Agent Provocateur: Why no one in the industry can keep change at bay

Something happened at the weekend – which to someone in a newly objective frame of mind has made me think hard about an industry I’ve been part of for almost four decades.

In the Sunday Times Nicholas Hellen listed 226 occupations that were ripe for automation.

It was not a list printed for PR purposes but by a programme director at Oxford University.

Third in that list, with supposedly a 97.29% chance of automation, is ‘Real Estate Broker’.

It doesn’t mention a timescale, but if you’re one of the 600 or so agents who’ve either been, or are going, to Richard Rawlings’ training seminars, you will have heard him give agents three years.

Now I don’t know exactly what automation looks like, and I think three years is questionable, but things are now moving at such a pace that simply refusing to discuss change, any change, by saying that things are fine the way they are, is now sounding hollow.

Even if three years is a bit soon, the idea that my son, now 23, will want to talk on a telephone, wait for responses or spend hours traipsing around when or if he ever gets round to buying is daft: his generation of millennials are used to having info instantly.

The ability to automate in our world is dependent on the two things we think most likely to derail a deal – legals and mortgages.

There is a lot of work going on in both areas right now, so wave a wand about and assume that the property you are buying has an electronic passport and that your mortgage has been automated down to the point that assessing value is all that’s left. If these two processes are out of the way and do NOT need a negotiator’s cajoling, which bit of the remaining process can’t be dealt with online?

I wrote last week about how the auction process is pushing hard for mainstream acceptance and why wouldn’t buyers and sellers, given the assumptions made above, be happy to conduct a transaction online after a short marketing period?

So where does that leave the current way of doing things?

Oddly perhaps in the invidious position of not wanting to change the very system that frustrates it, yet keeps the future at bay. Talk about a dichotomy.

* Ed Mead was until last year a London agent with Douglas & Gordon. He is now a director of outsourced viewing service and an independent property consultant / commentator:

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One Comment

  1. Moolamarkie

    This has less to do with technology specifically and everything to do with a changing population.  Technology and automation is a by-product of the rise of millennials and generation ‘Y’.

    In approximately five years, and for the first time ever, ‘Baby Boomers’ will no longer make up the largest section of the UK population.  The generation who once voted with their feet will be superseded by the generation who vote with their fingers.  They code, they click, their expectation is an automated experience not slowed down by traditional processes.

    With their peers working in financial and legal industries, it makes sense that property will converge into a process of lending approved and available in seconds and clever companies like Juro using artificial intelligence to produce and approve legal contracts.

    This level of automation may freak some of us out and I’m not saying it will happen tomorrow.  But what I am saying is that the next generation will expect it.


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