Tech Trends Impacting the Brokerage Model

Real estate and technology have always gone hand in hand.

Who do you think made the fax machine popular?

But 2020 has provided real estate professionals with an even bigger challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives of Canadians and impacted the way REALTORS® do business.

“I think we’ve seen five years of acceleration on the tech side, for consumers expectations, in about three or four months,” said Eric Stegemann, CEO and Director of Strategy for TRIBUS, a technology firm offering solutions for brokerages in the U.S. and Canada during a panel at the CREA Broker Summit 2020 earlier this year.

Tools like FaceTime and Zoom have become a lot more important during the pandemic, as REALTORS® look for new ways to communicate and build trust with clients.

“What we’ve realized is there were some things that technology could definitely step in and support, and then there were some things that we were going to have to adapt the ways in which we were interacting with our clients,” said Matt Honsberger, REALTOR®, broker and part owner of Royal LePage Atlantic.

He noted video tools, along with VR or 3D technology, became even more popular for REALTORS® to showcase or tour homes, and host live stream open houses during lockdowns.

“The idea of open houses or even showing properties changed very radically and very quickly,” said Honsberger.

Read more about virtual tours and live streams:
·       Live vs. virtual: What’s the difference?
·       10 questions your client should ask at the next live stream open house
·       10 tips for going live

While his province (Nova Scotia) has eased lockdown restrictions, many of his agents are still using virtual or live technologies because they’ve realized traditional open houses aren’t always the most efficient way of doing business.

Stegemann has also seen an increased demand for floorplans. According to him, about 85% of home buyers want or demand a floorplan on the listing, however, only about 6% of listings (depending on the market) have a floorplan accessible online.

“That’s the next step,” said Stegemann. Floorplans help buyers visualize themselves in the property. They can see where their couch will fit or what size bed they can buy, based on measurements.

Patrick Pichette, CREA’s vice-president of REALTOR.ca, agreed we’ve seen similar trends on REALTOR.ca. While about 25% of listings have virtual tours, live streams or video, buyers want more.

“On the consumer side, they’re looking for that content. We’re seeing some very strong numbers. For example, a listing that does include a video or virtual tour is 50% more likely to convert into an email lead,” Pichette said.

The pandemic has also highlighted the need for brokers to look inward to improve internal communication, said Stegemann.

“Anything you can implement as a broker that allows your agents to stay connected, we think those are really important first step technologies that you have to take right now. The problem is, no matter the business damage that might happen because of [the pandemic], the bigger problem is if your agents come back out of this not feeling connected to you as a broker. They’re probably going to go somewhere else or find a completely virtual brokerage,” said Stegemann.

While the pandemic has forced businesses to seek out alternatives, start-ups are busy looking for new solutions.

“We’ve all heard those stories, ‘that’s a great solution, but it’s ahead of the market. The market’s not there yet,’” said Lynette Keyowski, partner at REACH Canada, an accelerator programs for real estate tech companies run by the National Association of REALTORS®.

AI, blockchain, augmented reality—what’s next?

“In terms of what ought to be on brokers’ radars, especially during this period of time and maybe for the next three years, is that one-stop shop. That single platform solution or experience for the consumer,” Keyowski said.

This could mean making a connection between real estate and the financial industry, like the partnerships REALTOR.ca has with Scotiabank and TD Bank, for example. “(Financial institutions) want to be a part of the journey from the beginning and who’s the best person to facilitate that introduction then the REALTOR®?”

How can you, as a broker, support your agents to make sure they’re up to date with technological advancements and putting it to use?

“It’s our responsibility as brokers to show our agents how to weave new technologies into the current way that they do business,” explains Honsberger. 

Change is hard. If you introduce something new and tell people they need to completely change the way they do business, there will be rejection. You need to find a balance between the most advanced, and what’s manageable.

“You’re always striking a balance between pushing people forward to what’s coming down the pipe but also making sure it’s comfortable enough for them based on their previous experiences … Brokers often see this technology that they know could support their agents, that they know would be a great tool to use, they go out and they invest money in whatever the tech is, they bring it back to their brokerage and then 6% of their agents go ahead and use it,” he said.

While it may be frustrating and disheartening, brokers should focus on training and education to ensure the transition is smooth.

“There has to be follow up. There has to be training. There has to be an ongoing process. Before you implement the tool, you have to implement the change policy and the ongoing training and management that goes along with that,” said Stegemann.

What tech trend do you think will make a big impact on the real estate industry next year? Tell us in the Comments section below.

Sarah Doktor brings her experience as a small-town journalist and national online editor to the Canadian Real Estate Association as a Communications Advisor. Sarah helps facilitate conversations between CREA and our members, boards, associations and the public via our online communities. She also helps coordinate the content presented to you here on the CREA Café. In her spare time, Sarah can be found at the gym, running on a trail or watching Netflix with her cat, Libby.


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