Stephanie Anderson August 16, 2012
Social media and smartphones could replace face-to-face agent contact. Photo: Thinkstock
Social media has made it easier than ever for agents to communicate with buyers but at what cost, Stephanie Anderson asks
I did a very foolish thing during my recent holidays - I taught my father how to text.
A man more used to hammering in fences and fighting the odd bushfire, he needed a few sessions to get the hang of it but soon enough I had him snapping photos and lol-ing like a teenage girl.
What a foolish, foolish thing for me to do.
My waking hours are now punctuated by two-word messages and photos of eclectic objects from around the family farm.
Luckily the rest of my family are putting their technological skills to better use.
My sister - now back on the hunt for a home - has taken to her smartphone in an attempt to find her dream house, downloading app after app in an attempt to narrow the search.
Apparently she's not the only one - agents and academics are heralding the increase in online real estate services as an effective way to connect with younger, tech-savvy buyers entering the market.
Peter Blackshaw agent Rowan Glanville says many of his colleagues use tools such as Twitter and Facebook to engage with the first-home buyer demographic and update them on the market.
Adjunct senior lecturer at the faculty of engineering and information technology at the Australian National University, Tom Worthington, says such technology is impacting on industries that have previously focused on personal contact.
''They're essentially turning them upside down,'' he says.
''This is something that we cannot stop and we'll need to make sure that our professionals are trained up on using social media and how to maintain a professional relationship online.''
Worthington says regular meetings or coffees with clients are no longer needed to ensure people feel connected to an agent.
''Traditionally it's been thought that if you want to have a close relationship with a client, you have to have that face to face,'' he says.
''But if you're using social media well, you can make them feel valued.''
Worthington says technology could evolve to the stage where the only personal contact required was on-site inspections, but University of Canberra academic Lubna Alam disagrees.
''Real estate is a big decision, obviously face-to-face interaction will still be very important,'' she says.
''I don't think it will be replaced but these apps are a wonderful way of filtering information.''
Alam says these types of applications will become increasingly popular as mobile phones become more pervasive and integrated into day-to-day life.
''Some of these traditional businesses that tend to focus on face-to-face interaction, people are more and more likely to engage online first,'' she says.
''In that context, mobile real estate could become more popular. But it's a big investment, so the personal touch really is still very important.''
Social media courses aimed at real estate agents are starting to crop up on web searches, but I'm not sure if these online advances will prove a hit with all generations - after all, my dad still jokes that bluetooth is a matter for dentists.
■ Do you think new technology will replace the need for face-to-face communication in real estate, or do you prefer to do things the old-fashioned way?
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