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I Love Technology!…Or Do I?

This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to be in NYC for my niece’s 3rd birthday party.  Not only was it great to be there to help celebrate my beautiful young niece’s birthday, but it also gave me an opportunity to catch up with some old friends and also meet some of my brother and sister-in-law’s newer friends.

I had a chance to chat with one of my brothers friends, whom I’ve met only once before.  Let’s call him Jack.  Jack is an investment banker or as he sadly likes to call himself, “one of those wall street crooks” that you read about these days.

In between chasing around our daughters, we had a chance to talk a little bit about the economy, potential 2nd recession, etc. – I know, fun right?

Anyways, I start my article with Jack because he said something to me that I was not aware of… that even the investment banking industry has been impacted by major lay-offs.  I asked Jack, half-jokingly, if it were those cool E-Trade baby commercials taking business away from him and his firm.  He laughed, but said that wasn’t it. Jack told me that day trader technology such as E-Trade was not the driving force, but that it was the constantly improving in-house technology itself that was making employees obsolete. Jack didn’t go into the details or complexities, after all we were at a 3yr olds birthday party with kids running around everywhere, but being in his early 40s he did say that “technology was or is the killer.” Jack said that 10 years ago there would be a need for five employees to do the work, where today because of technology there only needs to be one or two employees at most.  I, myself would not have guessed that his industry… those “wall street crooks” would be taking such an employment hit. I, myself would not have guessed that his industry… those “wall street crooks” would be taking such an employment hit DUE TO ADVANCING TECHNOLOGY.

I thought about Jack’s comments the next day on my 3+ hour drive back home.  We all realize that automation in technology has taken away blue collar jobs in manufacturing (auto industry, etc.) or has pushed them to developing countries.  That’s nothing new. We all pretty much have heard that the US Postal Service will cut not only a significant amount of jobs, but is also closing post offices across the country.  How can the USPS compete with auto-bill pay and E-Commerce, right?

If you think about it, every industry has been negatively impacted by technology– Goodbye Brick & Mortar Blockbuster, Hello Netflix & Hulu.  Goodbye paying $20 for a music CD, Hello iTunes at $1.29 per song.  Goodbye accountant, Hello TurboTax.  Goodbye… well, you get the point.

So I thought about my industry. Real Estate.  Back in the 1980s my Dad was a part-time Realtor and he would get these “Top Secret” listings books from his broker.  The books that agents on duty would sift through when a potential buyer would call (not email) the office.

Today (and I do have to say thankfully), we have access to more and more online information, most on the industry side but slowly this “top secret” information is making its way to the consumer – for free!  Don’t get me wrong, I consider this “good technology” – technology that helps.  However, real estate in general is still practiced much the same way that it was 30 years ago.  I question technology’s role and future impact on the real estate industry… What future impact will technology have on the real estate industry?  I have my opinion, as do others. However, I’m curious as to how it will change.

Will there be a need for listing agents?  How about buyers agents?  Will buyers agents still prove as useful today, tomorrow?  Will a 5% commission that a seller pays be justified? My gut feeling is that the real estate industry as a whole is in on the verge of a technological change.

I’d like to ask you, our valuable readers.  What do you think the future holds for the real estate industry?  What would you like to see changed, if anything at all?

Please feel free to email me directly at chris@geopropertiesinc.com or add a comment below.  Thanks for reading!

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