Inman Connect

Inman Connect Focuses on How PropTech Can Solve Real Pain Points

Real estate technology has long been on the rise. Based on residential real estate publication Inman’s New York event last week, the space is just heating up. So, what did the speakers think was going to set the technology providers apart? A sharp focus on how technologies are removing pain points in the entire real estate ecosystem, not just for a few players.

Brokers, agents and vendors are working together to achieve a magic-like customer experience comparable to Amazon checkout but find themselves navigating a series of roadblocks along the way. A great example came from Compass CEO Robert Reffkin who remarked that making agents happy is the North Star for their company. If a PropTech provider can find a way to eliminate roadblocks and make a Compass agent happy, they’ve won according to Reffkin.

As a vendor, you must therefore understand how your platform, API, device or other product is solving a problem (or problems) that impact each player in the ecosystem. We heard lots of these problems identified over the course of the Inman conference, particularly from real estate leaders themselves. So let’s take note and consider what the broker, agent and customer would have to say about your solution.

Time is money

Time and time again, we look toward technology for operational efficiencies. While it might seem like brokers already have a lot of timesaving tools, it is still a huge area of opportunity in real estate. Brokers and agents are hoping to employ technologies that reduce churn in their daily activities, increasing productivity and returning time to their day.

Time is great, but where does this meet the bottom line? In a self-serve world, agents and brokers are providing services that focus on connections and expertise above fact finding. With large-scale listing providers such as Zillow, Trulia or RE/MAX, buyers can find real estate and property data on the locations they are interested in, but cannot replace the agent who differentiates herself by telling buyers and sellers what they don’t know they need to know.

Another approach to time is money was pointed out by Adi Pavlovic, Director of Innovation at Keller Williams, who sees platforms as an innovative way to create cost savings that trickle down to agents and create coveted competitive advantage. So, ask yourself if your tech is going to help create a “super agent” or leave them vulnerable to being replaceable in the clients’ mind.

Tech serves people

This is a key point that can get easily overlooked—especially when enhanced productivity is a main focus of the tech tool. A new product might be revolutionary in its service offerings, providing a new solution for old problems, but better features aren’t enough for the sake of an improved product. The focus must be on a better experience overall. Agents, brokers and real estate technology companies are asking themselves, “Will this feature make lives easier?”

Brokers want to provide critical business services that attract agents. Brokers and agents want to find better ways to connect with consumers. But, if you are providing a solution that doesn’t make a person’s life easier (ideally at all touchpoints in the ecosystem), critical adoption in the current and future tech-enabled market will never happen.

If you are looking for some further inspiration on this point, watch Inman’s tech connect recap video (with subscription) of the session entitled AI is Changing the Game for Consumers: Are you ready? Panelists from Keller Williams, Aire, OJO Labs and TRIBUS served up lots of gold nuggets on bridging the gap between human behavior and technology.

Information is held hostage

Whether you call it disconnected, fragmented, siloed or something else, the matter exists that information is not passing freely between parties within this ecosystem. Key players are calling for a national MLS that would make it easier to share listing information across MLS borders. Real estate associations, brokers and vendors are aching for easier access to big data so agents and buyers have the resources they need to make better decisions. If they aren’t able to provide it, their customers will look elsewhere for it.

Starting and running a successful business in the largest asset class in the world doesn’t indicate a smooth and predictable road ahead. Real estate industry leaders know this and are up for the challenge. The opportunity for PropTech companies lies with recognizing each player in the real estate ecosystem and how their product solution will give time back to people and enhance, rather than degrade, the human experience.

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