In a post-COVID 19 future, data insights will be agents’ biggest competitive edge

In a post-COVID 19 future, data insights will be agents’ biggest competitive edge
In a post-COVID 19 future, data insights will be agents’ biggest competitive edge

Real estate processes tend to be heavily paper-based. From financing and loan applications to sales contracts, most agents are used to swimming in paperwork and documentation.

Regulatory and legislative requirements are partially responsible for this, but it’s also an issue of mindset. Real estate attracts people of all ages and backgrounds, resulting in varying levels of comfort with technology and digital tools. An old adage instantly comes to mind: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Why should we change something that’s working perfectly? But is it? That philosophy probably seemed tenable until real estate – an industry driven by relationships and in-person interactions – came head-to-head with COVID-19.

Facing government-enforced social distancing restrictions, not to mention serious health risks, real estate professionals had little choice but to leverage digital tools and options. Online virtual tours, digital auctions and e-signing contracts kept real estate transactions ticking along, as many States eased red tape around the electronic execution of contracts. 

Real estate professionals who revert to paper-based processes after COVID-19 will be at a growing disadvantage.

The most significant risk of ignoring digital tools and approaches: missing out on data

Both now and in the future, real estate professionals who ignore digitisation face a variety of disadvantages. 

For starters, research indicates that many digital habits will persist after COVID-19, which means consumers will almost certainly have growing appetites for digital options and experiences. Extensive paperwork or a lack of virtual options might turn off potential customers and give your more digitally mature competitors a leg up. 

Digitisation can also offer major time and cost efficiencies. The more time you spend on paperwork, the less you have for higher-value tasks like relationship building. Working with digital partners, like DocuSign, simplifies the contract and agreements processes, allowing us to focus on more important tasks - like serving our customers.

But the biggest disadvantage of all may be the forfeiture of the data and insights that provide a competitive edge. As they say, without data, you’re just another person with an opinion – but this has new urgency as Australia looks toward a steep economic recovery. Experts are forecasting major impacts on housing markets for years to come, which puts increased competitive pressure on real estate agencies. Those without data will no doubt have a harder time adapting to new circumstances and making evidence-based decisions.

Why is data so important in real estate and how can it be used?

As a member of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, real estate professionals have access to a wide range of high-quality data to aid them in their roles. But forward-thinking agents are always on the lookout for new data sources and new opportunities to drill into as many insights as possible. 

This is because property metrics are constantly in high-demand, and the ability to analyse data is a constantly moving target. For example, rental vacancy rates were once a monthly national figure, with a state and territory breakdown. However, today’s metrics allow us to investigate targeted regions and local government areas right through to individual suburbs and postcodes. 

In addition to leveraging property metrics, customer insights have also proved to be an invaluable tool. We’ve been able to leverage valuable customer data in a flexible, agile way, which in turn has empowered us to tailor solutions for the customer and keep us competitive during this unique economic period. One great example is a digital solution like DocuSign which provides real estate agents with the ability to complete contracts, approvals, and other agreements in minutes rather than days when generating contracts via our DocuSign enabled RealWorks platform. 

How digital is the future of real estate?

This isn’t to say old-school practices are gone for good. Real estate is very much about making connections with people during what’s likely to be the largest purchase of their lives. There’s no replacement for face-to-face rapport and relationship-building, meaning a post-COVID-19 setting will probably see a mix of digital and in-person practices.

This mix should be symbiotic. Greater digital adoption and data analytics support relationships and elevate the advice you offer each party during each step of a transaction. Rather than replacing many of real estate’s most fundamental tenants, technology will help you off-load the manual work, build deeper relationships, enhance your success rate and strengthen your consultative skill set through more data-informed recommendations.

But this happy marriage between new and old won’t be possible if agents see digital practices as little more than interim fixes during the COVID-19 crisis. Successful real estate professionals will be weighing what works and what doesn’t, then incorporating the most valuable technology into their toolboxes for good. 

And the more successful your digital adoption, the easier it will be to access the insights that are increasingly necessary for navigating a new world of uncertainty.

Antonia Mercorella

Antonia Mercorella

Antonia Mercorella is the Chief Executive Officer of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland – the first woman to lead the peak body in its 102-year history and the youngest person to take on the role. She is a solicitor specialising in property law and has previously served as General Counsel for the REIQ and, prior to that, General Counsel for REISA. A woman of many talents and a broad scope of interests, Antonia has completed a Bachelor of Educational Theatre and a Bachelor of Laws with Honours from the University of Adelaide. Her background includes marketing roles with the State Theatre Company of South Australia and a range of senior legal positions in both private practice and in-house roles.

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Real Estate Technology

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