Three reasons robots won't replace real estate agents

A new breed of real estate professional is starting to enter the workforce. They don’t get Mondayitis. They never complain. And they certainly don’t hog all the good biscuits - robots don’t even take snack breaks. Here at Rex Software, we love robots. It kind of comes with the territory - it's not uncommon for a jumping mini-drone to be whizzing around the office, threatening to nick ankles left, right and centre. But do we think robots can replace real estate agents? Definitely not.Here’s how we know your jobs are safe.

1. It’s not a one-stop-shop solution

The world is still a long way away from seeing a robot that can effectively run the sale process from start to finish. Some bots are being placed in seller’s homes to answer questions and collect data. Others are little more than an iPad on a stick, driven remotely by a human. Then there’s this one, dubbed the ‘R2-D2 for virtual home tours’, which uses a 360-degree camera and sensors to roam properties and produce an immersive video. Sure, they’re pretty cool - but none are standalone solutions. Even if a robot existed that did the whole kit and caboodle, there would still be a long list of supporting tech required to actually begin using it. Take open homes, for example: a robot could open the door, collect details and show potential buyers around. For that to be a viable option, the seller would’ve needed to invest in some pretty serious set-up - motion sensors for the wine rack and a secure home pin-code system, for a start.Come to think of it, who’s going to drop the bot off before the open home - and pick it up after? Who’s going to make sure it’s fully charged? Who’ll be on standby, in case it goes on the fritz?  You guessed it. A human.

2. Sweet emotion

Selling your house is a highly emotional process - but when it comes to the art of negotiation, emotion is the first thing that needs to get checked at the door. Instead, what’s required is a healthy dose of empathy. This is where a real estate agent is worth their weight in gold. Agents are impartial third parties where the property is concerned, but hold the ability to connect with the emotions of both the seller and the buyer. They’re professionals at reading signals; knowing when to squeeze and when to fold. This is one of the reasons why they’re a seller’s best bet for getting the top price the market has to offer. Even real estate businesses getting in on the digital employee phenomenon concede that negotiation is one part of a real agent’s role that simply cannot be done by a robot. The risk for a seller personally negotiating the sale of their house is huge. How does Mrs Seller - who has raised a family within those 4 walls - remove her emotions from the process? What happens when Mr Buyer remarks that the recently renovated bathroom looks tacky? An emotional seller may question whether they’ve set the asking price too high, or go the complete opposite direction and snub the potential buyer. There are professionals for a reason. Negotiations are a delicate balancing act - more art than science - and the stakes are high.

3. Thinking on your (human) feet

Virtual agents can be programmed with local knowledge - but can they sell it convincingly? A robot that says the surrounding community is “family friendly” is delivering a line. A human who spots a prospective buyer’s kid wearing a football jersey and mentions the local club down the road is building a genuine connection. Local knowledge is convincing when it comes from a local. This point goes to the very heart of why robots simply won’t remove the need for real estate agents: real estate is a people business. How does a robot build rapport, trust, a connection? Sellers want to feel like they’re not just another number - and that requires a personal investment.  Nigel Dalton, chief inventor at the REA Group, is often quoted as saying: “By 2020 robots will have the capability to replace real estate agents”. However, fearmongers often strategically leave out what Nigel said next: “But only the average real estate agent.” That’s the crux. [Tweet "Good agents have skills that robots simply can’t possess."] But, the absolute best agents know that a robot - or technology - has capabilities they don’t. These agents are the ones leveraging software to automate simple tasks, and spending the time they save seeking out new opportunities to connect. They’re the agents embracing technology to build better relationships, so that their face time with clients is more genuine. The agents who are doing these things are the agents of the future - not robots.

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