By Jessie Trapp, Marketing Coordinator
Technology is advancing at a rate that can be overwhelming, confusing, and downright scary. As an agent, you need to be able to keep up with the technology changes happening around you in order to be competitive and grow your business. There are massive shifts happening in real estate, some of which seem to be looming, ready to take over any moment.
For those of you who are worried about what the future holds, here are a few things you should be aware of and what you can do to prepare.
AI technology is getting personal. Almost too personal. AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology now enables users in the real estate market to evaluate communities based on a broad range of data and draw insights that allow them to pin-point potential buyers. The data itself, which is often related to things like purchasing behavior, home buying history, and internet activity, digs deep into who buyers are and what stage in life they are in. Once AI is used to identify these prospects, the systems then take it a step further and actually market to those individuals directly. This process can be performed on a massive scale and in record time, giving users a major advantage. According to NAR, 51% of last year’s homebuyers found the home they chose to purchase online- an unsurprising statistic based on the direction this technology is headed.
Hold on tight. As you know, today’s seller-powered real estate market is fast paced and the need for quick response and follow-up times is higher than ever. Brace yourself – AI technology is taking it to a whole new level with the creation of chatbots. These bots are preprogrammed with answers to questions frequently asked by homebuyers and can provide them with in-depth information that likely surpasses what agents themselves may have knowledge of. The way in which agents are actually incorporating bots into their businesses varies. From engaging with clients online to physically bringing chatbots to open houses to greet and service the buyers directly – this technology is clearly changing the way agents interact with their clients in a massive way.
Changing the game. You’re likely somewhat familiar, but Instant Offers is a program developed by Zillow that uses technology to re-shape the home selling process while embracing ultimate levels of usability and efficiency.
How it works – Homeowners who are interested in selling their home provide Zillow with basic information and snap shots of the home, which has not yet been listed. If Zillow is interested they will quickly make a cash offer (it only takes a few days) which the seller can then choose to accept or decline, after receiving a CMA estimate provided by a Zillow Agent. Instant Offers claims that if the seller accepts an offer, they have control over the timeline of the sale and the ability to choose the closing date, a major selling point of the program. Once Zillow buys a home they may make renovations to increase its value before assigning it to a Zillow Agent and listing it.
Intriguing, but completely frightening, am I right? Not to worry.
What you can do:
Step up your technology game. It’s clear that technology is the way of the future, so it’s time to stop fighting it and discover how it can help you gain a competitive edge. If you aren’t already using one, it’s time to consider switching to an open platform for your real estate tech. This will allow you to seamlessly translate data from one part of your business to the next while maximizing efficiency and increasing your likelihood of keeping up. Dig deep into your methodology for areas that could benefit from incorporating new technology – getting your data and business set up to eventually get a chatbot of your own, for instance, would likely be a worthy investment. Not only would it take care of initial lead nurturing, freeing you up to focus on more pressing needs, but you can also employ it to gather more information about what your clients are looking for before you actually interact with them. An estimated 80% of businesses have already implemented, or plan to implement chatbots into their businesses, so the move should definitely be on the table.
Look beyond the numbers. I know, I know – staring at numbers may not always be thrilling, but the stories behind them will make or break your business. There are tools available to you today that allow you to skip the math and let computers do the work – so no excuses. Essential, you need to actually utilize the data you have to differentiate and target your marketing efforts. Take time to examine what marketing channels are generating leads and creating an ROI and which ones could use some improvements. AI is already steps ahead of you, so using your resources wisely is a must in order to remain competitive and stand a chance in winning over the leads you have your eye on.
Make it personal. The appeal created by the efficient and user-friendly experience offered by AI technology makes it all the more important for Agents to nurture their sphere – before, during, and after a sale. Similarly, chatbots may be flashy and helpful for the beginning stages of a relationship – but they aren’t humans. Emphasizing the personal and comfortable buying experience that you offer is important – it’s really one of the only aspects of real estate that AI can’t compete with. Instant Offers is all about simplifying and creating a predictable experience for sellers. This means that Agents need to be transparent and make sure that sellers are well prepared for what going through the process with you will look like. Keeping your CRM updated will help you remember the details and celebrate the little things like house-iversaries, which lets clients know you are invested and will likely keep them coming back.
Keep it fresh. Fantastic, you’re ready to have a chatbot do the dirty work and your marketing efforts are on-point. Although these currently might be vital to your success, technology is constantly evolving so you must evolve too. Make sure not to get too stuck in your ways and stay in-touch with the happenings and advances in the real estate market. Pay attention to the information that your tech providers give you, and make sure that you are optimizing your use of the newest tools and features they provide you with.
Become their go-to consultant. The process for buying and selling homes that Instant Offers has created eliminates several of the steps that have traditionally been left up to the agent. This means it is vital that you articulate to the client what role you play in the process and the advantages that you specifically bring to the table. For most clients, especially those who are not well-versed in home selling, the decision of whether or not to accept an offer is likely something that they will want to get an expert’s two-sense on. As the agent you must emphasize the value that your experience and knowledge of the industry has in evaluating whether it is in the seller’s best interest to actually accept the offers that they receive. 89% of successful home buyers say that they would use their agent again. You are irreplaceable – don’t forget it.
By York Baur, CEO of MoxiWorks
Zillow Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: Z) (NASDAQ: ZG) announced they’re expanding Zillow Instant Offers to compete directly with OpenDoor and other Instant Offers companies – and that for the first time, Zillow itself will be buying homes from consumers and reselling them.
So, what does this mean for brokers? Two ways to look at it:
- So much for “we sell ads, not houses” as Spencer Rascoff has repeated ad nauseum over the years. That’s right up there with “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Zillow of course has every right to direct their business as they choose, but this is proof that they couldn’t care less about their relationship with brokerages. Look at the revolving door nature of the staff working with brokers as further evidence (remember Chris Crocker and Nick Bailey as the most recent examples?).
- Wake up call. I attended the Swanepoel T3 Summit in Miami this week and the theme was resoundingly that if you don’t make change happen, then change happens to you. I’d rather be the one making it happen, and I think that the brokers that continue to thrive will be the ones that disrupt themselves, not wait around to get disrupted
The Power Stays with Spheres
After you’re done absorbing this news though, remember that you have one of the most valuable assets any business can possess: relationships. Those with your agents, and critically their relationships with the consumers in their spheres of influence – their “databases” as many call them. Those relationships are the most difficult things to come by, and while we are all trying to make a home sale transaction happen, we don’t operate a transactional business – we’re in the people, the relationship business.
Channeling Michael Scarafile from a panel session at T3: when you cut your finger, you go to the urgent care clinic and you don’t really care who the doctor is. But if you have a heart problem, you go see you trusted family doctor. Selling or buying a house isn’t buying the latest gadget off Amazon, it’s one of the most emotionally and financially important things that most consumers do.
Here’s the best part: each of your agents already know hundreds of people, and one out of ten will either buy or sell a home this year. For example, the 100,000+ agents on the Moxi Cloud have an average of 470 consumers in their spheres of influence. That means each have more than 40 that will transact this year, not including the impact of referrals. All they have to do is stay in touch with those people and serve as a trusted advisor, and none of the Zillow, Opendoor, Redfin, Purplebricks blah blah blah will matter, because your agents are the ones they’ll trust to guide them through their transaction.
Presence is powerful. Windermere, Long and Foster, and Howard Hanna (all of whom subscribe to the philosophy that agents’ spheres are the best source of business) collectively did more transactions last year than all the closings generated by leads from Zillow. Think about that. How did these A-list brokerages pull this off? Many reasons. But one key factor is that they have systems that allow their agents to organize, store, market to, and advise the consumers in their spheres of influence.
You can too. You can put up a mote around your relationships that will prove to be impenetrable by the disruptors. But you have to get on with it, because it’s too late to build a mote once the invaders are inside your castle. It starts with getting your brokerage, agent, and consumer data in one place. Pick an open platform, get the data in there, and choose from the many quality technology tools that provide sphere management and marketing automation. Then be relentless about getting your agents to use them and hone their ability to serve as a trusted advisor. Sound too simple? It isn’t. It works. We have the data from our 60 brokerage clients and 100,000+ agents to prove it.
Unlike the government, we’re Moxi, and we actually are here to help. Let us know if we can help you and your brokerage.
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.
By Tiana Baur
“Alexa, find me the best real estate agent for our neighborhood.” Another giant might be joining the real estate industry madness with Google and Facebook, providing more referrals and lead generation to real estate agents. An Amazon placeholder page was discovered, which has since been removed, that gave people the option to “Hire a Realtor.”
The webpage was found in their Home and Business Services section, which is a newly rolled out vendor marketplace. According to Inman, “If the marketplace works for agents like it does for other professionals, then agents would pay referral fees to Amazon in exchange for new business. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.” The general public can already hire home inspectors and interior designers via the marketplace, so adding real estate agents to the vendor list actually makes a lot of sense.
Reviews, Reviews, More Reviews
Amazon is review rich. It’s what makes buying from them easy and painless. Like everything else with them, their Home and Business Services section also has reviews for their vendors, meaning that real estate agent reviews might have yet another place to live. Instead of agents asking for reviews, they might start receiving them unprompted.
Move Over, Zillow
If Amazon really is going to get into the lead generation game, this agent referral page might be able to create extremely strong leads, meaning more competition for Zillow, making leads more affordable across the board. In fact, according to GeekWire, “When reports of the Amazon page surfaced, Zillow’s stock price slumped from $46.15 a share to $44.54.” They also declined to comment on the surfacing of this new service.
York Baur, CEO of MoxiWorks, said, “Monopolies are never good and competition is the antidote. If anyone can give Zillow a run for their money, it’s Amazon, and knowing them they’ll be incredibly price competitive.”
Plus, let’s face it: Amazon finds ways to make everything more affordable. Even on Thanksgiving, they were able to provide turkeys at a lower price at Whole Foods (the used-to-be most unaffordable way to buy groceries) since they recently acquired the company.
The future of real estate in general could get a lot more exciting and fun with Amazon in the mix. Actually, Amazon might just take over the world – and we’re kind of excited to watch them do it. “Hey Alexa, close this transaction for me.”
By Tiana Baur, Content Marketing Manager
We’ve been talking a lot about Zillow Instant Offers. At some point, there will be buzz in your offices about them and your agents need to know how to clearly articulate their value. In our last post on this topic, we talked about what they potentially mean for real estate agents and how important it is to continue to provide comfort and trust to their clients. But what does that mean in tangible terms? How does one properly position themselves then? Providing value, client satisfaction, and being the trusted advisor to all clients is easier said than done.
To review, Instant Offers works like this: It connects homeowners with investors, helping them receive multiple offers based on their “home details and comparative sales.” All the homeowner has to do is answer some questions, submit some photos, and pick an offer from a verified investor. They then schedule a free home inspection and close on the date they choose. Simple, painless, virtually no work done by the homeowner. There is an option to use an agent, but the fact that homeowners don’t have to is the key.
Here’s how you can combat this and position your value proposition against it:
Have their back.
Agents need to keep doing what they’re good at. Show your prospects and clients that you care. That you’re human. That you’ll be with them every step of the way. Show them your unique knowledge of their neighborhood that you specialize in with articles and statistics and information that only you could know by working in the that area for a decade or even before Zillow existed. Agents are the experts.
If they’re thinking of using Instant Offers, show them why you’re worth it.
Instant Offers doesn’t answer phone calls at 2am when the home seller is crying and stressed because something unforeseen went wrong last minute during the transaction. Instant Offers doesn’t send a bottle of champagne to congratulate them on their great home sale. Instant Offers doesn’t promise to hold their hand from the very beginning, all the way until they’ve moved and settled into their new home. Instant Offers doesn’t care that the people who bought the home aren’t a right fit for the unique neighborhood’s culture. Agents do. Even if your prospect went this route, call them, check up on them, see how they’re doing. Chances are, they’ll regret their decision and realize they need to change their route.
Show you know more than an algorithm.
There are a lot of things an algorithm knows about people. Arguably, too much. But what they don’t know is that the house they’re trying to sell actually has more square footage than the neighbor’s house that sold last month, and because their view is only partially blocked, can actually make more than what Zillow Zestimates says it’s worth (which is wrong most of the time…ahem). The thing is, Zillow and these other websites are only as good as their data, which isn’t always accurate. Even an error margin of 8% (not uncommon with Zillow), means homeowners are missing out on money. The average listing fee is 6%, so even when it’s all said and done, you’d still be making more by going through an agent.
The bottom line.
Technology will continue to grow and evolve. Look at us. We’re a tech company that is changing the way the industry operates. The difference? We want to help the brokerage. Our entire business model is built around the purpose of making brokerages more profitable, by helping make their agents be more productive. Not all technology is out to eliminate agents from the real estate game. There will always be certain things in life that require a human element: Starting a family, comforting someone dear to you, and helping people find the right home to do both of those in.
By Tiana Baur
2017 has brought a lot of change and disruption to the real estate industry; some good, others upsetting at the very least. In the spring, Zillow announced Instant Offers, allowing homeowners to potentially cut out the agent. This is one of many efforts to remove real estate agents from the transaction, but client satisfaction may say otherwise.
What is Instant Offers?
Instant Offers connects homeowners with investors, helping them receive multiple offers based on their “home details and comparative sales.” All the homeowner has to do is answer some questions, submit some photos, and pick an offer from a verified investor. They then schedule a free home inspection and close on the date they choose. It’s that simple.
What this means for agents
For obvious reasons, Instant Offers can seem very attractive to homeowners. There is little to no work needed and they get to do it all on their own schedule. Plus, they don’t have to pay any fees to an agent.
What these homeowners don’t take into account, is having someone they can depend on, call when they need help or advice, and trust what’s going to happen with the transaction. Given that Instant Offers is new, many homeowners will shy away from it because of fear of the unknown. Because we’re humans, right? We want security. We want to know the largest transactions of our entire life are going to go smoothly.
How agents and brokerages can combat this
People don’t buy luxury cars just for the car. They buy them because they also get incredible service and are never left stranded on the road, waiting for a tow truck they had to call themselves. They buy them for the unreal customer service, knowing they are in good hands. Real estate agents are that person for homeowners and homebuyers everywhere. You provide comfort, and most importantly, are someone to depend on.
Stay true to your clients. Your clients will choose you over Zillow again and again if you’ve earned their trust and confidence as their advisor. They know you, they’ve transacted with you, they want you to handle the transaction for them. Earn your client’s trust to get and keep their repeat and referral business.
Although the real estate world is turning to tech for just about everything, there is something to be said about the human element, which Instant Offers doesn’t provide. Never doubt your importance when it comes to couples, families, and loved ones going through a major transition in their lives.
We firmly believe brokerages and agents play a vital in real estate. Moxi Works helps agents be more productive, while making brokerages more profitable. Find out more at moxiworks.com.
While the idea behind Zestimates® seemed awesome for homeowners, it’s entirely frustrating for agents and often ends up disappointing their clients with inaccurate pricing forecasts. Even though Zestimates know a home’s approximate size and location, there are many factors they don’t take into account. That is why homeowners need to hire a real estate agent that can be their trusted advisor through every step of the home selling process, because Zestimate accuracy doesn’t cut it.
Zestimate Accuracy Backlash
What happens when Zestimates are seen without proper context or guidance? A lawsuit. While this is the first lawsuit of this kind, we are not surprised to see it come to light. It states that, “Homeowners, realty agents and appraisers have been critical for years about the valuation tool, citing estimates that too often are far off the mark — sometimes 20 percent or 30 percent too low or too high — and misleading to consumers. Zillow itself acknowledges errors.” That’s why we empower agents on our platform to be true consultants.
“The idea of an AVM (automated valuation model), an algorithm, that determines the price of a house is flawed from the very beginning,” said York Baur, CEO of Moxi Works. “There’s no such thing as standard housing product. If I buy a car, it comes off an assembly line, and they’re all the same. But every piece of property is different.”
Baur went on to say that, “Zillow has been very clever to give consumers a ballpark idea of what their house is worth, but it’s just that: A teaser to get them onto the website. So, why would anyone leave the most financially and emotionally charged transaction in someone’s life to a computer? You wouldn’t. Like with any large investment decision, you would seek professional advice, and that’s what realtors give you.”
Our CMA presentation tool, Moxi Present, encapsulates the relevant information about a house and enables a professional agent to consult and advise their client with accurate information, and information that can give true context to a Zestimate. “A realtor using modern tools like Moxi Present, has access to a wealth of data beyond what some computer algorithm is using and in particular can access things that no algorithm can,” said Baur. He means things like the details of a home’s interior or the exact character of a given neighborhood, which only an agent, a human, can speak to.
The importance of using a trusted advisor cannot be overlooked. As we all well know, this is one of the most important and personal transactions in someone’s life, and it needs to be treated accordingly. If you were to get a surgery, would you consult a professional first?
Moxi Works is honored to have York Baur, our CEO, be recognized as an industry leader in the 2017 Swanepoel POWER 200. This is a big milestone for us as a company and we are thrilled for our fearless leader and Moxi Works team – a lot of hard work went into 2016 and we are thrilled to see it pay off!
Along with Moxi Works, many of our brilliant clients were featured on the list as well. We want to give them all a shout out – it is a privilege to work with all of these amazing people!
- Windermere Real Estate: OB Jacobi, Jill Jacobi Wood, Geoff Wood – Managing Principals
- Long & Foster Real Estate: Wesley “Wes” Foster – Chairman & CEO, and Jeff Detwiler – President & CEO, and Cindy Ariosa – SVP
- Howard Hanna: Howard “Hoddy” Hannah and Helen Hanna Casey – Chairman & CEO, and Howard “Hoby” Hanna, IV – President
- RE/MAX: David Liniger – Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO, and Geoff Lewis – President
- Century 21 Real Estate: Rick Davidson – President & CEO
- Coldwell Banker Real Estate: Charlie Young – President & CEO
- Sotheby’s International Realty: Philip A. White, Jr. – President and CEO
- William Raveis Real Estate: Christopher “Chris” Raveis – President
- Lyon Real Estate: Pat Shea – President
Along with our wonderful clients, we also have some truly amazing partners. In fact, Moxi Works has over 30 integrated partnerships and is growing rapidly. These tools and services are leading industry players that are now being made available to Moxi Works brokerages. They use the Moxi Works platform API to exchange data and synchronize everything from roster and property data to personal records data. Not surprisingly, many of our world-class partners made the Swanepoel list with us:
- Dotloop: Austin Allison – Founder and General Manager
- Skyslope: Tyler Smith – Founder & CEO
- Imprev- Renwick Congdon – Founder & CEO
- DocuSign: Georg Gerstenfeld – General Manager of Global Real Estate Solutions
- Zillow: Spender Rascoff, CEO
- The Zillow Group: Amy Bohuntinsky – COO, and Greg Schwartz – Chief Business Offer, and Errol Samuelson – Chief Industry Development Officer, and Jeremy Wacksman – COO
- Trulia: Paul Levine – President
- LeadingRE: Pam O’Connor – President and CEO, and Paul Boomsma – President Luxury Portfolio International
Watch Cindy Ariosa, SVP from Long & Foster talk about why Moxi Works is the backbone of their brokerage.
*Photo courtesy Real Estate Trends