At Last, Is There Value in CRE Tech?

It is widely believed that the commercial real estate industry has a lag in adoption of new technology when compared to other industries.  While some believe this is a result of doing business in a more traditional industry, there are others who feel the current technological offerings aren’t applicable to the industry.

In his recent CRE Outsider post, author Chris Clark provided an analysis of the industry’s view on tech as a comparison of older generation versus younger generation.  According to Clark, veteran agents stick to what has worked in the past but are willing to adapt to provide an expected level of service.  What it essentially boils down to for tech is will it provide this missing value.

At RDM, we understand that “new and shiny” doesn’t work for everyone, however, technology has made great strides for our industry. It has given us the ability to make information easily accessible, create more effective ways to market spaces and help manage those spaces from the convenience of a single application.  As we continue to see changes in the business environment we rely on technology to be able to make sure our important information is not only safe, but accessible.  We see great value in the technology which is available to real estate professionals today and look forward to what is in store for tomorrow.

Nothing But Complaints by Chris Clark

I’ve heard this complaint before.  CRE is behind the curve, technologically inept, etc… and it’s all because there are too many “old guys” in the business.  I’m also sure that when the “old guys” were first starting out they thought the same thing of their elders – the ones who couldn’t work the fax machine or wouldn’t pony up for a “car” phone.

Like many service industries, CRE is reactionary.  It modifies the way it does business as the client demands it.  If a client wants communications by fax, the client is going to get faxes.  If they demand you use their cloud portal, you’re going to use their cloud portal.  So the “old guys” aren’t just other agents.  They’re often your clients.

On the other hand, you could say that agents are, in a way, also clients of the brokerage they work for.  To retain agents, brokerages are supposed to provide resources and support.  When some of the agents complain about the “old guys”, they’re referring to their “out of it” broker who doesn’t supply what the agent believes they need.

But most of the time the complaints are about the agents they’re dealing with who have no clue what DropBox is.  Of course, they’d have no problem accommodating a “clueless” client who had no idea what DropBox is.  They may not like it but it’s what you do in a service industry.  Accommodate the client.  And whether it’s clients or agents as clients of the brokerage, when the demand is high enough, change happens.  But not a moment before.

The real problem boils down to a lack of consistency in how things are done.  Communication is always part of the process but there are many ways to do that.  Same for signing a contract, marketing a property or prospecting.  The tools “old guys” use to manage the process are a younger agent’s nightmare.   As for data, it’s out there – but it’s not always easy to find or it costs money to access.  And  for better or worse, there are still too many people relying on their gut to make decisions.

Younger agents seem to have a problem with all this inconsistency.  They see it as inefficient whereas older agents have been doing it so long it’s second nature.  So we see lots of innovators trying to bring efficiency to the CRE process.  Only thing is that they’re just focusing on one part of the process – marketing.  Ironically, there are a lot of “old guys” who are jumping on board. Why?  It’s because they see value.

That’s the key.  Value.  Your client or the “old guy” agent sees no value in doing things your new way.  You’re going to have to do a better job of selling them.  Or just wait it out until they die off.

Or maybe become one of those CRE innovators.   You can start by creating some of that technology and aggregating the data that you want instead of waiting for someone else to get it done.  Make it worthwhile and easy to use.  Go ahead.  Show the “old guys” what you can do.