Is an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mindset breaking real estate?

For one principal based on Sydney’s northern beaches, the answer is simple: real estate’s aversion to technology and change is costing the industry dearly.

“As an industry we’re inclined to think ‘if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” explained Brendan Pomponio, principal of Belle Property Dee Why. “However, when the industry as a whole understands the benefits they’re missing out on, they’ll realise it’s a little more broken than they thought.”

In an exclusive with Real Estate Business, Mr Pomponio insisted: “The industry is used to doing things a certain way and there’s a reluctance to change; entrenched processes and mindsets are passed down from one agent and one generation to the next.”

In the modern world, where change and technology are as commonplace as cars and water, and consumers expect heightened levels of service that align with technological and social progression unfolding around them, Mr Pomponio’s estimation is real estate remains “archaic” when compared to other industries.

Playing into these service expectations is the fact modern clients “have unparalleled insights into properties that previous generations didn’t. They come to an inspection, auction, or consultation with a level of insight and expectation, and those expectations are far easier to meet when an agent, agency, or industry is using technology to streamline our role and improve their experience”.

While “many agents think the way they do things is either the best way or the only way,” he insisted “the agents willing to change and adapt faster will lead by example”.

As the principal of one of Belle Property’s most successful agencies, Mr Pomponio has been a constant adopter of change and welcomer of evolution.

“We’ve always been trialling things,” he said of the agency’s utilisation of technology. “But now we are at the point where we’re innovating things.” He highlighted the office’s chief operating officer’s work streamlining the outfit into paperless operations as evidence of the outfit’s “appetite for adopting new things”.

He proclaimed standing still as an agency means Belle Property Dee Why would be “essentially moving backwards, because our clients will come to compare us to other businesses that evolve for the better”.

“Better systems and processes create better agents, better agents offer a better service, and a better service helps business grow,” he shared, adding: “It’s not just for the agents; it’s for the whole business behind them.”

A core component in why the Dee Why outfit’s mindset has remained firmly geared towards “scalability, technology and evolution”, has been the constantly fluctuating surrounding world influenced by rising technological adoption, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the constant ebbing and flowing of the Australian property market in recent years.

Key to this modus operandi has been the business’s implementation and utilisation of technology, which Mr Pomponio described as playing a huge part in “streamlining systems and processes”.

Moreover, he explained technology has allowed the team at Belle Property Dee Why to “empower our agents to become more productive and more cost and time effective, [which] in turn makes us into a more scalable business with happier customers and better retention and acquisition rates”.

Citing an example of agents inheriting legacy practices, such as using a phonebook to call prospective clients, Mr Pomponio insisted the future is a world where “technology can make the process more streamlined, more targeted, and more efficient”.

He believes technology has the potential to unlock and improve the contract signing system, as well as in areas like compliance, amongst others.

However, as many bosses will tell you, adopting technology is one thing, but seamlessly adopting it while keeping your staff onside and engaged is a whole different ball game. Mr Pomponio believes initial apprehension to technology is not permanently tattooed on an employee’s psyche.

“It’s like learning to ride a bike,” he shared. “By going 10 minutes slower to begin with, you can go much faster thereafter.”

In his team of around 70, there is no blanket attitude towards technology and change.

He acknowledged that “some take to technology faster than others”. “Even those who were slower to adapt are realising the benefits,” he said.

With respect to this, he and his leadership have not just sat on the sidelines and watched this all play out; he stressed education as a crucial aspect in ensuring everyone understands the benefits of adopting change.

“Showing them the potential to streamline and improve so many essential everyday parts of their job makes the process less daunting, and more relatable and aspirational,” he said.

Also playing a fundamental role in this advancement-accepting attitude has been the creation of an “environment where innovation is encouraged and our agents have been educated on the value they’ll feel, and deliver, through it.”

In a climate where agents may feel their job is threatened by the increasing rates of technological advancement, Mr Pomponio further stressed education’s importance in overcoming trust issues operators may face in these scenarios.

He noted agency owners and corporate executives would reaffirm real estate will always be human-centric.

“Real estate will always rely on human-to-human connections. Technology isn’t replacing that but facilitating it,” he said. “Buying or selling a property is the biggest transaction people will make in their lifetime. A real estate agent they can trust is worth their weight in gold.”

“Technology enables agents to build trust, not only because their client knows they have cutting-edge technology and processes in place, but because it frees up far more of their time to build relationships and guide their client through the process.

“Agents that are proactive, innovative, hungry, driven and adaptive are growing and becoming far more scalable with technology,” he explained.

“For us, the biggest lesson we want to instil is, technology is what enables you to work less and do more. Agents and agencies that ignore that will fall behind those who embrace it,” Mr Pomponio concluded.

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