ray White Lower North Shore Group have sold 25 properties in Mosman, NSW within the $10m+ price range. These buyers were a mix of Lower North Shore locals, Sydney-siders and a small number of interstate and international/expats. Each of these markets required a tailored approach to meet the needs of the individual and their location.

Technology enabled us to connect with these interstate and overseas buyers and allowed us to provide them with an equally valuable and personalised service, including video conferencing platforms for virtual meetings and tailored property walk-throughs. However, it is important to note that while we pride ourselves on delivering exceptional service to all enquirers, the local and Sydney buyers accounted for over 75% of the purchases in this market, telling us that our most qualified buyers are the ones right in front of us.

Big Data

Industry websites such as RPData, REA and ABS have had a massive impact on the real estate industry through its ability to collect and digest large amounts of data instantly. By using websites that compile and analyse suburb specific data, including demographics, psychographics, geographic location, traffic and more, we are now able to offer insights on a property’s value quicker than ever before.

This is great for spec homes, but at the top end of the market where many of the homes we sell are sold off market, have a unique footprint or hold historical relevance, “Big Data” doesn’t have the ability to use human intuition to ensure it compares apples with apples. It does a great job at getting us over the first hurdle quickly, but the rest of the job requires a hands-on understanding of the area, the buyer pool and their needs, as well as the many intricacies of a home that make it unique and valuable for a buyer.

Home Presentation

With over half all home buyers using the internet to search for their new home before speaking to an agent, tools such as augmented reality and video walk throughs, have become a big hit to help buyers experience a space without the need to leave their own home. These tools are great for helping buyers evaluate if a home meets their functional checklist, but it’s the connection they feel to the home from physically being in the space, coupled with the agent’s ability to tailor their experience, build value and establish an emotional connection between the buyer and the home that will get the best result.

If we think of a virtual walk-through in the same way that we think of an in-home inspection, there are a few obvious draw backs. A virtual walk-through is recorded once and every prospective buyer experiences the home in the same way. With an in-home or personalised video walk-through, the agent speaks with the buyer before-hand and then tailors the experience to build value in the home by focusing on the features, opportunities and unrealised potential that align with the individual buyer’s needs.

Without that initial consultation, agents need to first and foremost spend time building relationships with buyers to develop their intuition and understanding of the wants and needs of like-minded buyers in the area. Only then can you build a compelling value proposition into the online experience that will create enough value to encourage a prospective buyer to take the next step.

While the current climate’s nudge to become more technologically proficient has made our industry more agile and efficient, we also need to be mindful that first and foremost, real estate is fundamentally about building and maintaining relationships. We connect buyers with sellers, people with people. Technology does a great job at supporting our industry throughout this process, but human intuition and values will always be the foundational pillars for delivering a deep and considered service and customer experience.

If you have any questions or would like to know how my team and I use technology to genuinely service our clients and enrich our process, get in touch.

Geoff Smith, Director
Ray White Lower North Shore Group
geoff.smith@raywhite.com
0418 643 923

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