Traditional agents will be replaced?

2 minute read

In the new movie Jumper, the hero is an otherwise normal guy who just happens to be able to jump forward in time–at will. For the real estate industry, the future never arrives so quickly. Instead it comes in dribs and drabs, day by day.

Still, the future always arrives.

From Peter Williams’ entire presentation the other day, there is one line that I can still quote from memory.

He said that, because of the web, in the future, “Traditional agents will not be replaced by technology…they will be replaced by agents with technology.”

Here’s an example. When my wife and I decided to relocate to Sydney from Manhattan, we didn’t have Saturday newspapers freight shipped to us from the other side of the world. We just got out the laptop.

In the eight or nine months that we were looking, we contacted many agents. Some never got back to us and some were slow to get back to us.

One of the few who did reply promptly is the one who ultimately got a nice commission from selling us the unit we now live in. He didn’t have to meet us in person to close the deal because we bought the unit sight unseen. We even used the mortgage broker he recommended for our loan.

This agent at least partially and profitably embraced the new technology that is changing the real estate business. He responded to an unlikely internet lead and shepherded it along until it turned into a commission. We felt he had done a good job and communicated well throughout the process.

It’s not all roses, however, because after that he dropped the ball. We’ve lived in the unit he sold us for 16 months and–since we closed the transaction–we haven’t heard the word Boo from him. No email, no card, no visit. Because we are disorganized, we’ve lost his information. That means he’s lost a lifetime of potential business from us–after he went to the trouble of earning it the hard way.

Losing track of a customer could be understandable if this were 1979, or even 1995. But it’s 2008 and every agent today has the tools to never lose track of a customer.

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  • Greg Vincent
    Posted February 29, 2008 at 7:34 pm 0Likes

    Trying to embrace all the changes in technology over the past 10 years has been extremely difficult for non – technology conscious real estate agents. Sorry to have to inform the agents who struggled through these technology changes but that was only the start of it – basically the last 10 years was real estate 1.0.

    Real Estate 2.0 (web 2.0) has already started but it seems to be only serviced by a minute percentage of agents within Australia, yet the general public are pretty much ready for it now.

    From what I could see in my travels around real estate agents and from my previous experience in the industry, the difficult part for most agents is the daily necessity to list , prepare advertisements, negotiate offers, execute contracts, manage existing vendors service expectations, deal with enquiries, prospect for new business, conduct open homes, give feedback after inspections, follow up on appraisals done and generally keep in touch with new & past clients – why when they have difficulty doing all that in one day would they want to then set up a their own blog, etc? (Those tasks were for a salesperson – imagine the scenario for a principal who is also one of the top sales producers for the office with a rent roll too?)

    This is where one of the fundamental blockages to agents embracing technology seems to exist & it’s not because they don’t want to it’s because they have the fundamental need to thrive or at the very least survive.

    Unfortunately, as this is the case in the majority of agents offices I’m afraid that Peter Williams quote

  • PaulD
    Posted March 1, 2008 at 9:43 am 0Likes

    What an insightful post. I don’t think I have ever seen someone sum it all up like that !! Well done.

  • Nick
    Posted March 2, 2008 at 1:31 am 0Likes

    Hey Dave and Greg,

  • Dave Platter
    Posted March 3, 2008 at 10:35 am 0Likes

    Nick, that’s very interesting. I’m afraid I’m not up to speed on personality profiling. But what you say does make sense: a good salesperson might not be the best person to come up with marketing and technology strategies.

    Perhaps those good salespeople can rely on others in their office, or even marketing agencies, for help? What do you think?

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted March 3, 2008 at 1:46 pm 0Likes

    Thanks Paul – Nick there are major real estate companies using that sort of analogy for recruitment via companies like I also noticed that Glenn Batton’s company use a Real Estate Simulator for their recruitment. Glenn may be able to give you a better insight into how it works in relation to personality types.

    If there is a traditional agents personality type then it is still going to be relevant & necessary in the future because the most important role of the agent is their ability to secure & convert business.

    I think the real changes to the traditional real estate agent will be seen in how they generate leads, manage their client accounts & the business structure of the agency.

    Effective Business Units (EBU’s) seem to be next flavour of positioning people into the right roles to compliment their personality types. One word of warning – make sure you keep the culture of the EBU the same as the office otherwise vendor’s service expectations compared to the overall teams delivery of service could create some major problems. The EBU’s are designed to improve your business not destroy it !!!

    Back at the office – You only have to look at the drop in walk-in buyer & seller enquiry to an office now to see that the clients aren’t personally visiting the agencies like they used to. (Tenant walk-in is through the roof).

    Open homes are now regularly being held twice a week. The frequency of these may end up being increased as this seems to be the most effective way to actually meet the general public face to face.

    The buyers & sellers that used to walk from office to office now do their window shopping online where they can view any company & all of their listings over the internet and make their judgement about the company from their own living room.
    Put simply – An agents company website acts as a 24/7 online brochure for their business – I hope you’ve checked yours to make sure its up to date & correct.

    BTW Something I saw the other day was a real estate agency that used the front half of their office as a gift store. it made me think that most agents are located in some of the best retail positions within their areas and with the reduction in walk-in buyer/seller traffic -will this change the need for such expensive premises in the future? Radical concept, maybe? But most real estate business is now becoming more mobile. What do you think? Has that agent gone mad or are they ahead of the game?

  • Nick
    Posted March 3, 2008 at 3:38 pm 0Likes

    Hmm – perhaps this will see more importance placed on sales/marketing coordinators who actually manage the lead generation with agent responsibilities being religated to the ‘closing’ . I already have one friend who owns an agency chain in QLD and she actually has all her administration team on comission as well as her agents.

    Of all my friends tested, 5 are ESTPs, same 5 are agents and very sucessful. If you haven’t tested yourself yet you should do it – an incredible eye-opener into how your own mind works, why you enjoy the things you do and why you dispise other activities so much. Also really handy for better understanding other people you deal with who think in totally different ways. I was seriously dubious of temperment testing and these so-called ‘HR consultants’ who tout it… Till I actually tested myself – wow. Im an INTP, incidently.

  • John Wall
    Posted March 3, 2008 at 5:54 pm 0Likes


    Brilliant posting!

    There is already a real estate friendly rating site on the internet for Australian and NZ real estate agents.

    It has all the features you are talking about and it is free for the agents to manage their profiles and public perception.

    I would appreciate anyone’s thoughts on this site.

    John Wall

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted March 3, 2008 at 8:07 pm 0Likes

    Great site John – very user friendly. Your user terms seem to set up the right environment for constructive comment too. Well done.

  • Dave Platter
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 7:31 am 0Likes

    Nice job, John. You’ve got a great site. Now, are you willing to share with us some of your strategies for making it the first place people go when they are looking to hire a real estate agent (or therapist, personal trainer, etc.)?

    I imagine your biggest challenge will be getting a critical mass of reviews. How do you propose to do it?

    Would love to hear!

  • Nick
    Posted March 4, 2008 at 5:12 pm 0Likes

    John, pretty cool site – good someone’s already onto this :).

    My feedback would be a simple widget / API type system to allow your ratings to be agrigated to other property portals.

    I’m thinking along the same lines as does with avatars… So any 3rd party web portal can send a call to your site with an agent’s email address / mobile number as the identifyer, and spit out the rating stats directly onto their own sites along with a link back to your site to add further feedback.

    I think this would be a good moto getting your data out there and into the market really quickly.

  • Greg Vincent
    Posted March 8, 2008 at 5:13 pm 0Likes

    John – when someone posts a comment about an agent or a business do you send any notification to say a comment has been posted or a even a copy of the rating & comments? As an agent, I certainly wouldn’t want to have to keep checking back on your site just in case something good or bad was posted against my name.

  • daytona beach fl remax
    Posted March 11, 2008 at 12:03 am 0Likes

    Well you made the big move years ago my parents were going to move to Australia and we were kinda excited about it as kids and then it fell thru. I was sure to have a pet kanagroo I thought.

    I think that people will always want a realtor and being tech savy with the internet is what many your people are looking for. Not sure what your market is like there buy wish you all the success. Takes vision to make such a move.

  • Dave Platter
    Posted March 11, 2008 at 10:54 am 0Likes

    Thanks, Daytona. If it makes you feel any better, I haven’t got a pet kangaroo either. However, if you make the trip down to Australia for a visit, which I highly recommend, I’d be happy to introduce you to the local online and real estate industries.

  • North Georgia Homes For Sale
    Posted March 12, 2008 at 3:18 am 0Likes

    I think as many business have grown they have given way to computers and how they can provide data to us and organization and information. As the real estate industry grows I think there will always be a need for a realtor but one who is as busy with his internet business as local business. Many people want to view everything from there home at there convience and will research things thouroughly before going to view a lisiting. Having this in mind great pictures, floor plans (if new construction), and listing of ammenties and areas are key. Responding to emails is most improtant as they will move to the next person if no response.

  • Dave Platter
    Posted March 12, 2008 at 10:20 am 0Likes

    North Georgia, those are great points. I’m a big advocate of more photos, plans, information, videos and so on. And, as Peter will attest I am a very big fan of responding to emails. In a service business, communication is one of the most important parts of your job. Thanks for your note.

  • John Wall
    Posted March 12, 2008 at 4:01 pm 0Likes

    Thank you very much for the postings.

    Answers: Dave Platter
    You’re spot on Dave. Many great ideas fail in the execution phase. We have a blended approach to driving members and users to the site. We are launching in New Zealand on 5th May. We have a full PR launch and will re riding on the back of an election year in NZ, plus the olympics. We will also rely on our sister business to promote extensively through its large customer base. Google has been working well for us, and we need to communicate with our members – deliver tangible results and promote success stories – keen to hear your thoughts.

    Answer: Greg Vincent
    Thanks Greg. Yes we do notify. There is also a contest function if the review appears to be false.

    Thank you to all for the feedback – please come back and visit the site for updates

    John Wall

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