We have noticed a somewhat disturbing trend during our exhaustive internet searches into real estate technology. There seems to be a never-ending supply of articles that warns of the impending doom in the real estate profession due to technology. Headlines like “In the Age of Technology, Do People Need Brokers?” or “Automation Will Render Real Estate Agents Obsolete” seem to be commonplace. While this type of alarmism is pretty good for getting people to click on an article, it isn’t always rooted in truth. What is more, it can cause a backlash against technology that could hold the industry back.
It was to combat this narrative that we decided to theme our last event Empowering the Business of Real Estate with Technology. We see this as one of the greatest times to be in real estate because of all of the technologies that are being developed to help brokers, managers and analysts better do their jobs.
The morning opened with a Coffee Chat between Clelia Warburg Peters, co-founder of MetaProp and President of Warburg Realty and Sara Queen, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leasing and Asset Management at Columbia University. The format for these coffee chats is informal and conversational because it often leads to candid talk. This edition was no exception as Clelia told us of her often strained relationship between her and her father, who founded Warburg Realty, because of her desire to change the process and adopt new technology. “It is important to remember that people have been making a lot of money doing this for a long, long time before any of these new technologies came out,” she said.
Both women saw the technologies being adopted today as a net benefit to the profession rather than the replacement of it. Sara said that she used to have to plan her portfolio analysis during her lunch break because it would take her computer so long to complete it whereas now she can have the same calculations done in minutes. Clelia explained how agents are no longer able to rely on their information arbitrage and instead have to focus on the things that add value like interpersonal skills and area expertise.
After a number of really high-level TED Talk-style presentations from innovative companies, including Building Engines, Enodo, Open Box Software, Buildout, and Disruptive Technologies, the event closed with a panel about collaboration in the PropTech space. The panelists, which included heads of companies such as Bixby, Kisi, TransitScreen and Coord talked about the practical implementations of data sharing schemes such as APIs. Ultimately, it is the benefit to the end user that each technology will live or die by so sharing data in order to make a better product can sometimes be one of the most important decisions a PropTech company can make. While the idea of open data has been gaining sentiment it was interesting to hear some of the industry players talk about how data is an asset and sometimes it makes sense for there to be a paid exchange of useful information.
The response we got to the event was overwhelmingly positive and many of our guests were really impressed by our venue which was a pop-up showroom for Knotel’s Agile HQ office designs. As always, we are going to be turning the presentations into insightful articles because we think that what is said at our events is often too good to not be shared with the wider property industry. If we can’t share a coffee with all of you at least we can still share in the conversation.