THE FU­TURE OF WORK

Elite Agent - - CONTENTS - KYLIE DUL­HUNTY

Kylie Dul­hunty

THE FU­TURE OF WORK HAS BEEN ONE OF THE HOTTEST TOP­ICS in the last 12 months, with ex­perts around the world de­bat­ing what it re­ally looks like. What ef­fect will au­toma­tion tech­nol­ogy like ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) and ro­bot­ics have on jobs, skills and salaries? In the real es­tate in­dus­try there are agents, both here and over­seas, who pre­dict the way we buy, sell and rent prop­erty will soon look vastly dif­fer­ent to years gone by – but so will the way agents fa­cil­i­tate these trans­ac­tions. Story by Kylie Dul­hunty.

Cloud-based vir­tual real es­tate bro­ker­ages, off­shore labour, and de­sign­ing and build­ing emo­tion­ally and in­tel­lec­tu­ally in­tel­li­gent build­ings will dra­mat­i­cally change the way agents work in the fu­ture, ex­perts say.

The days of real es­tate agents ex­ist­ing solely in a bricks-and-mor­tar of­fice are al­ready dis­solv­ing, with US cloud bro­ker­age eXp Realty hit­ting more than 10,000 agents and up­list­ing on the Nas­daq Stock Mar­ket late last month. The agency crossed the $1 bil­lion mar­ket cap on its first day of trad­ing.

Tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances will see agents work from their homes, their cars and even over­seas at in­creas­ing rates, while some ar­eas of sales could be com­pletely au­to­mated or sent off­shore, as is al­ready hap­pen­ing in prop­erty man­age­ment.

The tra­di­tional real es­tate shopfront may also un­dergo re­mark­able changes; not only in the way it looks, but in the way it op­er­ates and thinks.

Yes, you did read that cor­rectly. Our build­ings are al­ready be­gin­ning to an­a­lyse third-party and sen­sor-gath­ered data, such as weather fore­casts and em­ployee move­ment pat­terns, to au­to­mat­i­cally ad­just things like tem­per­a­ture con­trol and light­ing.

Chris Rolls, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of PieLAB Ven­ture Part­ners

“Build­ing de­sign is not only about bits and bytes, but flesh and bones.”

which in­vests in late-stage start-up busi­nesses, par­tic­u­larly in the

prop­erty in­dus­try, says real es­tate is “ripe for change”.

“The real es­tate in­dus­try is in for mas­sive change, brought on mostly through tech­nol­ogy,” he says.

“In 2012, $221 mil­lion was in­vested, world­wide, in real es­tate-re­lated tech­nol­ogy. In 2016 that fig­ure was $2.66 bil­lion and the fig­ures for 2017 are ru­moured to be about $8.4 bil­lion. That’s ag­gres­sive growth in in­vest­ment in real es­tate-re­lated tech­nol­ogy. The fu­ture of work is go­ing to change ev­ery­where.”

Chris be­lieves the use of off­shore labour and the au­toma­tion of cer­tain tasks, such as book­ing in­spec­tions, will in­crease sig­nif­i­cantly in com­ing years.

He says some prop­erty man­agers look­ing af­ter Aus­tralian ren­tals are al­ready lo­cated in the Philip­pines, and ma­chine learn­ing will also im­prove and take tasks off the to-do list.

“We’re al­ready start­ing to see a lot of the man­ual, repet­i­tive, low dol­lar-pro­duc­tive things head over­seas. The out­sourc­ing mar­ket in the Philip­pines is grow­ing 17 per cent per an­num. That’s across a whole range of pro­fes­sions, but I would ar­gue that

fig­ure is greater in the real es­tate in­dus­try.

“Ten­ant con­tact, com­plet­ing con­tracts, sched­ul­ing of rou­tine in­spec­tions and lease re­newal are all things that can be done over­seas for a fifth of the cost. It’s good qual­ity labour and it doesn’t have high turnover.”

Chris says per­sonal as­sis­tant roles, in­clud­ing in sales, are also ripe to be pushed over­seas, with tasks such as CRM data en­try, copy­writ­ing, trust ac­count ad­min­is­tra­tion and man­age­ment of mar­ket­ing cam­paigns all able to be com­pleted off­shore or au­to­mated.

“When I had Rental Ex­press we in­vented on­line in­spec­tion book­ings … which au­to­mated the process for view­ing the prop­erty to lease it,” he says.

Chris says the tra­di­tional real es­tate shopfront will also grad­u­ally dis­ap­pear.

“Com­mis­sions as a per­cent­age are de­clin­ing, which means agen­cies won’t be able to af­ford the ex­pen­sive rents and over­heads that come with High Street frontages. Pre­vi­ously peo­ple had to come into an of­fice to at least sign pa­per­work, but that doesn’t hap­pen now.”

Founded in 2009 with just 25 agents, eXp Realty

now has more than 10,400 agents spread across 49 US states, in ad­di­tion to the District of Columbia and the Cana­dian prov­inces of Al­berta and On­tario.

It is an en­tirely cloud-based bro­ker­age with no bricks-and-mor­tar shopfronts.

“eXp Realty’s vir­tual of­fice en­vi­ron­ment, com­pared to the tra­di­tional real es­tate of­fice, al­lows agents to col­lab­o­rate and learn to­gether – no mat­ter where they might be lo­cated,” eXp Realty Pres­i­dent Vikki Bartholo­mae says.

“Our fam­ily of agents build their own busi­nesses while having the op­por­tu­nity to also es­tab­lish a di­rect own­er­ship in­ter­est in eXp World Hold­ings, eXp Realty’s hold­ing com­pany, as a share­holder and part­ner.”

The bro­ker­age’s growth has been stag­ger­ing, with the num­ber of res­i­den­tial sales hit­ting 25,299 last year; up 212 per cent on the 8,100 prop­er­ties sold in 2016.

In dol­lar value $6.1 bil­lion worth of prop­erty was sold last year, up 209 per cent on the $2 bil­lion sold in 2016.

“We don’t have the over­head costs of run­ning a bricks-and-mor­tar bro­ker­age, so we can in­vest that money in tech­nol­ogy and sup­port for our agents,” Vikki says.

“Agents no longer have to drive across town to the of­fice to track down their bro­ker or at­tend a meet­ing … ev­ery­thing is in the cloud and avail­able wher­ever the agent or team is lo­cated.”

In Vic­to­ria’s Beau­maris, Diana Du­gan Prop­erty

is about to close its first sale through its vir­tual of­fice, sell­ing a prop­erty in the beach­side sub­urb for a ven­dor in In­done­sia.

“We have never met in per­son,” Di­rec­tor Diana Du­gan says. “The first time we saw each other was in the vir­tual of­fice and through that por­tal I have been able to in­tro­duce her to our staff mem­bers and meet her fam­ily.”

While she’s not ready to drop her shopfront just yet, she’s ex­cited by the tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vance­ments in the in­dus­try. In her vir­tual of­fice, clients see a two-di­men­sional floor plan com­plete with staff of­fices, a board­room and re­cep­tion. She’s also able to bring sup­pli­ers, such as fi­nanciers and in­te­rior de­sign­ers, into the of­fice si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

“When I en­tered the in­dus­try I spent

“The real es­tate in­dus­try is in for mas­sive change, brought on mostly through tech­nol­ogy.”

“Agents no longer have to drive across town to the of­fice or at­tend a meet­ing … ev­ery­thing is in the cloud.”

most of my time out look­ing for sales leads or in peo­ple’s homes, and buy­ers and sell­ers rarely came into the of­fice,” she says.

“With the in­tro­duc­tion of the in­ter­net and cloud-based com­put­ing, it seemed a nat­u­ral fit for real es­tate trans­ac­tions to take place in a vir­tual of­fice. To me, this was the way of the fu­ture.”

While most ex­perts agree that real es­tate pro­fes­sion­als will con­tinue to work from vary­ing, mo­bile lo­ca­tions, they also say the tra­di­tional of­fice space is not dead yet.

Aure­con Build­ings of the Fu­ture leader Peter Greaves

pre­dicts shared of­fice spa­ces will be­come more pop­u­lar in the in­dus­try, with mul­ti­ple agen­cies in the one build­ing or even on the same floor.

“This is some­thing that will re­ally work from an eco­nom­ics point of view,” he says.

Peter says de­sign­ers of­ten get caught up in putting tech­nol­ogy in build­ings for the sake of it and for­get who the build­ing is for – peo­ple.

“Build­ing de­sign is not only about bits and bytes, but flesh and bones. We need to take a step back and re­mem­ber that hu­mans are at the cen­tre of ev­ery­thing we do.”

He says fu­ture build­ings will likely in­clude mov­able in­ter­nal walls so spa­ces can be re­con­fig­ured, stand­ing meet­ing rooms, greater use of nat­u­ral light and tech­nol­ogy that de­liv­ers feed­back to users.

Ac­cord­ing to Aure­con’s Build­ings of the Fu­ture: Peo­ple at the Cen­tre re­port, when its Mel­bourne base was de­signed it con­tained dig­i­tal plat­forms to con­nect sen­sors through­out the build­ing, walk­ways, bike racks, recre­ational ar­eas and plants. The data col­lected al­lows the com­pany to com­pare stair and lift use, mea­sure bike fa­cil­ity use, mon­i­tor in­door air qual­ity and op­ti­mise day­light, tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity lev­els.

“High tech is only high value if that same tech­nol­ogy en­hances hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence,” Peter says. “Re­search has shown that build­ing de­sign has a huge im­pact on staff mo­ti­va­tion, sat­is­fac­tion and re­ten­tion.”

First Na­tional By­ron Bay

is cur­rently re­design­ing its of­fice space in­ter­nally and will in­clude con­fig­ur­ing one team mem­ber’s of­fice around the use of a kitchen table.

“Tara had her sec­ond baby in Jan­uary and her team found out, through go­ing to work at her place, that they were pro­duc­tive around her kitchen table,” Di­rec­tor Chris Han­ley says.

“So we’re go­ing to em­u­late that in her work space, with a kitchen table in the cen­tre and in­di­vid­ual desks around the out­side. The bot­tom line is most peo­ple don’t do work at work. They get dis­tracted. You need to pro­vide and cre­ate spa­ces for peo­ple to do as much work at work as they can.”

Mr Han­ley says cre­at­ing a warm, invit­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tive cul­ture within a work­place will be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant in the fu­ture and a key driver of this will be the employment of women.

“Women col­lab­o­rate much bet­ter than men; they’re com­pet­i­tive, but col­lab­o­ra­tion is log­i­cal to them. I think the fu­ture of work for more and more busi­ness own­ers and fran­chisees is to un­der­stand that if they build and main­tain a great cul­ture they will at­tract staff who stay longer and who are more pro­duc­tive.”

Comp­ton Green Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor Adrian Butera

says that, from a hu­man re­sources per­spec­tive, the fu­ture of work in­volves al­low­ing em­ploy­ees flex­i­ble work­ing hours and even work­ing from over­seas.

“It started 12 months ago when we put a [so­cial me­dia] post out; we wanted to chal­lenge the sta­tus quo. We wanted to let peo­ple know that if you need to pick the kids up you can, and if you can’t work ev­ery day of the week that’s OK too. You only needed to be able to work Satur­days. It has worked re­ally well for us.”

Adrian says a sales­man who fell in love with an in­tern who came to work for Comp­ton Green from Berlin was able to work for the com­pany af­ter go­ing to Ger­many for pa­ter­nity leave when they had their first child.

“He could still work his data­base, call clients, log on and work re­motely. It was offshoring with a dif­fer­ence. While he wasn’t phys­i­cally sell­ing he would send us leads and main­tain all of those re­la­tion­ships. If you are dis­ci­plined and re­spon­si­ble you can work from any­where you like; you don’t need a desk.”

Adrian Butera

Chris Han­ley

Vikki Bartholo­mae

Diana Du­gan

Peter Greaves

Chris Rolls

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