IT’S ABOUT TIME. Since everyone’s time is limited to the same 24 hours in a day, the equation comes down to how much you can fit into those 24 hours, whether it’s real estate, other work, play or family. What is happening today is our customers, our employees, our loved ones are all attempting to fit more and more into their days to max out time available.
This was a theme that I really picked up on this year at Inman in New York – a real estate conference, but one that happens to be reasonably ‘tech-heavy’. What has changed in real estate in the last 20 years? Not much in the sense of the fundamentals, but definitely a lot in technology and perhaps the number of activities that you can complete in a day, a week, or a month with the assistance of technology.
When I walked up and down what they call ‘Startup Alley’ in the expo, the one big benefit to everyone of every single piece of tech on display, the one thing that could cause real disruption, it’s all about time – and I guess about experience, but I’ll come to that later. First, let me give you some examples of what we saw.
- Home Logbooks. In the same way that you keep records on your car, there are now businesses that provide the capability to keep a home logbook online. Yes, this may increase the value of the home if it’s well kept, but really it’s a time-saver. No more duplicating or re-writing advertising copy every time the home might be rented or sold; it’s all there in the logbook.
- Neighbourhood Analysis. I kind of liked this one; it’s a bit like RateMyAgent but for buildings. Is the property in a good area? Are the strata rules any good? How noisy is it? Again, it might sound like another bunch of features that are just nice to have on hand, but what is it really doing? Saving the buyer or the renter time in making a decision about where they want to live; possibly weeding out the non-serious customers.
- Propensity-to-list services. These services attempt to predict which house in a street will sell next. Saves you time because you’re not prospecting to everyone, just the people that ‘the machine’ considers are most likely to put their property up for sale.
- Data analysis. This was a really interesting one. I dropped some of my Gmail contact list into one of these services and boom – five minutes later this service is estimating people’s salary, among other things. Could that person afford a three-bedder in Surry Hills? Hmmm.. maybe not; maybe you should be focusing your time on a different group of buyers or tenants.
- Collaboration services. Imagine having a closed, Facebook-like secure private group for every transaction, where you add all the interested parties, mortgage brokers, buyer’s agents and get notified every time it’s their turn to do something. Imagine the speed and efficiency with which you could get things done if everyone could sign documents electronically while they are on the bus on the way to work!
- Bots and AI. If you want some family time and can’t afford to be sitting on your mobile phone or your website 24/7, let a bot handle the initial enquiry. There’s some clever technology available now that can answer basic queries and respond pretty smartly to consumers who visit your website, determining automatically whether they are looking to buy, sell, rent or something else.
- Virtual reality. Don’t have time for an open? Save time and petrol by giving your potential customers goggles and let them take a virtual reality tour.
- Staging. If you don’t have time to do the place up, put your floorplan specs into a tool like Rooomy and you can suggest furniture, wall colourings and more. Or go one step further with a tool like Rhinov and get an interior designer to give the property a makeover and send you back an image, all within a couple of hours.
OK, enough examples – I hear you! Suffice to say that there are plenty more apps and tools I haven’t mentioned, all of which do different things. Ultimately, though, what they are trying to save you and others is valuable time.
My point in all of this is simple: Nobody has enough time in their day. Everyone – sick, healthy, rich, poor, alone or surrounded by kids – wishes they had more time in their day. On the long plane ride back from New York, apart from catching up on a couple of article writeups, I watched a movie called Bad Moms (a comedy about three mothers who are tired of being perfect and rebel against this notion). In this movie, the main character admits in the beginning “she got married young, had two kids and a job, and since then has been perpetually late.” (I could relate as I am sure many of you working mums can.) But the characters in the movie who show her a bit of kindness and support in her daily juggle are the ones who come out the good guys.
Another example – why is everyone obsessed with Uber? It’s a time-saver: you know exactly when the car is coming, where it’s coming from and you don’t have to mess about with a credit card on the way out. I book all my regular taxis through Uber now, just for that time-saving convenience alone. And it’s the same for every one of your customers, who all only have the same number of precious hours and minutes in their day. It doesn’t matter if you are in real estate or in publishing, or if you are someone trying to buy, sell or rent a property, or even if you are just a regular person on the street in a queue for a bus.
This was like one of Oprah’s light bulb moments for me, in that if you can save people time and provide value in whatever your interaction happens to be they will remember you for it and they will thank you for it. I’m not saying go buy a whole heap of tech to facilitate this, because the ‘good experience’ bit, I’m afraid, will require you to be human. But I am saying do your research; see what is out there that can help you save your customers time and make the process of buying, selling, renting or just dealing with you and your business a great experience. That’s our goal for this year, and I hope it’s one you can share with us.