E-commerce has shifted emphasis from brick and mortar stores to the digital realm for just about every company in the world. As a result, our lives are easier — at least the aspect of our lives that includes buying stuff.
But real estate has been slow to catch up. Yes, brokerages have added pictures and listings to their web pages and sites like Zillow and Trulia have democratized the once rarified realm of multiple real estate listings. But is the process of buying and selling real estate any easier? Dare we ask, more pleasurable?
Glenn Kelman, CEO of real estate tech company Redfin offers an explanation of why the industry is taking so long to change. Kelman argues that real estate technologists have focused too much on the technology and not enough on improving the real-world experience of buying and selling real estate.
Companies like Zillow and Trulia, Kelman asserts, have devoted their innovative energies to creating marketing opportunities for agents rather than shifting the paradigm to make a better service for clients. While technology has vastly improved processes like buying a book or buying a car, the march of progress seems to be passing real estate by.
It’s true, there is no shortage of complaints from the real estate community about the big players in real estate technology. Zillow and Trulia, for instance, have been accused of stealing agents’ intellectual property by using their listing photos and descriptions. Many real estate agents have accused Redfin itself of overworking and underpaying their agents. The real estate trade associations have taken huge amounts of flack for their forays into the tech world, finally having to discontinue their controversial “Agent Match” app.
Innovation always comes with growing pains. But the problem in this case is the insularity of the real estate industry. It seems perhaps, to follow Mr. Kelman’s thinking: too much effort has been made to please agents, instead of clients.