OUR INDUSTRY CHAMPIONS is a celebration of the people behind property.

From administrative staff to sales agents and directors, we’re showcasing the human core of real estate. Creative thinkers, technological innovators and early adopters, local pillars of the community, the champions of our industry come in many shapes.

These are the authentic faces of real estate, and we can’t wait to share them with you!

To learn more about our current Industry Champion, TARYN QUINN, please click here.

The path to purchase for homebuyers isn’t a short journey, research commissioned by realestateview puts it at about 20 months on average.

Understanding the different phases that buyers go through, and knowing what kind of media they consume in each phase, can be your silver bullet as an agent for generating and nurturing leads.

Join our presenters Jen Melocco, National Property News Director at ACM, Bill Nikolouzakis, COO at Proptech Group, and Toby Balazs, CEO at realestateview.com.au as they discuss:

Technology, Tech Stacks, and Real Estate - The Basics

Technology has always been a strong partner to agents and professionals in real estate, but the industry as a whole tends to be slow to the punch when it comes to adopting change. And that’s not just talking about a hesitance to implement untested solutions, but also a trend of holding onto aging platforms. As soon as software stops being a support to your business and becomes a headache to be wrangled you should start seriously thinking about doing a tech stack audit, but what does that mean?

When we say ‘tech stack audit’ we’re talking about an evaluation of the software solutions, tools, apps, and platforms utilised by an agency or franchise group to carry out their business operations. That includes day-to-day support and customer relationship management software, tools to monitor performance metrics, internal and client communications, and marketing functions.

PropTech Group’s CRO Bill Nikolouzakis advises that technology is the means to the end, and not the end itself.

"Agents should look to building a tech stack that is bespoke to their business and reduces the amount of time spent on mundane tasks, freeing them up to do what’s really important: helping clients."

Good tech should be the foundation of a modern agency. The right solutions will free up time across the board, from agents and administrative staff all the way up to owners and principles. Take customer relationship management (CRM) software as an example: if a businesses CRM is a bad fit because it lacks key functionality, or isn’t appropriate to the size and needs of the business, doesn’t allow for easy access to data or interpretation of performance metrics for reporting then it stops being support and becomes a hurdle to overcome.

Comfort with technology will naturally vary across a business so a single user struggle may not be the make or break in deciding if a piece of tech is good or bad, but if frustration is widespread then it’s past time to take a good look at what you’re getting for your money.

Bill Nikolouzakis believes that you should select the technology that is most suited to the requirements of the people in your business.

"If you have a small team that all perform multiple tasks, then starting with a CRM system like Eagle Software would be an example of a good fit. If you’re a larger business that already has extensive processes and systems in place, then a more customisable solution like VaultRE could be the better option to support you."

If the general sentiment is that the software creates more issues than it solves, that’s a good sign that you need to evaluate what you’re really getting out of it. Software needs to earn it’s place in your tech stack; otherwise you end up with a bloated mess that wastes time, money, and the energy of your people. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to technology in real estate, even within a franchise group individual agencies will have specific needs - and as an industry there are unique goals, purposes and challenges that IT infrastructure must address.

Defining what your challenges are, and what kind of software you need to address them, is a good first step to dip your toes in the water of performing a tech stack. Are they being met efficiently, are you having to use a patchwork of so-so software to cover all your bases, do your people like the software you’re using?

That last point is more important than you might think; users who don’t like the software won’t be motivated to put in the effort to learn the ins and outs of it, or may use it improperly for the sake of speeding up the process and spending as little time working with it as possible.

Why Now?

Doing a proper tech stack audit is a big investment, and it can be a daunting task.

It takes time and resources, and given the heat and speed of the current Australian property market it’s understandable to be unmotivated to shift your focus inward and put in the hard yards. But that’s also why now is the right, and crucial, time to do it. The industry is booming and there’s no sign of it slowing down soon, and putting the time in now will pay you back with interest in the future. Reviewing your tech will save time across the board for agents, property managers, administrators, all the way up to principles and owners. It’ll save you money by consolidating your software and sorting the wheat from the chaff, and help you maintain a single source of truth for all of your operational data so you can make confident, informed decisions.

As a business changes it’s software should too. Solutions that used to be cornerstones will be outgrown, and functional overlap from adding in tech piecemeal rather than planning out a stack all work together in creating an ecosystem that can drain resources rather than streamline operations.

PropTech Group has a strong ethos of integration and user-friendliness, as Bill Nikolouzakis says:

"Building a deeply integrated solution, one where an agent can run their entire real estate practice from one place, is absolutely essential. If you have multiple software solutions with multiple data entry points and logins agents just won’t use them."

How Do I Get Started?

So you want to audit your technology, but where to begin? It’s an intimidating process to start, particularly for older businesses that have had more time to accumulate software and may be wary of bringing in unfamiliar tech. The best place to start is by creating a comprehensive list of every piece of software that your business uses, or is subscribed to.

And that’s not hyperbole, committing to the audit means going into exhaustive detail on every front of your infrastructure. Talk to your team in every department; what do the agents use, what do the property managers use, what do your administrators use - what do they enjoy using, what do they dislike? There’s going to be overlap, but you don’t want anything to slip through the cracks.

Make sure that you look through your invoices with a fine-toothed comb and capture all of the subscription-based software so nothing gets overlooked, and tally up the expenses. That number will come in handy later when you’re making choices about implementing new software: having access to it and a firm understanding of where the money goes and why you’re spending it (whether the cost is outweighed by the time it saves, or if it generates enough new leads to have a good return on investment, if the user experience or support experience is positive enough that your people are raving about it) will help inform what you replace, what you keep, and what you discard.

Once you’ve created your list and have a surface-level understanding of what your team likes and dislikes it’s on to evaluating each piece of software. This is going to take time, and it will be well worth the effort. Asking yourself, and your team, the following questions for each piece of software or technology tool you use will give you a good idea of what you need and what you don’t right off the bat.

So now you’ve got an exhaustive list of all of your software, what it costs, the office sentiment towards them, and visibility onto the areas of strength and weakness in your tech stack. Where do you go with this information? Property technology is a deep pool to dive into without guidance, but all of that effort has put you in a good position to bring in an expert to take you through the next phase with confidence.

Bill Nikolouzakis believes strongly in the importance of solutions that empower each individual client according to their needs, saying:

"At PropTech Group we’ve thought this through deeply, and decided to structure our business by having a team of advisors whose only goal is to help our clients decide on the tech solution that’s best for them. Whether it’s one, two, or all of products depending on their requirements, their goals, and the solutions they already have in place."

Making Informed Choices

Identifying the obvious points of improvement is a task you can do on your own, and getting that holistic view of your tech stack will help you in making informed decisions and advocating for what you want and what you need. But completing the audit and shaking up the stack will be a lot easier if you have some expert advice on hand.

It can be easy to lose the forest the forest for the trees, so bringing in a third party with experience in IT and real estate solutions will be worthwhile to help you finalise what programs are necessary, what better options exists, and if you have multiple pieces of software that can be consolidated by switching to a different solution.

Given the current explosion of innovation in the property technology sector agencies are spoiled for choice when it comes to options to add in to their business, so dedicating some time to doing a sweep of demonstrations and consultations with prospective software representatives will give you a better handle on what offerings are part of the new standard, what software is the best fit in providing you with value aligned to the needs and challenges you’ve identified throughout this process, and what price points are to be expected.

So you’re doing some demonstrations or consultations, how can you make the most of the conversation? Here’s some good starting topics to discuss with a consistent or representative of a software solution that you’re thinking of implementing:

You should also be referring back to the lists you’ve made of all your software, the price, the value, and the use. Knowing what you need, what you want, what you’re willing to compromise on, and what you’re willing to pay more for proportionally is going to guide the final phase of your audit: implementation.

As times and needs change your tech stack should be agile enough to evolve with you, and a big part of that is going to be finding solutions that aren’t stagnant. Jumping between solutions frequently will lead to burnout and a lack of motivation for you and your team to put in the time to become experts in the software, so the level of support and development practices of a prospective tech provider should be taken into consideration when moving into testing and implementation.

Do they push out updates quickly, do they have accessible support? Do they have a stable client base? Do they have integrations with other platforms and software so you can minimise the number of portals your team needs to access? All important, and all best discussed with experts.

Looking to the future

Auditing your tech stack isn’t something that can be blitzed through overnight, and you shouldn’t try to. It’s an investment, and it might be a slow burn. But once you’ve done the hard work on the first run through it’ll make subsequent tech health-checks a natural part of your operations. And you should keep a finger on the pulse of your tech stack. The knowledge that a deep-dive gives you will provide a transparent view on the role that technology plays in the day-to-day and long term processes in your business, so in the future your audits won’t be an involved process but reactive and agile.

Identify, evaluate, bring in outside expertise. A final word from Bill Nikolouzakis:

"the best way to go about the final phase of choosing solutions and moving on to implementation is getting that expertise and advice on what’s current best practice in the industry. Agents often don’t know about all of the solutions in the market or their associated costs, and building the best and most affordable tech stack can be a massive competitive advantage."

When you partner with PropTech Group, you’ll have our industry-leading products on your side to help your business grow.  Register for a chat or demonstration here, we would love to help!

Real estate is an industry in perpetual motion, with agents at the wheel and technology the heavy machine. It’s a space that’s been traditionally slow to the mark for adoption of new solutions without outside pressures; pressures like a pandemic, for example. There was no choice for agents or customers in assimilating into the new technology dependent normal. Stay at home orders, restrictions of movement, limitations on how people can be in a space. COVID has irrevocably changed not only the way that people buy, sell and rent homes, but the way that they want to engage in property. Online inspections, electronic document signing, automatic instant communication and digital portals: these have become must-haves rather than optional selling points.

Impact of COVID-19

Property technology and the demand for the industry to modernise has accelerated beyond all expectations in the past 2 years, and while the momentum may slow as we come out of lockdown it won’t disappear. Particularly not while millennials are poised to take over from the baby boomers as the lion's share of buyers and sellers, and they will come with the expectation of engaging with real estate the same way they engage with all other industries - digitally.

“If one good thing came out of lockdowns in Australia for real estate it’s the embracing of technology. Consumers have stepped up to assist agents to transact and carry out everything from remote routine inspections for rentals to online contracts and virtual tours, and agents have changed the way they work as well to meet the new needs of their clients. As Australia moves through this new transitional stage coming out of lockdown, the best of these measures will remain to continue to support agents with more tools, levels of service, and automations.”

Bill Nikolouzakis, CRO & COO of PropTech Group

Emergence of New Technologies

Real estate has always moved at a breakneck pace. Even at the height of lockdown there wasn’t a missed step, instead demand and prices for property soared beyond all expectations. Agents and agencies were hammered from all sides as the mass exodus from city centers left landlords scrambling for tenants and vendors fielding sight-unseen offers far above asking in the scrum to secure a home.

Technology rose to be the crutch that at first propped up the industry as we all acclimated, and then found it’s stride as providers continued to innovate and expand their offerings to meet the new needs of property professionals at every level. Tech stacks were a reality for real estate before the pandemic, became a point of hyperfocus during the pandemic, and will continue to grow and evolve as we come out of it. It’s not unusual for a tech stack in a mature company or agency to gravitate towards a patchwork of software that’s been acquired over time as new needs have surfaced; it’ll do the job, but it’s not efficient in the long term. Technology should be not only tailored to what you need in the moment, but chosen carefully to ensure that your selection is efficient and cohesive.

As we come out of COVID, many agents and agencies will be facing a tech stack peppered with stop-gap solutions that were implemented to meet the challenges of the pandemic, but may not be the right fit going forward. How can you tell what needs to stay, and what can go? Looking at trends and the desires of consumers and agents can guide you through the process. Remote inspections, AI and automation, digital signing. These are tools of convenience for the consumer and the agent, and aren’t going to be cast aside even when we get back to business as usual - or as usual as it can be after a worldwide pandemic. The digital generation in particular grew up in a world of accessibility, and they will demand it from every industry that they interact with including our own.

“Technology in today’s real estate landscape is a vital aspect of agent and agency success. Through it agents can streamline and automate manual tasks, allowing them to spend more time on the most important part of their job - the customers. Good software connects all of the information they need at the touch of a button whether they’re in the office, at home, or on the road.”

Mark Levin, Group Head of Sales at PropTech Group

Increased Buyer Confidence Despite Global Uncertainty

US based property company Zillow released statistics showing that listings utilising virtual inspections tripled between 2019 - 2020, and 72% of Zillow agents responded that they would continue to offer virtual inspections after the pandemic. Zillow house listings that had a 3D tour available in May of 2020 were also saved 32% more often than listings that didn’t have one; even though this data does concern an American company, the statistics are worth exploring.

That same company also conducted surveys on buyer confidence when buying homes sight unseen, with 23% of respondents being comfortable with entirely virtual purchases, and 42% of respondents being comfortable making an initial offer after a virtual inspection. There’s a divide along those responses along generational lines, with the digital natives having higher confidence when using property technology to buy their homes.

The exception is in using technology in the buying process for virtual inspections and digital floor plans; even the baby boomers and silent generation report confidence and a desire to utilise those features. Again, we are looking at American statistics but given the global nature of the COVID pandemic there is transference here - Australian real estate is no stranger to the effects of lockdowns and digitisation, or the shift in age as baby boomers move to retirement and a younger audience comes to the fore of property.

Automation as an Asset

In an industry that thrives on human interaction the thought of AI and automation may be a troubling one - but AI in real estate cannot and will not replace the agent. What it can do is automate menial tasks and administrative busywork, and it’s on the rise. Good CRMs and support software are leaning more and more on automation and workflow triggers; why manually enter data, maintain databases, and create individual communications when you can have a workflow that does it for you?

Through automation, agents can strip back the level of personal responsibility and effort that goes into the early stages that go into buying and selling property. You can send out automated messages to inform vendors and leads about offers, changes in price, sales, relevant new listings, sending and receiving contracts and collecting digital signatures.

During the eye of the storm in COVID this was vital to keeping on top of the deluge of enquiries and offers on listings. Without automated responses agents would have had to triage, determining what interested parties were interested enough to warrant attention. Workflows and intricate trigger sets can create communications that are indistinguishable from having another person on the other end of the line, cultivating that human connection between prospects and agents.

Long Term Implementation

There is a big asterisk that comes with AI and automation: automation is a complex proposition, and it requires a level of trust from the agent in the software. Technology that adds automation as a gimmick or an afterthought will hurt more than it helps, and once trust in the software has been broken it isn’t easily won back. Performing a tech audit is the best way to protect your business, evaluating and assessing your existing software as well as any potential additions.

Working in tandem with your automation should be your marketing and digital branding. Having a cohesive, attractive online presence in a world that runs remotely was a key aspect of real estate during the pandemic for obvious reasons. Without access to walk-in clients or paper drops there was no choice but to go entirely digital for agencies, and those agents and agencies that embraced it were the ones who found the most success. Agent and agency websites, online brochures and listings, market update mail outs and branded communications - all of these were valuable tools during lockdown, and should continue to be a point of focus going forward.

Future of Real Estate

Everyday life has become a liminal space for our industry, the in-between of lockdown and a post-COVID future. As we wait for the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022 there’s time for you to turn your focus inward, to look at what technology served you well and what technology will become a burden. Performing a tech audit and facing the possibility of ripping your support software root and stem, or even just moving laterally to a new system, can be a massive sink of money and time that can’t be afforded in the usual hustle and bustle. But in these unusual times we’re presented with unusual opportunities. Without being in an office, without needing to commute back and forth between inspections, there’s plenty of breathing room to not only investigate your current solutions but to learn new software. Kate Fairmaid, Director at Origin Projects puts it elegantly:

“As real estate salespeople, it’s rare that we have additional time on our hands. We’re always chasing a deal or our next listing. As difficult as lockdown can be, it’s provided us with valuable time to sit down and focus on our business. I would encourage anyone in lockdown to take this time and use it wisely, because once lockdown is lifted you may never have another opportunity like it.”

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