Realtors and Technology - Who benefits?

July 21, 2007

Kevin’s post yesterday on how many local Realtors in the heart of Silicon Valley are still caught in the 20th century resonated with a number of readers, and sparked a larger discussion on whether new technologies are beneficial, and to whom (Realtors or their clients)?

The speaker at yesterday’s meeting, Matt Rohrbach, is a loan officer at Stanford Mortgage in Palo Alto, and he was discussing some consumer oriented websites that he found interesting which provide useful tools and content for people considering buying or selling a home. He showed website tools like the multitude of reports available at online real estate company Movoto, and then a brief demo of Google Earth and Street View, and esplained how these tools could enable potential home buyers to learn about neighborhoods and where to find different businesses, etc. around their homes. My assumption is that if you are geeky enough to be reading this, you probably know about Google Earth and Street View. Ironically, Google does not have a Street View of their headquarters, the GooglePlex.

The bigger question to all this technology in real estate hullabaloo should be “Who Cares?”, and if the answer isn’t “The Client/Consumer” then it’s just noise.

Jump in the old DeLorean here  Deloreanwith me and we’ll go back to 1955, when if you wanted to know about homes for sale, you went to real estate office A, asked what homes they had for sale, then office B, etc. Later, they started sharing their information and you could look through a big book of all the homes for sale, like the Sears catalog. Oh boy!

Then Al Gore invented the internet, and some genius decided to put listings online. Realtors all over the country freaked out as they no longer were holders of information, and they thought they were doomed. What happened? The role of a Realtor evolved. This story is detailed in the book “Freakonomics“, in the chapter, provocatively entitled, Why are Realtors like the KKK? (Hint: They both lose all their power if they aren’t the holders of information. Another Hint, Levitt and Dubner are incorrect in their assumptions).

Realtors need to continue to evolve, and technology is facilitating that process, benefitting both the agent by providing additional availability and mobility, and clients by providing additional information and due diligence on their behalf.

Cool technologies are only really cool if they provide benefit:

Cool technology #1 - Electronic Signatures - You can sign contracts, offers and counteroffers anywhere you have a web browser. No more hunting for fax machines, illegible documents or lost copies of the hundreds of pages of disclosures and forms that make up a transaction. Score one for the happy client.

Cool technology #2 - Virtual and video tours - See what that gourmet kitchen REALLY looks like without having to wait for an open house and schlep over there with gas at $3.50 a gallon. Happy client and agent.

Cool technology #3 - Listing alert tools - Let your home find you. Instead of searching online listings for 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom homes in Barron Park that are less than 10 years old, and less than $2 million, set up a search to email you when something fitting that description comes on the market. Then look at the virtual tour to see if you actually want to see it in person. Another happy client.

Now, you might be saying ‘That’s great Chris. It makes my agent’s life easier because she isn’t driving me around showing me houses or showing up at my house with an armful of contracts to sign . . . How does it benefit ME?!?’

An excellent question, and one I’ll cover in my next post “The evolving role of the Realtor” or something like that.

Thanks for reading.



6 Responses to “Realtors and Technology - Who benefits?”

  1. John Loren on July 21st, 2007 9:45 am

    Best move I made was joining and its a “GREAT” Lead Generartor and I meet other agent to Relo with and its 49.90 a month~~~Cheap in my opinon THANKS , John

  2. ok on July 21st, 2007 9:58 am

    Very good post - down to the point! There is always some hype about new technologies, until people realize what are the real benefits and what is the “fashionable part” that goes away with time.

  3. Mark Brandemuehl on July 22nd, 2007 10:24 am


    As a long-time marketing guy, it’s always been a mystery to me why people don’t look for exactly what you’re looking for - “What does it mean to my customer?”. I’m skeptical that a lot of the “internet” business models out there are going to work longer term, because I think most of them are about “cool technology” and “look what we can do with this on the internet” or “man, there are a lot of ignorant people on the internet and we can make money off them” . In many companies it appears that management AND investors are not paying attention to whether this is really of value to customers. In some ways it’s an awful time for the real estate industry. In my opinion, there are a lot of consumers being duped and that will only have bad consequences for the industry as they figure that out and become wary, angry consumers.

  4. The Carnival of Real Estate | Rain City Guide | A Seattle Real Estate Blog... on July 23rd, 2007 8:00 am

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  5. Greg Broadbent on July 24th, 2007 1:16 pm

    I just saw that Google has acquired technology that would allow then to display pictures that can zoom in with in 6-12 inches. That would be useful in some areas but I wouldn’t want to be sun bathing in the back yard when they take the image.

  6. Realtors and Technology - Who benefits? Part 2 on July 25th, 2007 9:44 am

    [...] big “thank you” to all of you who commented, sent emails, and voted for my last post “Realtors and Technology - Who Benefits?” from last week. I have also received a number of requests for the sequel, alluded to at the end of [...]

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