With all the talk in the real estate industry of iBuyers, Zillow becoming a brokerage, and how artificial intelligence is being incorporated into the technology that you use to search for homes, you might start to wonder if the future of real estate might be buying your next home at Costco and skipping an agent!
On the surface it seems like it might be a possibility…the technology is truly amazing. Artificial intelligence is starting to be used to learn your preferences and then customize your online experience. Virtual reality allows the user to virtually walk through a house and “see” the house as if you are there, making an offer could easily be done online (and, in fact, is already common), and block chain technology seems like it might be able to replace the current deed for title and the county recorder to transfer ownership. These and other technologies are truly fantastic.
When you dig a little deeper, things get a little less clear. How many times have you looked at something online and when it was delivered it wasn’t quite what you wanted? Have you ever had a credit card stolen or had your email hacked? Can you imagine if one day someone showed up at your house and you found that you had been hacked and your house was sold to someone else?
These questions raise some interesting points about whether technology is truly a replacement for a real estate agent and today’s process. It also makes me ask the question, “What purpose does an agent serve and can technology replace them?”
Without going into yet another Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Hire an Agent, I can just summarize in one sentence: An agent is your fiduciary and I don’t believe that technology ever can be. A quick search of the internet finds this definition of a fiduciary:
A fiduciary is a person who holds a legal or ethical relationship of trust with one or more other parties.
In essence, it means a fiduciary has your back and they are legally obligated to what is in your best interest.
Can a computer ever do what is in your best interest? I am certain that there any number of algorithms and subroutines that could be written to perform a cost-benefit analysis of every decision that needs to be made when buying or selling a home, but when this big of a decision is made, the number of variables that come into play is enormous.
When buying a house, almost everyone makes compromises from what they tell you they want to what they purchase. When you have two or more people (aka, husband and wife) with different requirements for what the house must have, how would a computer determine if the man cave is more important than a little larger master bath? Or, if the kind countertops are more important than the relationship of the living space to the deck?
While I believe that technology will continue to enhance the home buying and selling experience, I don’t believe that it can replace the real estate agent. The role of the agent will almost inevitably change over time, but I think that the fundamental need people have to have someone on their side won’t anytime soon. So, as an agent, I’m not afraid of the technology, I’m excited and energized by it. Bring it on!