October 10, 2017
A long time ago, while majoring in business administration at the University of San Francisco, I worked part-time for various colleges and universities in economic development research. My job was to gather data from numerous sources such as the state and local employment development departments, national higher education benchmark programs and best practices, and human resource directors of companies such as Applied Materials to find out which local industries were growing and what types of new jobs were being created, whether it be welders or semiconductor engineers. My work involved gathering mountains of pages of quantitative and qualitative data and creating hundreds of bar charts and statistical tables on excel for use in reports that would support teams of grant writers. They would use the data to create compelling arguments as to why certain proposed and existing curriculum and workforce training programs deserved grants from private foundations and public agencies.
This was hardly sales-oriented, but that experience helped to lay the early groundwork for what I consider now to be an even more essential part of the real estate sales process. Every part of the transaction has a connection and beyond that, decisions are helped supported by research, analysis and often visual data. Financing a property requires appraisal, underwriting, and hard data to support credit worthiness. A buyer’s desire for a type of structure (whether it be single family home, condo, or duplex) or neighborhood can be influenced by the information he/she is presented. My decision to enter real estate and obtain my broker’s license was partly driven by my natural affinity for the research and analysis aspects of assisting clients. Nowadays however, information is so readily accessible online to buyers and sellers, expectations of agents are rising. Many buyers are already so informed about the neighborhoods they want to live in, market comps and trends, and they can receive real time alerts about newly available properties.
Advances in disruptive technology, rising competitive business models, the traditional agent-broker relationship, and the customary commission structure lead me to question whether traditional real estate agents are at threat of becoming more obsolete. It is an interesting question I am sure many real estate sales agents would be quick to argue and defend. The National Association of Realtors is one of the most powerful lobbies wielding tremendous political influence. They helped to prevent banks from including real estate sales among its business services. I am personally in favor of keeping consumer options open and growing and will not bemoan the potential Amazon-ation of Real Estate if and when it comes. There are many new players in the business gaining market share. In the meantime, I will keep doing what I am doing, adapting as needed and I don’t take for granted each and every opportunity I have to work with clients.