I’ve been a real estate agent since 2003. 17+ years later, especially in this moment, I can look back and put my History Major hat on. Let’s look quickly at what am calling Brokerage 1.0, Brokerage 2.0, and now, what seems obviously to be Brokerage 3.0.
When I started in residential real estate in 2003, I had a terrific manager named Eric McCarthy. He is a lovely guy, and ran his Citi Habitats office with a great deal of humor. I was lucky to have him as my first real estate manager. I think that executive managers for real estate offices get a stipend for cigarettes when they begin their work. I cannot imagine what it must be like dealing with 50+ drama queens, which is really what a real estate sales force is like. Really any sales team, I would think. I digress.
Brokerage 1.0 was ending well before I began in real estate. Brokerage 1.0 was print classified ads, which Eric ran, weekly, in the Village Voice and the NY Times. It was Forrest Gump and his box of chocolates. You really didn’t know what you were going to get. Three lines of compelling copy, forced you to really think about what attracted audiences. But an emerging embrace of the internet meant photographs, whether buyers saw them on websites, or renters saw them on Craigslist. It was early days. The wild, wild west- and the public was in for quite a ride. Terrible, self-shot photographs, terrible color, no rules, no sensible expectations from the public, either. Brokerages like Corcoran, my second company from 2005-2007, allowed you to post your own photos. It was just not quality control at all. And during 2003-2007 which I would consider the early part of my career, Brokerage 1.0 faded from view.
Customers demanded better photos, demanded floorplans, and the New York Times lost its classified section. Google’s star was well on the rise. Photos were often still quite weak, but getting better. Marketing for New Development was emerging with a lot more bells and whistles, but the online experience was primordial. Websites still had music play when you opened them! NSFW (not suitable for work) was not yet a regular communication. Hell, Streeteasy came into being in 2005. This really signaled the true start of Brokerage 2.0. So for the last 15 years, we have been trending more and more into the creation of a transparent, elegant online experience for buyers. This experience has still mostly included 2D floorplans, attractive, photoshopped apartment photos.
The 2.0 to 3.0 Transition
As the internet has matured, and bandwidth has increased- and mobile has really blossomed- not to mention the user experience across all commerce has massively improved- Customers’ expectations have grown meaninfully.
What has that meant during the transition from Brokerage 2.0 into what exists today? We’re talking about how the entire experience of buying has gone virtual. First, it began with 3D interactive 360-degree images. Clunky, in the same way, if you are a parent, that you have been able to see a 3D image of your baby during an ultrasound. I mean, a lot better than that, but mostly unsatisfying. Video tours were unusual, mostly done by a buyer who was in live communication with their spouse (or perhaps their mom) during an in-person viewing. Any kind of computer-based video phone calls between buyer-side and listing-side were nearly unheard of.
Worse still, information sharing has lived mostly in email communications with agents, shifting more and more into text communication, but the user experience buying real estate has been, in my view, pretty lousy. In the next blog post, I’m going to speak in more detail about the quality of the buyer experience.
COVID and Brokerage 3.0
Here, I will say that emergent tech and the current pandemic have accelerated the current trends, and Brokerage 3.0 is here. Buyers will be able to buy from their couch. I will also write about this separately- the use cases in which virtual tours will be all that is required to buy or rent.
The technology and bandwidth available now mean that with a combination of video tours and 3D, 360-degree immersive experiences, with the layer on top of broker wisdom and real-time questions have been brought immediately to the forefront. There is no reason, other than customer adoption and broker laziness/dinosaur-ness that Brokerage 3.0 will not become the standard.
The time is now, and as 5G rolls out, we will see even more clearly that the barriers to entry for new agents rising, and the wisdom of current brokers become even more valued. The whole notion of touring and visiting property will see a paradigmatic shift.
So, here we are, and boy am I excited! -Scott & The HRT