By Christopher Alexander

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It’s a golden age for consumers, with information at their fingertips and convenience being the ultimate hot commodity. The retail, finance and travel industries have been forever changed, with access to products and services just a simple swipe, scroll and screen-tap away. The real estate industry is not far off, with homebuyers and sellers gaining increased access to online property listings, sold data, digital transactions, agent profiles and broker ratings. Technology is an enabler, empowering consumers to educate themselves on the real estate transaction.

What a great time to be in this business, and agents who wish to stay relevant with consumers and competitive against their rivals must adopt technology in their business, much like they have in life outside the office.

Discounting the importance of technology could prove fatal for the real estate professional, but I’m here to argue that perhaps the bigger mistake lies in neglecting what attracted most of us to this field in the first place—the human experience.

As real estate agents, we make dreams come true. Our objective, beyond a signed contract, is to provide attentive service, accurate information and the best advice in what is the most significant transaction most of us will ever make in our lifetime—a home. Successful agents are constantly asking themselves: how can I better serve my clients? Technology is part of the answer, but it’s certainly not the whole story.

As the use of real estate technology and digitization reach an all-time high, it’s more important now than ever for agents to get back to basics. Real estate success is built on high-touch, emotional relationships between agents and consumers, which we cannot forget.

This begs the question: will technology ever replace the human touch? The short answer is, only if you let it.

There are a number of new companies coming on stream, tempting consumers with their low-cost, do-it-yourself approach to buying and selling a home. The onus is on the real estate professional to prove his or her true worth.

Technology should be a complement to the human experience. Agents will be continually challenged to strike a balance between old-school and new-school business practices in order to achieve growth. The reality is, the majority of commissions will still come from mining a database, not the single-digit conversions from the internet.

Here are some ways agents can can up their game in today’s connected real estate landscape.

Online reputation management matters.

Consumers trust online reviews just as much as they do personal recommendations. Good news… right? Clearly there’s power in having digital clout and highlighting your online rating, but it must be groomed and managed on a regular basis. Encourage your clients to rate your services online. If a less-than-positive review surfaces, address it as soon as possible. The goal is to address the original concern, and to show others that you care about your clients.

Forge meaningful, transparent relationships—online and offline.

It can be challenging for buyers and sellers to navigate the real estate transaction and weed out misinformation online. This is where the real estate agent relationship can never be truly replaced. Prospects may find initial information online, but will come to you as a trusted, dependable advisor during the buying and selling process. Additionally, be forthcoming—yet optimistic—about the complexities of the homebuying processes, contracts, appraisals, etc. Your candor educates the client all while showcasing your credibility.

Don’t forget about personalization.

The home buying and selling process increasingly demands technology, but more than this, it requires a customized touch. We must remember to tailor our approach to resonate with each individual client; while one may request a digitally advanced process, another may wish for hard paper copies of everything. The key to success is listening and responding in the way the clients prefers.

Sometimes you need to put the phone down.

Technology has optimized the way we do business, and many of us have adapted well. Maybe you text a client versus call them if you have a brief update. That being said, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty. Tried-and-true best practices are not to be ignored. Meaningful outreach by way of brick and mortar, face-to-face conversations and open houses might have more of an impact than you may think.

In order to thrive among the ever-growing number of real estate disruptors, real estate professionals need to uphold the high standards that bring real value to the consumer. This is particularly critical in this era of online fake news, speculation around a housing crisis, rising housing prices and changing government regulations. Today’s homebuyers and sellers need realtors who are at the top of their game and dedicated to their real estate career—because Canadians who are making the biggest financial decision of their lifetime deserve that level of attention.

Christopher Alexander is Executive Vice President and Regional Director of RE/MAX INTEGRA, Ontario-Atlantic Region. Christopher started his career as a Sales Representative at RE/MAX Professionals Inc. in 2010. He then joined the Regional Office as a Franchise Sales Consultant in 2014. Christopher rose through the ranks and is a third-generation RE/MAX leader, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, RE/MAX INTEGRA Co-founder and Chairman Frank Polzler, and his mother, RE/MAX INTEGRA, North America CEO Pamela Alexander.