Douglas Driscoll, CEO of award-winning real estate group Starr Partners, believes the real estate sector has reached its ‘technology intersection’.
While innovation enables agents to automate and digitise their processes, he says it poses problems for an industry that needs to learn how to strike a better balance between implementing cutting-edge technologies and retaining the right level of human involvement.
“Although PropTech is a key topic of conversation in our industry, many real estate businesses lack the technological know-how to respond to it immediately and proactively,” Mr Driscoll said.
“Charles Darwin was right when he said that it is those that are most adaptable to change that will ultimately survive; and that quote is never truer than when looking through the lens at our own industry,” he continued. “In my opinion, we have now reached the intersection of humanity and technology.
“Even though our everyday lives are deeply entwined with this new wave of innovation, we cannot afford to become overdependent on it, as technology is a great servant, but a bad master.”
As many global companies turn to artificial intelligence and other technologies to transform how they interact with customers, Mr Driscoll says the real estate industry must also begin deploying a variety of technology-enabled solutions to strengthen the customer experience.
However, he is warning agents to be careful when picking and choosing the PropTech they implement in their business, and to be wary of what is a toy and what is a tool.
“In today’s competitive business environment, we need to come to terms with the fact that we are in a permanent state of transition when it comes to technology – and in any transition, different people adapt at different rates,” Mr Driscoll said.
“Trying to fathom how exactly technology is changing the way we do business is a constant challenge, and we need to be very diligent when selecting third parties to assist with digital engagement strategies.
“It can all get a bit overwhelming when we are inundated with a seemingly endless barrage of messages from companies that are trying to convince us that their new product – or ‘toy’ – is the next best thing since sliced bread.
“In my opinion, technology should be used as an enabler to compliment – and not replace – what we do. We should not fear disruption, but rather disintermediation,” Mr Driscoll added.
“Let’s not forget that moving home is an emotional process, so we still need to be at the front and centre of these transactions. For this reason, consumers still need to be able to gravitate towards an agent who they feel they can trust, and who is well attuned to their needs.
“Essentially, agents need to embrace the highest standards of personalisation, choice, speed of delivery and quality in every interaction, while continuing to maintain a personal connection with their customers.”