I just wrapped up 5 days at SXSW Interactive. It was a fantastic conference with many great workshops, panels and discussion events related to technology, business, the internet and social networking. Much of it was relevant to the real estate business and small business in general, which surprised me.In fact, I attended two discussion workshops dedicated to real estate.
The first was “Making the Move from California to Austin“. Lots of good interaction, insight and questions regarding the differences between the larger California cities (the Bay Area in particular) and Austin. There were many Californians in attendance and it was fun to hear why so many feel drawn to make the move to Austin. I could say more, but that’s not the topic of this article.
The other real estate related event I attended was titled “Can Web 2.0 Kill the Real Estate Industry?“. This one surprised me because I actually got pretty worked up and steamed at how completely uniformed those are who dismiss the real estate agent as an obsolete, useless tour/taxi driver. It’s extremely irritating to listen to people who don’t know what they don’t know speak as if they know everything.
Interestingly, the folks in the audience who had actually purchased or sold a home recently defended real estate agents and said they greatly valued the services received. This sentiment is reflected in the internal surveys we sent our own clients after the close of each sale, which uniformly rate the experience as a very good one (whoa, I need to update that page on our site!).
Anyway, the discussion that took place stirred up some thoughts regarding my profession, what we do and how we are paid, and how the internet has changed things. Since I wasn’t able to fully make my points in a couple of short soundbites during the open discussion, I’m going to expand on my thoughts here.
So, with almost all MLS listings online and so much information available to real estate consumers nowadays, why is it that an agent is still needed? Why can’t we just be replaced by the internet? And, as one grouchy know-it-all complained about repeatedly, why should the listing data be controlled and disseminated only through private MLS Associations with strict rules on how the data is used and displayed online? Why isn’t all this MLS listing data free for the public to see and use?
I’m going to answer those questions, and others, by starting at the beginning – with the Seller.
Everything Begins With the Seller
Let’s say that Ms. Home Owner is happily living in Austin TX, working in an industry she loves, doing well, and one day she gets an unexpected job offer that will require her relocation out of state. The offer is too good to pass up, so she makes plans to move in two weeks and sell her house.
I’m day three of five into the SXSW Interactive “Festival” in Austin. Though I wasn’t at first certain that a convention like this would be a valuable use of time and money, I am now convinced it is, and I know exactly why I’m here.
I’m here because I want to gain insight into new and emerging technology and how we as humans, and business people, interact with that technology. Also, as a professional in an industry that has been chronically and predictably behind the curve and late to the party on almost all new and emerging internet technology, I can’t rely on real estate workshops and conventions to keep me up to speed. In a way, at this point in history, SXSW Interactive is more relevant to my real estate business than any real estate convention could be. It’s causing me to wonder if I shouldn’t attend more non-Realtor related educational opportunities.
So, below, are some initial observations and insights about my experience thus far.
SXSW Interactive Attendees Are Definitely in a Different Tech League than Realtors
The contrast is palpable. This is revealed in the level of conversation and discussion I am experiencing not only in the workshops, but also at the lunch table with people I’ve met. I spoke for 30 minutes this morning with a guy launching a startup to better connect job seekers with jobs that match their needs. His niche concept is very interesting, and I thought it even more interesting that his business, like mine, is essentially one of matching people with a solution to their needs.
At the urging of one of my more advanced Tech Guru friends, I am attending SXSW Interactive this year. Matter of fact, I’m here now, at the Convention Center, killing time before my first round of workshops this afternoon. This is the Tech portion of the now three-part SXSW Festival. The Music and Film portions are the other two.
So, what can a Realtor learn by rubbing elbows with a bunch of geeks and techies at SXSW? A lot, I hope. The business of real estate is now very much a technology occupation. Yes, the “people aspect” and the relationships we build and maintain are still the most important factors, but technology now more than every provides the frameworks and tools that support those relationships, as well as the deal tasks that we perform.
So, even though I remain dubious about most “Social Networking” hype, this blog being the exception, I’ll start off by attending a workshop entitled “Social Media Marketing for your Business“, where hopefully I’ll “Learn solid strategies, how to measure success, and all the tools you need to succeed in the fastest growing marketing medium on the web”.
Yeah, whatever. I’ve still never received a lead from any social networking source other than this blog, but I nevertheless feel it would be a mistake to ignore this topic, especially knowing that my 17 year old daughter and her friends (the future generation of real estate customers) don’t even use email or talk on the phone anymore.