As the real estate industry evolves, some skills and capabilities will be highly valued in real estate professionals of the future. Technology, changing customer expectations, an overall uncertain economic climate and increasingly stringent regulations mean professionals will need to adapt their skills and attributes in these areas. Such new capabilities can bring with them their own risks and complexities.
Aon recently had the opportunity to host a panel of industry leaders at a webinar where this was one of the points of discussion. Panellists included Antonia Mercorella, CEO of REIQ; Gil King, CEO of REIV; Anna Neelagama, CEO of REIA; Neville Pozzi, CEO of REIWA; and Quentin Kilian, CEO of REINT. Below, we take a closer look at some of the traits real estate agents will be expected to possess as the industry undergoes further change, and analyse what they may mean for an agency’s risk profile.
Service & Empathy
When we asked attendees at the webinar what the most important characteristics are for an agent, the most popular responses were maintaining high levels of service with clients, acting with empathy, and putting clients’ needs first. According to Anna Neelagama, “Real estate practices are a reflection of the community,”. With information easily available at their fingertips, today’s consumers have different expectations from real estate agents. Empathy, the ability to listen, and having true expertise are some of the traits valued. An agent should not only be well informed of the real estate market, but also other factors that may impact a buyer’s or tenant’s decision.
By demonstrating the above characteristics, there lies a degree of exposure for agents when performing their service. It is possible that in being a well-rounded expert, an agent oversteps the line in providing their services, and inadvertently offers advice that is outside the realm of their qualifications. This can not only lead to costly claims of professional negligence but also regulatory actions which can have significant financial consequences for real estate agents. It is therefore important that real estate agents, in adapting to suit customer expectations, exercise due diligence in providing their service, and ensure they are meeting customer expectations within the boundaries of their qualifications and expertise.
Comfortable with Technology
Although the real estate industry was initially slower to adopt technology, this has been accelerated by the impact of COVID-19. Although it’s natural to fear the implications technology will have on jobs in the industry, it is also worth highlighting how technology has enabled agents to service their clients more efficiently. This was echoed by many of the panellists at the webinar:
According to Antonia Mercorella, CEO of REIQ: "You can continue to offer exceptionally good service but…technology can really aid that…I’d love to see [this embracing of technology] continuing into the future".
Gil King, CEO REIV also adds to this: “Those who will succeed in real estate will actually adopt and use the technology to their own benefit.”
The modern-day agent will therefore need to be comfortable to learn and adopt new technologies and use it to their advantage. This also highlights the need for increased vigilance and awareness of cyber crime. With real estate agents being an appealing target for cyber criminals, this is particularly important to keep in mind – successful hacking attempts can start with human error such as an employee clicking a malware link.
So in addition to being tech savvy, the future real estate agent must also be aware of and educated in cyber risks, and feel confident in protecting their online presence.
Knowledge of Legislation
Another important characteristic of real estate agents is a thorough knowledge of legislation and the latest developments in the regulatory space.
According to Gil King, “If you're not staying up to date with legislation, you're not maintaining a high level of customer service with buyers and sellers”.
In the real estate industry, having a detailed understanding of the legislation naturally leads to the best levels of service. Your clients rely on you for the most up to date information on legislation that impacts them, and you can only advise them of their rights and responsibilities if you are aware of the legalities.
Key to understanding legislation also means going to the right sources for information. Interpreting laws isn’t easy, so it’s important to get your information from accredited institutes or legal professionals.
If your knowledge of legislation isn’t up to date, it could lead to you or your employees providing incorrect advice. This may not only lead to claims of professional negligence from your clients, but also penalties from regulators if you were found to be non-compliant with certain laws.
Safeguarding your agency into the future
Although it is inevitable that the changing industry will require agents to adapt their skills, it is important to be mindful of the emerging risks that come with it. In addition to due diligence in carrying out all tasks, having appropriate insurance in place is also important to consider to reduce the chances of your financial livelihood being thrown into jeopardy if you do experience an unfortunate event in the course of running your business.
The Aon real estate team are experts in risk and insurance with a deep understanding of the real estate industry. If you do not currently have your insurance arranged through Aon, why not chat to a member of our team and see what we can do for you. Call 1300 734 274 or visit our website.