John McGrath, chief executive of McGrath Estate Agents, said modern agents need to be competent with devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets.
“The average real estate agent is about 53, so they generally haven’t grown up on a computer,” Mr McGrath told Real Estate Business. “I think it’s a really important skill: it’s one we teach internally and is a big part of our educational program.”
Mr McGrath said digital skills go beyond being able to use a listings portal or operate social media accounts. Agents need to master modern technology so they can respond quickly to clients, crunch data and operate customer relationship management systems, he added.
“We think that the dinosaur agent that’s not embracing technology has really got only a couple of years to exist in this industry,” Mr McGrath said.
“People want information, they want it fast, they want to be able to self-serve and get the information they want when they want it, and when they ask an agent for something, they expect it to be shot over to them very quickly.”
Mr McGrath also told Real Estate Business that competent agents have nothing to fear from the rise of online rivals.
“The computer isn’t a trusted adviser. The computer is a receptacle for information that can provide you data,” he said.
“While I think technology will become a more important part of an agent’s life, I don’t think technology will ever get to a point where it’s going to replace an agent who can pull together all the data and circumstances, ask a few questions, then provide some quality recommendations.”
Mr McGrath said the only agents who should fear online rivals are those who have turned themselves into “commodities” by being nothing more than “order-takers”.
“But the agents that are able to assess a situation, connect with a client and build that trust – so that the client not only hears the advice but is happy to act on it – I think they’re going to take over the market.”