Real Estate Agents Should Embrace, Not Shun, the Data-Empowered Buyer


This post was written and contributed by Valerie Archer, BuildFax’s Market Development Director. 

The fear of missing out is a common phenomenon that may result in regret, doubt, or even misinformation – whether it’s buying a popular crypto currency or joining a new subscription service. In the real estate industry, this experience is increasingly common as real estate agents and brokers are nervous of losing out to a data-empowered buyer. But this worry is misplaced and out of date because the horse has already bolted out of the stable – the data revolution in the real estate industry is now.

Buyers have more data available to them than ever before. This doesn’t negate the agent role, but it will certainly transform it.

I observed this theory in action at Inman Connect New York, where hundreds of real estate industry professionals, including veterans, startups, agents, and brokers, approached consumer and technology trends with opposing views. Analysts and economists discussed industry innovation, often reminding the audience that no technology can replace the value of a real estate agent. The dichotomy between industry insiders and outsiders had never been more apparent than when just a few heads were in response to an economist delivering data-driven predictions.

The agent fear has matured beyond the fear of becoming obsolete into a disbelief of the buyer’s ability to understand and navigate the complexities of the deal. Perhaps the agent’s trained skill in avoiding liabilities throughout the transaction is what makes data feel threatening. Does more data pose a liability or an opportunity for the agent?

I posit that property intelligence data is an opportunity for agents to provide sophisticated counsel based on their industry expertise; to guide buyers rather than provide bumper rails. Patty McCord’s pioneering approach to treating employees like “fully formed adults” at Netflix is akin to the evolution taking place in the agent/buyer relationship. More and more buyers want to own the process and have all the data at their hands when making a decision.

The industry research supporting this transformation is mounting. Take RedFin Chief Economist, Nela Richardson, who notes that most consumers start their search online and one third of those make an offer sight unseen. We know that buyers are conducting independent online searches of properties and we know the indispensable value of a trusted agent/buyer relationship. But a data rich environment can also be agent rich, as the agent’s role evolves to empower the data enriched buyer.

Pete Flint, co-founder of Trulia, commented on the evolution of consumer expectations. “Consumers have had enough,” he said. “They’ve seen transformation in hospitality, in retail, in all these other industries, and they’re saying, ‘Where’s the transformation in real estate?’”

BuildFax has a front row view of the data revolution strengthening adjacent industries like insurance, lending and construction. Insurance agents use more data than ever before and it has led to more informed insurance decisions for their customers and accurate pricing for insurance carriers. Consider the increased relationships between remodelers and licensed professionals via Houzz. Why not real estate? If our uptick in requests from new players in real estate is any indication of the industry’s hunger, we are ripe for delivering a feast of property insights to the twenty-first century buyer.

For more information on how BuildFax property history and condition insights can help support your real estate business, contact us today.