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Uber: Over it?

In the first of a series of roadshows entitled ‘The Gift of Time’, InfoTrack CEO John Ahern announced that InfoTrack was currently preparing 3,500 contracts per week and estimated that this had increased tenfold over the past 12 months. The figure represents that, as a broader property industry, the march towards digitisation is gaining traction at the front lines.

With the mandatory deadlines for complete electronic settlement on the horizon in 2019, there is a lot of distance to cover between the milestones of paper – less paper – and ultimately, paperless transactions. The time and profit created by going paperless is a compelling benefit to real estate agents and business owners, yet according to an industry survey (commissioned by InfoTrack) only around half of real estate agents have tried electronic signing and electronic contracts.

We have to wonder why more aren’t answering the call to switch to electronic signing, and to refer and collaborate with solicitors who have electronic signing capabilities.

The technology cemetery for the next-Uber-of-real-estate victims is becoming crowded, isn’t it? There are only so many times that we can hear ‘the revolution starts at midnight’ before… well, before we stop showing up at midnight. The hype around marketing the ‘end of days’ for real estate agents has had a desensitising effect. As DIY disruptors and emergent high-tech, low-touch players have failed to live up to the hype, a bit of complacency has set in with regards to digitising real estate.

A recent industry survey conducted by InfoTrack showed that real estate agents are still divided as to whether DIY online services like or will impact them, with 42.75 per cent saying it will and 57.25 per cent saying it won’t. I believe this response tells us that most people have a ‘knowing’ that, although times are a-changing, real estate agents stand to retain their relevance – albeit in a drastically different digital world.

The Uber narrative has been telling the wrong story for a while now. Disruption of the administration burden of agent work isn’t a threat to real estate agents, but rather a liberation day for agents to focus on the aspects of the job that are valuable, dollar-productive and enjoyable.

If we look at the skills of a real estate agent, they are human skills: creating appraisal price judgements by interpreting quantitative property data but also the qualitative buyer sentiment of active market players – who are yet to hit a data set. Absorbing uncertainty, stress and emotion that often accompanies the release of real property and converting that to a property marketing story of value for buyers. Negotiation, conflict resolution, and agile deal support are all aspects of the work which are fundamentally human functions, and valuable in the hands of someone highly skilled in their craft.

The more administrative aspects of an agent’s job are prime for disruption, but that is probably a good thing because ‘processing paperwork’ is never the answer when I ask agents, ‘So, why did you get into real estate?’.

The same industry survey showed that compiling and comparing copies of contracts (36.23 per cent) and tracking down parties for signatures (29 per cent) are the most time-consuming aspects of finalising sales.

InfoTrack is the creator of a platform and various digital applications for verification of identity, e-signing, e-searching, and e-conveyancing which, combined with the PEXA platform, can offer agents and their customers an entirely digital property transaction. It isn’t a disruption bogeyman or a threat but the toolbox that agents need in a digital world, where 21st-century consumers are comparing real estate agents to the electronic and radically transparent transactions they experience in online shopping, financial services, and even transport and food delivery.

Digital tools for a paperless transaction give agents the gift of time, and that seems like an appropriate title for InfoTrack’s roadshow series, designed to support agents to start thinking digitally and to migrate towards a digital platform. Electronic property transactions are mandated through all Australian states and territories because the efficiencies and cost-saving capabilities of digitising are clear to the government.

The same savings in time, labour and stress are available to the private sector. The first Gift of Time seminar, held in Melbourne yesterday, was an eye-opener for many agents about the opportunities that exist with a transition to digital and how easy it can be to migrate to a digital platform. If you would like to register your place at one of the free Gift of Time seminars, head to

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Sarah Bell

With a background in research and investigations, Sarah Bell married into the real estate industry in 2009 and has found a passion for both the business and its people.