Technology and Property Management: Here’s What Brokers Need to Know
by Chris Long
Real estate isn’t a paper-driven industry anymore — new virtual solutions are changing the way that smart brokerages do business.
New developments in real estate technology bode well for the industry as a whole. A thoughtful approach to innovation can cut costs, improve efficiency, and increase profitability across a brokerage. New tech also appeals to millennial buyers and investors, who have grown up communicating, managing their finances, and strengthening social ties over their laptops and smartphones. Whether your company is just dipping its toes into technology, or works on the cutting edge, you should ensure that you’re taking advantage of the best that the real estate industry has to offer.
New Technology for a New Generation
Virtual reality technology has reached the point where it can be distributed to potential buyers across the globe, even without a headset. With 3-D renderings of their properties easily available online, brokers can give clients a better view into a unit or property without losing valuable time traveling from showing to showing. Investors can determine and pay more attention to the properties they’re interested in, and quickly move on from those that don’t meet their needs. Families can even begin to imagine what their lives might look like inside a home or apartment by arranging furniture within the virtual space.
Though a majority of brokerages use digital payment technology to facilitate purchases, many still opt to collect paper rent checks from tenants every month. Modern brokerages should consider online payment portals for renters, which speed up the payment process, offer powerful security protocols, and eliminate costly check processing fees. Most importantly, they allow renters to pay their rent from anywhere they like at anytime by simply opening an app on their phone, making it easier than ever to connect with management and greatly reducing the risk of late rent and delinquency.
Cloud-Based Management Platforms
Real estate has historically required hours worth of manual data entry for each transaction, but thankfully that’s no longer necessary. Cloud-based property management software allows managers to handle everything from unit vacancies to maintenance within a single intuitive interface that’s compatible with any computer or smartphone. Whether you manage one or multiple property types, these platforms can accommodate your needs. The result? Less time spent on administrative work and more time spent on client relationships.
Although brokers and property managers should be excited and inspired by these advances, they must consider a number of factors when it comes to implementation. The real estate industry is slow to change, and solutions will need to appeal to all generations and all locations, domestic and international. Additionally, brokers will have to determine the appropriate balance between technology and human interaction.
Investing in Universal Solutions
As technology becomes more prevalent in the property management and leasing space, brokers need to consider whether the solutions they choose benefit a broad spectrum of users. Most millennials entered the working world with mobile and cloud-based software as a given, and they expect that the companies they work with will have those technologies available.
But for older buyers and agents — who must adapt to a major cultural shift within their industry — new technology can inspire resistance, confusion, or even fear. To accommodate this gap in knowledge and experience, brokers must prioritize ease-of-use when evaluating new platforms.
Finding the technology that works for your business and your clientele takes time and effort. Don’t be tempted to automatically choose the first solution that crosses your desk. Instead, survey your employees and your clients to assess their needs, then pick the option that works best. Some millennial clients may engage with your interface exclusively through phones or tablets, so it’s crucial that your programs are optimized for mobile performance. Technology that can’t run well on mobile could deter buyers and tenants looking for a seamless experience on their devices.
Once you’ve chosen your technology, make sure to invest in training programs so that your agents know what tools are available to them and how these tools apply to their business. Remember that innovation is a cycle, and that better options may arise as you scale your business or as new technology comes onto the market.
Augmenting Human Capability
Nearly all service industries are experiencing a shift toward automation, which inevitably raises the uneasy question of whether workers will be replaced. In the case of real estate, I bet not. Technology may take over data entry, but no machine can navigate the subtleties of negotiating a purchase or investment. As with accounting or law, real estate requires highly specific expertise that only comes with decades of working in this business.
But real estate agents also serve another purpose: navigating the emotional consequences of investment. No matter how much machines facilitate it, a real estate transaction is between people who each have hopes and goals for the outcome. Only a human agent can assure a buyer that they’re making the right choice, or console a client if they don’t make a sale.
Interpersonal relationships are the cornerstone of real estate, and technology should never replace human interaction. But we don’t have to fear its growing role in the industry either — these solutions help us appeal to a new generation of buyers and do our jobs more efficiently. When implemented properly, new technology simplifies day-to-day administrative tasks and fosters better relationships between agents, managers, and clients.