Invest in mobile technology or face extinction, warns McGrath

Industry leader John McGrath says agents will struggle to remain relevant unless they “invest heavily” in mobile technology or partner with someone else who does.

The role of technology in real estate continues to polarise the industry, with some believing it distracts agents from providing quality service while others see it as a growing necessity.

John McGrath told REB that technology will become “a bigger piece of the puzzle” in the future and an even bigger differentiator than it has been to date. He said that mobile technology in particular is now a “critical” component of the real estate business.

“The ability to transact anywhere on the road, at any time of day and night, and have access to information and provide your clients with access to information in a mobile fashion will become more and more critical,” Mr McGrath said. “Agents not investing in this area will find it very difficult to remain relevant in this market,” he said.

Earlier this year, REA Group revealed its top tech trends that will influence how agents operate in 2016 and beyond.

Andrew Rechtman, executive general manager (residential) for, said the rise of virtual reality, mobile personalisation, and new developments in wearable technology are all set to change the real estate industry in 2016.

Meanwhile, agents have endorsed industry-led real estate portal followit, a mobile-based application that is set to transform the way agents communicate with their clients.

Franchise bosses have kept a close eye on emerging technology, but have been quick to remind agents that it is no silver bullet.

LJ Hooker CEO Grant Harrod told REB there is a real risk that agents can hide behind platforms rather than building relationships with their clients.

“I cut my teeth in sales in a world where all you had was a telephone and a telex machine,” he said. “You look at all the channels available today and it makes it that much harder for salespeople. There is also the risk that they can abdicate some ownership."

One group that has taken matters into its own hands is Century 21 Australia, which has owned and developed its own technology platform since the 1980s.

The group’s owner and chairman Charles Tarbey told REB that many real estate groups have taken the option to outsource their technology for various reasons.

“Since the 1980s our system was a PC-based platform, and since the 2000s it has been a web-based platform. It is about staying ahead of the curve,” Mr Tarbey said, adding that this can be “incredibly difficult”.

“It is hard owning the software and keeping it ahead of the curve because it is a difficult process, there are things that we might struggle to do that larger organisations out there who have outsourced their technology could do a lot easier,” he said.

“But they are certainly not going to be in a position to tailor their technology to a company’s unique approach to marketing. I think that is one of our biggest advantages.”

[Related: Can drones sell real estate?]

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