Have you ever thought of how the internet has changed your personal relationships? Before the proliferation of social media on the internet, you may have related to your friends and family much differently than you do today. Whether you know it or not, your relationship with businesses has also changed; banking and shopping seem to be mostly initiated on the internet. And, of course, the internet has changed your relationship with your real estate agent.
Before public use of the internet was commonplace, real estate agents mostly met with their clients in person to review available home listings. Although many used the technology of the day (fax machine and telephone), a face-to-face meeting was still a necessity. As the internet flourished, early adaptations allowed real estate agents to correspond with clients via email (of course those who were sophisticated enough to have an email account).
As the internet evolved, so too did the business of real estate. And while surfing the internet became a regular daily routine (like your morning coffee); MLS services, Realtor® Associations, brokers and real estate agents all tried to capitalize on the latest technologies to capture business.
One could even try to make the argument that technology and the internet was an enabler of a real bubble that would eventually pop. Because house-hungry buyers wanted to be the first know about new listings and be able to present their offer before anyone else, internet applications were developed to adapt to that market need; internet applications were touted to automatically send listing alerts to buyers’ emails and cell phones. The increased use of mobile technologies such as texting and SMS, along with the ability to surf the internet on the cell phone allowed buyers to search homes anytime/anywhere. Tech savvy buyers could not only get notice of a new listing almost immediately, but they could also send an offer to the listing agent without ever leaving their chair!
Of course, many who hastily bought without inspections (or worse- sight unseen), realized that the internet was not a substitution for visiting the home and doing due diligence. The internet has since grown to become the leading source for real estate related information. What was once ballyhooed as the means of procuring clients is now realized as a tool to augment client relationships.
Certainly, the internet has not yet become the replacement for human interaction in real estate transactions. However, for better and worse, the maturing internet has impacted the relationship between the real estate agent and their client. Where at one time, the public solely relied on real estate agents for information; the public now relies on their real estate agent for specialized information and increased personal service. The business of real estate has shifted from selling the idea that real estate agents had the listings and all the related information, to not only selling personal and specialized services to facilitate the real estate transaction – but to assist the public in understanding the overwhelming barrage of data and information by providing meaningful interpretation and implementation.
Much like the effects to other financial industries, the internet has not totally replaced human interaction; but instead has changed relationships. At one time the internet was thought to become the virtual revolution; but in actuality has forced the real estate industry and agents to rethink their function and relationship with their clients.
by Dan Krell
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