The troubling question in the minds of most thoughtful real estate agents in Nigeria recently has been whether the continuous rise and use of technology in the sector take jobs out of their mouths.
We are in the year 2018, and it seems the need for real live people is ever-diminishing.
At malls now, there are self-checkouts instead of cashiers, selfie sticks instead of photographers, self-driving cars, automated teller machines (ATM) instead of a bank teller, online news blogs in place of the good old newspaper vendor … well, you get the idea.
Technology has gradually taken over the source of livelihoods of people and it keeps reducing the need for the exertion of physical efforts by the day.
With each passing week, we seem to hear more hype about the rise of self-selling websites with Tolet.ng, nigeriapropertycenter.com and many others all vying for a piece of the lucrative real estate pie.
The excitement with which some home sellers tell the stories of their self-selling success, has given rise to the myth that “selling real estate is easy” and “anyone can do it”.
But what does the emergence of these platforms mean for real estate agents in Nigeria? Is this the future of real estate?
Given that technology has become so important to buying and selling homes, you’d also think property agents would be a dying breed, right?
Yet it seems like they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down, with at least 2 million active real estate agents throughout the country.
Real estate agents in Nigeria are obviously still thriving and coexisting comfortably despite the mounting importance of technology in the sector.
This may however be different in other climes like USA, the United Kingdom and China, because of the distance between they and third world countries in terms of technological advancement.
A recent survey conducted by SurveyMonkey, an online real estate platform in the USA, finds that 17% of people bought a house in the last two years without an agent. The same survey also reports that discounting commissions is widespread.
Listing a typical home with a conventional agent in Nigeria costs around 6% of the sales price. On a N5,000,000 home, the usual commission might tally up to at least N300,000.
Selling a home without a Realtor is estimated to save the owner at least 5% in commission fees. Hence the reason why there has lately been a rise in the way clients choose to boycott enlisting the services of an agent.
In the face of this new wave, do you think agents can continue to retain their value with the online portals cruising the real estate market or do you think they are a dying breed?
Join us in this discussion on whether or not real estate agents will someday be extinct. We asked some experts to weigh in.
From our Social Media Poll, this are some of the opinions we were able to gather:
Klassic – “We can’t dispute the fact that technology as come to stay,it as become an important factor in our day to day activities.
Technology can only make our job better not render us useless!!! All we have to do is to leverage on the power of technology and get the maximum best out of it”
Castle Homes – “The answer is ‘NO’ . Real estate agents in Nigeria will not become a dying breed because:
1. The client still needs to view the property after seeing it online. Only the agent can show the property.
2. Paper works have to be done. Only the agent can do that.
3. The client still needs to see the owner for negotiations etc. Only the agent can arrange that.
Therefore, in my opinion, no matter how digital we become, human contact is still needed to close a sale.”
Ezra – This is my take on this.
Technology is not here to kill man but to aid man. Everyday, I see many people express the fear that technology will steal their jobs and they will become obsolete. For instance, bankers are scared that people will no longer have to come to the bank and transact. True. That time will come. We are nearly reaching the era of cashless societies. Many policies will change as a result of technology. The way we live our lives will change and many people will loose their job. True.
But will technology render more people jobless? My answer is “NO”.
Will technology render people useless? My answer again is ” NO”.
But the question: will technology take away estate agents from property transactions? The answer is a big “YES”.
But yet again, let me remind you, do not despair, do not fear. Don’t let that worry you.
The reasons for my opinions are not farfetched.
But before I explicate my reasons, let’s take a look at the technologies we are afraid of.
1. The internet: The function of the internet is quite known to everyone. Even the estate agents are benefiting greatly from this device. With the internet you can place adverts online and reach a client through WhatsApp. A while ago people were all afraid of the internet. Real estate agents in Nigeria used to believe in newspapers and banners. But today they have dumped newspapers for online platforms.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI). This technology is also mostly used to program machines to work on their own as though they were humans. For instance a drone, a self driven car, a robot etc. The machines are programmed to react and take actions independently without any interference.
3. Blockchain Technology: This is by far the most discussed technology today thanks to the bullish behaviour of cryptocurrency market. You may not know what blockchain is but I am sure you have heard of bitcoin. Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency built on the blockchain technology. Blockchain technology is a kind of public ledger technology that helps to decentralize the world. It means that with blockchain technology, smart contracts can be created and the middle man can be kicked out.
This technology is the one estate agent are likely to be afraid of as there is no limit to the kind of transaction that can be designed on blockchain.
For instance, if a property listing company builds its app on blockchain, buying, selling and renting of houses can be automated through smart contracts. Inspection of property can be done through a 360 degree satellite enabled device and the property investor can view the property without physical presence.
This means that the onus of conducting KYC and Background checks will rest on the property listing company thereby preventing any form of fraud.
This analogy reiterates my affirmation as to whether or not technological innovations can completely eradicate the middleman.
But the real question is, will the middleman be completely removed? Yes, but what is really happening is that a single technology is taking the place of millions of middlemen. Technology will do in a minute, what would take an agent days to do.
Should we then be afraid of technology? My answer is “NO” and the reason is simple. Technology is here for man and not the other way around. All technological advancement have made life better for man. Technology without man (the end user) is useless. Life becomes better with technology. The best part is, machines will labour for us. We will reap their rewards and enjoy a bountiful life.
So the question again, will real estate agents in Nigeria no longer be needed in the future, perhaps yes, but the future is very bright.”
Adetoun – “Yes as we know it now . It already has changed and will continue to evolve. Buyers and sellers are already a lot less dependent on agents for home search and property valuations . As they become more accurate buyers and seller will become more self sufficient . We are all fools if we don’t realize our job is rapidly changing . We need to educate ourselves and find more ways to make our services valuable to our clients.”
Femi – “There will always be emotion in purchases of this size, so there will always be agents to handle that. The expertise will change. You will see the roles of buyer and real estate agents in Nigeria adjust to accommodate the ever changing landscape.”
Onos – “There will be a change in the way real estate agents in Nigeria operate/exist. Technology alone is changing that and as things become even more so technology-based agents will have to change the way they interact and conduct business or they (the agents) will be left behind. History has taught us, if nothing else, that if an industry doesn’t stay abreast of current systems and technology they can/will become obsolete.”
Emmanuel – “I think we are in jeopardy. The people I’ve worked with lately do not seem to understand, or value what we do. Most people think that now that they can access properties, do history to know what sellers paid for them, calculate their payments etc, they only need us for a key to open the doors”
David – “The Internet model assumes people know what they want and are fine with getting it themselves. Some fit that mold. But for many clients, buying or selling your own home will continue to be the end result of a complex matrix of personal decisions influenced by a professional who can both enhance the beneficial outcome and ensure the successful negotiation of those decisions.”
Chukwuma – “Tough question. I believe true professionals will be needed in any industry, no matter how technologically advanced it would become. Anyone can have access to the data, but an agent is needed to dice, slice and help to make decision.”
Olanrewaju: “I don’t believe that real estate agents in Nigeria will become extinct, because access to data by consumers is not the same as access to wisdom and insight for sound decision making. I think the agents who thrive will increasingly be subject matter experts about local market dynamics, global market dynamics and construction – the role will require the ability to interpret information for the consumer and will increasingly professionalize.
Love – No doubt that sooner or later, technology will take over some jobs or businesses.
My advice to agents is always update yourself with good knowledge, have structure for your business and learn to manage people. People skills will go a long way to keep us in business irrespective of anything that may arise. I don’t believe agents will become a dying breed. However, it will at some point become survival of the best. Which is why constant knowledge update and people management skill is key.
To a large extent, it’s a business that requires trust and competency. So can technology totally be trusted?? Humans still have better chances of earning trust and keeping it than technology does.
Going on the premise of these opinions, we can see that opinions are still split on whether real estate agents in Nigeria (or anywhere in the world) would still be as influential in property deals as they are now in the future.
For those who would like to weigh in on this, we will still be leaving the door open for more opinions on this. Kindly go over to the comment section and let us have your thoughts.
We will be posting a sequel to this article in the next few days where all subsequent opinions would be captured. Watch out for it.