Why Robots Cannot Replace Real Estate Agents

by Keisha Howard


Keisha Howard is the broker services manager for CONLON/Christie’s International Real Estate.

Advances in technology have allowed people to search for real estate from the comfort of their home. They can review floor plans and photos, even use Google maps to get a feel for what might be their new neighborhood.

In recent years, major companies have been investing millions in next generation virtual reality headgear, hoping to leverage the convenience into future sales. Virtually touring a property has limitless possibilities. Imagine touring a property with your virtual agent. Buyers will be offered a totally new level of customization. Say you don’t like the colors of the walls or flooring – change them. Want new countertops? Switching from granite to quartz is as easy as a single command. And all the while, these programs are tracking your likes and dislikes, streamlining your search.

For sellers, the benefits are similarly pronounced, as they will no longer be encumbered by limitations of time or location; current technology allows prospective buyers from around the world to view your property.

And it doesn’t stop there. As we prepare for the Internet of Things (the concept the whole world around us will be eventually connected to the Internet), one wonders how such connectedness might impact our lives. There will be an ever-growing range of devices, camera, sensors, computer chips, implants, ect., that will become more cost effective and have a growing range of processing capabilities. Real estate companies like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin and many others, are already investing millions in machine learning applications that make property valuation and property searches easy, and efficient.

A Robot Takeover?

Considering the advancements of such tech, it seems almost inevitable that programs will eventually replace the need for human brokers, right? Why would anyone need a real estate broker when most of the processes are automated and offer virtually stress free consumer use? As it turns out, much of this technology has been available for the last five to 10 years. Yet, being a real estate broker is not an extinct profession. Why?

Property remains the largest purchase that most people will make in their lifetime, and because of that, the process is laden in a certain hesitation. People still desire guidance; the comfort of having an expert reassure them, to let them know they are getting the transactional and legal processes correct.

Also, ethical negotiation is not something that can be implemented with a computer program – yet. Considering that real estate can be a very emotional experience from both the buyer’s and seller’s point of view, a living, breathing real estate agent is better equipped to negotiate discounts on pricing and concerns without completely killing a deal. It’s a matter of understanding nuance.

Unlike a private buyer or seller, professional brokers face much more serious repercussions for unethical practices. Agents are bound by law to work in their client’s best interest. As technology advances, so will the likelihood of private buyers and sellers taking advantage of an unrepresented individual.

Leveraging new technologies, unrepresented buyers and sellers may find the real estate searching process less cumbersome. But when it comes to navigating the notoriously tricky and emotional transactional process, robots pale in comparison to the adaptable mind of a seasoned real estate broker.

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