By Tiana Baur
The next time you purchase a car, it very well might be a self-driving one. It’s a headline our eyes now only glance at because we’ve seen it so many times and it’s only a matter of time before it comes to fruition. We’re not only okay with that technology, we’re jazzed about it. We’ll all be able to work, read, and relax during our commutes and trust that we’ll get to our destination timely and in one piece. There’s foreshadowing of another technology too. One that would not only upset our industry, but would tear it to pieces, and that’s the tease of robots as real estate agents. It’s a viable conjecture, especially given how technology is now paving the way for the future of our industry. The problem is, the home buying journey has a very different barrier to trust and breaking down that wall will be close to impossible.
People got their heads out of the sand (some didn’t) and we’ve seen rapid change in the past couple of years. VR (virtual reality) tours are a “thing” homebuyers now expect when they’re house hunting. You can even pay your rent with bitcoin (crazy, right?). The one constant that our industry has always had, though, is that homebuyers choose an agent. That agent happens to be in the form of a human. And that will never change. The CEO of Compass even agrees with that.
Sure, some will be interested in a robot agent. We imagine Elon Musk himself would be eager to try out a robot instead of a human agent for his next transaction. The problem is, most of us are not Elon Musk. We have a comfort zone and although we step out of it more often than before, we stick to it when it comes to the biggest financial transaction we do in our entire lifetime. Robots may charge two percent commission instead of the typical five or six, but guess what? Consumers don’t care. Or, they don’t care enough to risk it. If they cared enough about that five or six percent, they’d be listing their homes by themselves or using Instant Offers (which, I’ve never heard of an actual situation where someone did).
Here’s why people choose people:
Extremely. Real estate agents serve as a sounding board and a therapist just as much as they do a trusted advisor. People want someone who will answer phone calls at midnight when the home seller is crying and stressed because something unforeseen went wrong last minute during the transaction. They want someone to send a bottle of champagne to congratulate them on their great home sale with a heartfelt note because they got through it together as a team. Robots don’t promise to hold their hand from the very beginning, all the way until they’ve moved and settled into their new home.
Buyers and sellers want to sit across from someone in a coffee shop and talk face-to-face. They want something tangible. They want to shake someone’s hand and know that person actually cares about them and their family and that they have feelings and blood running in their veins like they do theirs. Because that is how emotional a home transaction is.
First time buyers all the way through home buying veterans use agents. Why? Because there is always a new situation, a new question, a new issue that pops up that they haven’t seen or dealt with before. Maybe it’s an issue with the mortgage company or maybe there was an issue with escrow. Maybe you just want some advice on what color to paint your living room before the house is listed. Whatever it is, the agent is prepared to handle it.
Let’s back up. AI probably has a place in real estate when it comes to scheduling, answering simple questions, etc. But it will never, ever replace the human connection that is found between a trusted advisor and their beloved clients.