THE THREAT OF DIS­RUP­TION has re­ceived a lot of air-time, and per­haps too much spec­u­la­tion ex­ists about how our in­dus­try will suf­fer. It can be easy to fall into the trap of ei­ther ig­nor­ing the threat or be­com­ing over­whelmed by it. Sarah Bell takes a lesso

Elite Property Manager - - Contents - Sarah Bell

THE ESSENCE OF the threat of dis­rup­tion is that low-cost, high-tech ap­pli­ca­tions will cre­ate a new nor­mal where buy­ers, land­lords, ten­ants and ven­dors ne­go­ti­ate di­rectly. This process is called dis­in­ter­me­di­a­tion – and it will hap­pen if agents lose their value in the mid­dle of a trans­ac­tion.

To have knowl­edge of a thing is to have power over it, so in a time when our ex­is­tence is threat­ened it is worth look­ing at where our value comes from in or­der to pre­serve it.


The concept of pri­vate prop­erty own­er­ship be­came avail­able to the ‘new wealthy’ class that was cre­ated as a re­sult of the

in­dus­trial revo­lu­tion in the 18th and 19th cen­turies. Yet as the agrar­ian life­style gave way to in­dus­try and prop­erty own­er­ship be­came more com­mon, the real es­tate in­dus­try was also born and this spe­cial­ist skill be­came valu­able. A real es­tate agent’s ex­per­tise in mar­ket­ing, ne­go­ti­a­tion, prop­erty law, busi­ness and as­set man­age­ment pro­vided real value to those early prop­erty pi­o­neers.

‘Uber’ is the tra­di­tional way to sell real es­tate, pri­vately, with­out the as­sis­tance of an agent. The concept of agency dis­rupted the orig­i­nal di­rect ne­go­ti­a­tion model, which is the Uber model, and for very good rea­sons.

When we are talk­ing about the sale and man­age­ment of res­i­den­tial prop­erty, we are gen­er­ally dis­cussing the most sig­nif­i­cant as­set in a pool of in­di­vid­ual wealth. If your lo­cal trans­port driver goes the wrong way, you can re­cover eas­ily. Sim­i­larly, for­tunes are not won or lost in the sell­ing of an old fridge on Gumtree.

If real prop­erty was sim­ply an as­set like any other as­set, de­ci­sions would be ra­tio­nal, log­i­cal and re­spon­si­ble.

It doesn’t work like that with real es­tate. Homes and prop­erty rep­re­sent fam­ily, hard work, sac­ri­fice. There is a lot of value to prop­erty own­ers in the story of their homes, as op­posed to its square me­tres, bricks and mor­tar.

The prop­erty pur­chase or lease is not emo­tion-free ei­ther. When a buyer or ten­ant con­nects to their fu­ture story and be­lieves in the power of that spec­u­la­tion – wealth or hap­pi­ness – they are pre­pared to pay more than the cost of the bricks and turf.

Be­ing too close to the prop­erty makes it dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend the mar­ket. In­ex­pe­ri­ence, emo­tional at­tach­ment and high stakes are the is­sues of a pri­vate sale by owner. They are also the very in­gre­di­ents of a so­phis­ti­cated panic. Panic in ne­go­ti­a­tions bleeds money.

Time and dis­tance are time-hon­oured

ne­go­ti­a­tion tac­tics that an in­ter­me­di­ary agent can pro­vide. There is a strong case for the sur­vival of the real es­tate agent, but we will still need to fight for it.


Once tech­nol­ogy re­places part of our ser­vice as sales agents or prop­erty man­agers, that part of our value is also di­min­ished. While we are fight­ing a bat­tle for rel­e­vance with tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ers, we have some in­her­ent and crit­i­cal ad­van­tages that low­cost-high-tech is strug­gling to match. This is where we should fo­cus our at­tack: Lo­cal, Mo­bile and So­cial.

Lo­cal: Real es­tate is one of the few in­dus­tries where lo­cal knowl­edge and geo-fac­tors play an im­por­tant role. What streets, fea­tures, re­gions and pre­sen­ta­tion styles add value to the prop­erty in your area? Your lo­cal knowl­edge about the fac­tors that add and sub­tract value to homes in your com­mu­nity is not easy to ac­quire and both cre­ates and pro­tects prof­its for your clients.

Mo­bile: Your of­fice is no longer in your of­fice and it is no longer nine-to-five; it is wher­ever you are and it wants to be con­nected to so­lu­tions at all times.

No one can be ev­ery­where and no one can be avail­able 24/7, but tech­nol­ogy can be lever­aged to pro­vide an out­stand­ing ser­vice where clients can self-serve in­for­ma­tion about their prop­erty or your ser­vices with trans­parency, at a time that suites them, from any­where in the world and on any de­vice.

Sim­ple things like em­brac­ing SMS right through to custom land­lord prop­erty por­tals and fully au­to­mated com­mu­ni­ca­tion jour­neys help your busi­ness to be more ac­ces­si­ble and con­nected.

So­cial: No one is good at so­cial me­dia with­out be­ing good at busi­ness. Good busi­ness – so­cial busi­nesses that are con­nected and en­gaged with their lo­cal com­mu­nity – are help­ful and their clients and com­mu­nity re­spond.

It is like own­ing a TV sta­tion. If no one wants to watch the shows you are play­ing, then you have a sta­tion but no au­di­ence. Take time to cre­ate rel­e­vant and in­ter­est­ing, help­ful con­tent and you will be re­paid in trust, en­gage­ment and busi­ness.

So­cial me­dia starts a con­ver­sa­tion; your busi­ness acu­men and con­ver­sion ca­pa­bil­i­ties get the deal done. “Tech­nol­ogy is a use­ful ser­vant but a

dan­ger­ous mas­ter” – Chris­tian Lange.


With a back­ground in re­search and in­ves­ti­ga­tions,

SARAH BELL mar­ried into the real es­tate in­dus­try in 2009 and has found a pas­sion for both the busi­ness and its peo­ple. Sarah has re­cently joined the team at LinkLearn. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit

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