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Last week I attended the Inman Conference in San Francisco. If you’re even moderately interested in real estate technology, this is the can’t-miss event of the year. All the big names are there, and most of the new ones, too.

It’s easy to be impressed by the incredible thought and money being invested in residential real estate, an industry worth $200B. With so many off-line and out-of-date processes, companies are lining up to disrupt it.

Each year the conference focuses on the newest trends. The big words on stage this year were chatbots like Holmes, and new selling platforms like Opendoor and Knock. There were more mentions of machine learning and AI to simplify the home search and value assessment process, like Casamatic, Wishpad and HouseCanary, but this part of the industry is in its infancy – I expect we’ll hear much more in coming years.

There’s so much at this conference that’s alluring. It makes sense: these novel approaches can give brokers, franchisers and agents a competitive edge. But having attended this conference for well over a decade, I can safely say that there is ALWAYS a sexy new technology that feels like you’d be stupid not to adopt.

The problem is that all this new technology may be doing more harm than good.



know-about-confusing-workplace-ecard-someecardsI’ve seen good agents spend so much time chasing technology, they forget to build relationships with buyers and sellers. I’ve seen brokers spend too much money on videos that lack a good strategy, they forget to deliver ROI. Brian Boero’s presentation at the conference summed this up nicely: in many ways all these options have made real estate more complex for the buyer (and the agent), not easier.

While I adore all of these innovative solutions, they should be adopted only if they meet a strategic need. Technology is a channel, not a solution. (Excuse me if I’m starting to sound like Bob Hoffman.)

Unless you’re a superstar like Kenny or Raj, there are only a handful of technologies that consistently deliver a return for agents and brokers:

Additionally, there are digital strategies that drive growth:

  • Online advertising, like Zillow leads (when paired with a strong response and follow-up process) and Facebook (especially when using tools like Ringtrail and Flipt)
  • Creating authentic – not automated – content such as that on social media
  • Online reviews



Up - Squirrel!But if you’re serious about growth, you may want to forget most bells and whistles:

  • The Buffini System has proven to be valuable to a wide range of agents
  • Nurturing existing relationships is the highest and best use of an agent’s time. And while using a CRM like Contactually can help remind one to contact past clients, there’s nothing like personal, authentic interactions – yes, even for Millennials Snake People.
  • Holding open houses is the most effective way to meet active buyers and sellers who are looking to buy a home in the next 6 months. And since it doesn’t cost anything, the ROI is astounding.
  • Do a great job: Learn your contracts and the fine art of keeping a deal together. Understand the intricacies of your market on a hyperlocal level, and deliver best-in-class customer service.

These are results we’ve seen in the San Francisco East Bay. They will not apply to all areas, and they definitely won’t apply to all agents. The point is that when it comes to bright and shiny technologies, take a good hard look at whether they’re right for you – a healthy dose of cynicism goes a long way.

What do you think? What’s worked (or not worked) for you? We’d love to hear your comments.