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Is Australia’s real estate agency industry heading for its Uber moment?

17 April 2018 Tom Russo

Uber is great. I love Uber. The other day, I was heading home from Melbourne. I walked directly past a taxi rank on Collins Street without even considering hopping in and waited two or three minutes for my Uber to arrive.

I was greeted with a smile, a mint and a lovely, clean car. As I headed to the airport, I got to thinking about why Uber is being successful in winning market share and whether our real estate industry is truly heading for its “Uber moment”, as so many pundits seem to want to argue. I concluded that it is, and that’s a good thing.

So, why do I love Uber? It’s easy to book. I get transparency about my driver and my fare. It’s convenient. I can jump out at the end with no physical payment and an electronic receipt. I don’t need to worry that my driver will balk when he realises my trip will be short, or take me the long way round. Above all, I love the fact that my peers are keeping the drivers honest and, as a result, they are customer-focused and actually care whether I enjoy the service they provide.

So, has Uber really disrupted the fee-for-service short-journey car ride industry? It depends who you ask. If I owned a portfolio of taxi plates, I’d probably agree and be looking to rebuild my fortune right about now. But the people who actually provide the service, the drivers, are still driving us and still charging us for the pleasure. The difference is that quite often now it actually is a pleasure, with technology facilitating the process efficiently and forcing the service provider to perform at a standard acceptable to the consumer. In short, it makes drivers look better and results in happier customers.


Many people in our real estate agency industry approach realtech with trepidation, fearing true disruption leading to total disintermediation and putting up barriers to its adoption. The reality is that while some entrepreneurs are seeking to achieve disruption, the vast majority of investment into realtech is leading to the creation of tools which will assist good industry operators to perform at a higher standard or implement efficiencies into their business that result in a stronger bottom line.

We are witnessing an explosion in real estate-focused CRM innovation, digital deal origination and lead generation applications. Data analytics and artificial intelligence tools are allowing us to engage in prospecting activities more productively than ever before. What’s even better is that competition is driving the cost of accessing these innovative solutions lower, resulting in the return on investment being compelling and easily quantifiable.

Amid all this, the most important fact remains true and unchanged in our industry: customers want excellent service from a trusted adviser who can guide them through what is, for the majority, one of the most personal and important processes of their life. It is a process that can be filled with doubt, second-guessing, confusion and stress. You are not driving them to the airport or selling them a TV; you are selling or managing one of their most important assets (both financially and emotionally).

Ultimately, the client wants to enter the process feeling confident that the outcome will maximise their return, and they want to complete the process at peace within themselves that this did, in fact, occur. Those professionals in our industry who occupy this space — the trusted adviser — cannot be replaced by an online solution that will achieve suboptimal outcomes.

At Elders, our operational excellence strategy is, essentially, to be the Uber platform for our network. We will continue to invest in our people and make the best resources available to them while adopting the best innovations (be it technology or training) that the industry can throw at us. We exist to enable our people to do what they do best — list, sell and manage properties while delighting all of our clients. This strategy is founded on the belief that those agencies who are willing to invest in the right solutions for their teams will thrive and those agents who are willing to embrace innovation will be the industry stars of the future.

This will go a long way to ensure that an Elders client will walk straight by the taxi rank to ride with their trusted adviser.

And what is our view on those innovators who ARE trying to move the market to a DIY or low service model? The reality is that the vast majority of clients who are drawn to DIY low-cost property sales will be those who are dealing with low-value assets, are price-sensitive and unwilling to pay for a valuable service (read: “cheap”) or believe that their own skills and knowledge far outweigh those of an experienced highly trained industry professional (read: “too arrogant”).

There are lots of people needing to get to their destination. Let’s leave the drunks and the abusive passengers for the taxi drivers to deal with.

Is Australia’s real estate agency industry heading for its Uber moment?
Tom Russo
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