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Speaking Out! How Voice Activation Will Change Real Estate

Most conversations with Google Home or Alexa tend to focus on quirky features like weather or telling jokes. But voice recognition technology is set to become the most powerful computing step-change that we have experienced since the launch of the iPhone.

According to Gartner, 30% of human interactions with technology will happen through conversations with smartphones in the short term. By 2022, voice recognition will be a $40b industry, says AdWeek, with 55% of homes having a smart speaker. 

The INMAN Connect 2018 conference was told voice activation is allowing the creation of virtual assistants that can be on call for real estate agents 24/7. Imagine an assistant that is always present, connected to you through your watch, or ‘Fitbit’ styled device. 

Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard it before, the next big thing. But let’s stop to think a moment about why voice technology is so powerful and how it can help real estate agents. 

1.    It will make us faster

People speak 150 words a minutes compared to typing about 40. This means that you can give approximately three to four times the number of instructions to a voice system, than you can by typing. Voice technology therefore is likely to revolutionise how much we can get done. Real estate agents have a gift for the gab - this unleashes that skill as a tech platform. 

2.    It will be less exhausting

When you can conduct business and get things done simply by asking questions and giving instructions, the need to peer constantly into a backlit screen 24/7 starts to dissolve, and with it, the headaches, the eyestrain and the cramping thumbs. Gartner predicts that voice technology is a new operating system that will physically free us up rather than current systems that suck the life from us.

3.    It will make life easier

The current process for most agents is this: meet someone, get their business card, go back to the office and your desk, type their details into your CRM, rage at your CRM for refusing to save the record until all fields with an asterix are completed and you forgot to ask a question or two, categorise the record, send the new contact an email, maybe send a second one a few weeks later, completely forget about them, wonder why they sold their house with someone else. 

The new process might look more like this. Meet someone, ask if they mind if you turn on your assistant, you and your contact talk while the assistant records and picks up key words – name, current address, email, why they want to sell, their fears and concerns, name of their dog. By the end of the conversation, their details are in your CRM and upon your prompts, your assistant has emailed your new contact a property valuation of their current property, a list of curated properties they might like to buy based on the preferences you discussed together, has connected them into a contact schedule and posted a reminder in your calendar to follow up with a call and a bone for the dog. You win the listing. 

4.    It will help us deliver higher levels of service

Why don’t agents deliver amazing service constantly? In most instances, it is not because they don’t want to but because consistency is really hard work – especially with the busy and overwhelmingly manual processes of buying, selling and renting property. With the ability to request things by speaking, we’ll be able to take action as soon as we remember or think things through. The need to write instructions or spend time researching dissolves. We can take action in an instant.

5.    It will help us be more human

As humans we connect through speaking – it helps us gather and share information and build relationships. We’ve created manual systems to capture the information from these conversations but they now slow us down and distract us. Voice activation will give us confidence that the details are being taken care of, encouraging us to inquire more, connect more and focus on the people – not the device – in front of us. In short, voice activated  technology will make us more human. 

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7 Lessons From INMAN Connect 2018

The future of buying and selling real estate will be easier, faster and more affordable, fuelled by data-driven technology that removes the complication and friction of today’s awkward processes. And all this will be guided by a trusted professional who understands and supports each client, working to reduce their stress and maximise the value of their investment.  

These are the key outcomes of the themes that came through from the INMAN Connect 2018 conference in San Francisco, where 5000 real estate agents and technology experts came together to pull apart the ideas and issues driving the industry as it undergoes disruption. 

Automation, AI, voice driven commands, and big data algorithms powering ever more insights were all identified as the technology affecting the change. But the good news is that the tech, which has made life so hard for so long with so much new to learn, is about to get easier – if we approach it the right way. 

Here is a quick summary of the key lessons:

1.    We’re moving from a sales industry to a service industry

From being focused on the product – the house – to being focused on the needs of the people as they embark on a new lifestyle, the challenge for real estate is in moving to a service model, said INMAN CEO, Brad Inman. 

We are no longer guardians of the information – we are guardians of the people and their assets. 

The change is going to take courage, conviction and curiosity as agents move towards identifying their true purpose in the transaction – which is to guide and support people as they uproot their lives and help them resettle. 

2.    Do we want agent enabled tech, or tech enabled agents?

The industry is at an inflection point, said Gary Keller, CEO of US franchise group Keller Williams, which will decide if the technology is to serve the agents, or if agents are going to serve the technology. 

He argued that the model to date has leaned towards making technology the rock stars rather than agents, with models such as Purplebricks, OpenDoor and Redfin in the US only using agents because they have to. 

The industry needed to learn from the example of Facebook, Amazon and Google – who developed and owned their own software and technology – and invest back into itself quickly and generously or it risks giving away its own power. 

3.    We’re not one industry

Approximately $7 trillion is spent on real estate globally ever year. In the US alone, real estate is 17% of GDB and commissions are worth $62b annually, which actually represents a plethora of micro-markets where the sales process is being disrupted.

From residential real estate to commercial, to construction of new housing, to property management to short term stays, to retirement planning – the industry is being deconstructed to be rebuilt many times over as the sum of its parts – and each element is being raked over by the geeks to identify new, better and different ways to transact. But the underlying asset is a key asset in everyone’s lives and that market is not going anywhere, even if economic circumstances change in the short term.

There is currently an estimated $200m in venture capital going into proptech with significant increases expected in future years, meaning the change is not going to stop any time soon and in fact, a whole lot of smart money is banking on it.  

4.    The technology is getting smarter and more connected

Technology is no longer being built in silos, but using models that can ‘hand off’ to the next step in the process and automating time consuming and laborious tasks allowing them to be done faster and with more accuracy. Big data overlaid with automation and artificial intelligence is both driving new insights, and identifying ways to gather even more data. Good service is being determined by pre-empting individual customer needs – which can be done by analysing the data. 

For agents, this means systems that more accurately identify customers who will list or buy through them being connected to CRMs which are seamlessly connected to marketing, document management processes and accounting systems. These changes will make our offices more efficient and cheaper to run, reducing data entry, double handling and a myriad of ‘busy’ tasks that suck up so much of our time and are not client facing. 

5.    The technology experience is getting simpler

Voice activation is the next major technological step change that will revolutionise all aspects of our lives, not just real estate. From the current state where every task must be accomplished by peering and tapping into a screen, voice activation is the next new operating system allowing users to simply speak their request.  

No more UX, no more needing to learn the technology, searching for files or hunting for information – ask and it will be given. Voice activation will be the driving force that reduces technology complexity in our lives and genuinely makes life easier. 

While most of us type at about 40 words a minute, we can speak at about 150, meaning voice recognition will allow us to be three to four times faster in our daily business. Bring it on!

6.    Transparency will drive pricing

If I can get lists of properties and prices read out to me from my device, if it’s as simple as speaking to book an inspection time, or place an offer, won’t this drive down agent commissions?

Yes, probably. But it will also drive down costs for agents, allowing current business models to function on lower commissions, while also removing the friction and difficulty that has prevented agents from offering other services – such as repairs and utility connections, insurance, finance and removals. 

Vija Williams from The Vija Group said; “When clients are given a menu of services, we get higher commissions.”

Transparency speaks to the “power of the people” age that we are living in. In opening the books to consumers, they do not need to use every service, but they like having a choice. And understanding the range of options helps them see the value in the few they select. 

Transparency will therefore not be about leading with a cost, but about delivering experiences. 

7.    The thing holding us back is not technology, but psychology

Real estate technology commentator Mike DelPrete summed it up when he identified that behaviour trumps technology. Unlike Uber, or AirBnB where the transactions being disrupted are low value and high frequency, there is a greater psychological barrier taking place in real estate which creates serious loss aversion.

“Our industry is about transactions that are ultra low frequency and ultra high value,” DelPrete said. “We’re no longer waiting for tech to replace agents. People are always going to want the insurance of having someone to hold their hand.” 

For agents, the challenge is about overcoming their own psychological aversions to understand how the new tech advances creates a bold new world allowing them to deliver a higher level of service and give consumers greater choice. 

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4 Ways To Be An Agent Of Tomorrow


More than 300 people packed the Crowne Plaza in Auckland to learn how to be an Agent of Tomorrow from leading real estate coach, Tom Panos.

In a lively and engaged presentation sponsored by CoreLogic NZ, Tom told agents that customer expectations had changed in real estate; both buyers and sellers now want a relationship with someone they can trust, not just a transaction. The rise of technology and self-service means anyone can now list, market and sell a property. Agents have to prove their value as a trusted advisor. Otherwise, they will end up competing on commissions.  

“Customers these days are surrounded by information,” Tom said. “What they need is someone experienced they can trust to help them understand what all that information means for them.”

Here are 4 key take-outs from Tom’s presentation:

1. Be a process driven agent, not an energy driven agent

If you rely on your energy, your business and your results will fluctuate and swing between highs and lows based on the last thing that happened to you. It will keep you busy but make you exhausted. Focusing on working the process allows you to keep your performance consistent and achieve longer term goals. 

2. Be generous

The way to establish trust and connection is through giving people something of value, before they even ask for it. Be generous with your local knowledge, be generous with your time, offer people value, and do that many, many times before you ask for anything in return.  

“The jabbing you do now will pay off in 2019, 2020,” said Tom, quoting Gary Vaynerchuck

3. Diagnose before you prescribe

Listening and giving people your attention are some of the greatest gifts you can give someone, Tom said. Understand your clients’ motivation and understand where they are at in their selling journey before you start to tell them how great you are. Questions like ‘who referred you to us?’, ‘have you sold before?’ and ‘are you buying or browsing?’ will give you great insights into how much they know about you, how experienced they are and how ready they are to take the next step.

4. Solve problems, don’t be a problem

If you are focused on yourself and your own troubles, you will bring them with you into every listing presentation. Instead, focus on the people in front of you. Take yourself out of the equation. Every buyer or seller has a problem they want to solve – be the person that solves that problem for them, and you’ll earn their loyalty for life.

The event was a first for CoreLogic NZ and also featured insights on the future of real estate from Greg Dickason.

The acting Country Manager of CoreLogic NZ, Sarah Gillies, said she was overwhelmed by the response to the day. 

“At CoreLogic, it’s our mission to bring the insights and future-thinking that we see from our affiliates in Australia and the US back to New Zealand, mix them with some Kiwi innovation and make them work for local markets,” she said.

“Tom was a really passionate and insightful speaker that everyone got value from, and we’re looking forward to doing more events in the future.”

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Influencing For Success: How To Master The Power Of Personal Impact


There’s no such thing as an overnight success in life and business, but it doesn’t have to be all blood, sweat and tears to the top either.

My career trajectory has been a varied and unconventional one, taking me from the Queensland bar (where I was the youngest female to qualify as a barrister) to a CEO in the data and analytics industry – with lengthy periods as general counsel for a global multi-national, and senior banking executive in the years between.  

While I’ve needed to master many skills as I’ve climbed the career ladder, I’ve found that one of the most important, yet understated, is the power of personal impact. 

Personal impact is a combination of attributes, qualities and experience that encapsulate us in a very unique way – visually, verbally and through our consistent behaviours. It’s what makes us memorable, and plays a huge role in our ability to influence others and get the outcome we want. 
The good news is we can all learn to project ourselves with impact – whatever our ambitions in life.  

1. Exude confidence

Having confidence is easier said than done, but it’s an essential part of getting ahead. If it doesn’t come naturally, develop it with practice.
We’ve all heard the old adage ‘fake it till you make it’, but you don’t need to have all the answers. If you don’t know something, say so decisively. 
Whatever you do, strive to be memorable; black is almost always better than beige. 

2. Get things done 

Your track record speaks volumes so build a reputation for getting things done. Do what you say you’re going to do and when you say you’re going to do it, so that others never need to follow you up. 

There are always shifting priorities, so be agile and get in the habit of moving quickly. Build momentum; don’t put off until tomorrow what you could do today. 

3. Nurture relationships

High performers know that getting ahead is as much about ‘who you know’, as it is about ‘what you know’ so invest in building relationships inside and outside your industry. 

Effective networking is an art form, and an essential part of any job. Identify who your wider stakeholders are and take a considered approach to developing connections. Simple gestures, such as a note following a meeting, go a long way to cementing relationships. And always remember you need to give to get.

4. Be credible 

First impressions form quickly, so build credibility by ensuring you look and speak the part. Invest in your appearance – show you take yourself and your career seriously. 

Speak the language of the industry you’re in: learn the terminology, be aware of trends, and be alert to what’s going on around you. Educate yourself continually – if you have gaps in knowledge, fill them quickly. 

Never be anyone but authentically ‘you’, but the best version that you can be.

Whatever business you are in, consciously do something that will take you forward every day. Mastering your personal brand is an investment in yourself that will help you strategically shape your future.

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