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Tech gap looms in listings avenues

October 30, 2002

Emerging technologies spur generational divide among agents

By Bridget McCrea
Inman News Features

The classic technology gap between younger real estate salespeople who master computers before getting a real estate license and older real estate veterans who haven't made the jump to cyberspace is popping up in yet another aspect of the business. This time, the gap is appearing in the use of online listings display technologies like broker reciprocity, Internet Data Exchange (IDX) and virtual office Web sites known as VOWs.

Exceptions exist, but for the most part, younger agents are embracing IDX while older agents are sitting on the sidelines and waiting for the new technology to be proven in the field.

Jeff Beggins, sales manager and partner at Century 21 Beggins Enterprises in Apollo Beach, Fla., introduced his 36-agent team to the concept of lead generation through broker reciprocity a year ago.

Beggins said the 12 agents under the age of 35 jumped right on the leads that came through the electronic system. But many of the older agents turned up their noses at the idea that leads could be generated by electronic sources and discarded the message as being useless.

"Getting the older agents to think about (electronic leads) as legitimate leads was a real issue," said Beggins. Older agents tried a few of the leads, then decided they weren't worth their time.

"From there, they discredited the whole idea of e-mail leads," he said.

Beggins chalked the resistance up to "generational issues."

The younger agents "embraced broker reciprocity because they didn't know any other way," but the older agents required training. Beggins also created a customer care division through which all leads are processed and distributed to the agents. The division serves as a single point of contact for the agents and customers.

"We taught them to really treasure these leads, which are easier to work than leads they prospect for. These (online) buyers already know what they want and exactly what house they're interested in," Beggins said.

The lack of interest in IDX continues the longstanding trend of younger agents embracing technology while older more experienced agents are reminiscing about the days of the printed MLS book.

The problem could be exacerbated as the real estate agent population ages. The National Association of Realtors' 2001 Member Survey found the average Realtor is 52 years old, up from 42 in 1978 and 50 in 2000. Only 12 percent of Realtors today are younger than 35 years old compared with 29 percent in 1978.

George Groves, broker/owner RE/MAX Prime Properties in Scarsdale, N.Y., said the reason older agents don't understand technology like IDX is simple: the older you become, the harder it is to accept change.

A 30-year broker, Grove said younger agents tend to embrace technology because they simply don't "remember the way it was." Resistance among older agents isn't limited to IDX, he added, but encompasses most technology.

"There's no difference in the division as it refers to IDX than any other technology. Older folks seem to resist new technology, and those over 50 are the toughest to convince," he said.

Anything with a three-letter acronym like "IDX" or "VOW" sends shudders down their spines, added Darren Bien, COO of Keller Williams in Austin, Texas.

"When we started talking about 'IDX' with agents, (only) about 20 percent of them understood and embraced it. But when we called it 'online broker reciprocity,' (more of them) understood it," he said.

Nine months later, roughly 90 percent of Keller Williams' agents use some form of IDX, according to Bien.

"It's not a question of (sales associates not) understanding the value of broker reciprocity and other technology tools," said Bien. "Technology types just need to package them in a fashion that's easy to grasp."

The gap doesn't prevent established agents from appreciating technology once they learn how to use it.

"The more seasoned longtime agents must be nudged and pulled into the new era," said Virginia Lomagno, managing broker at Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Lomagno said the younger of the company's 52 agents "eagerly embrace" technology like IDX and constantly are upgrading their equipment while the older agents utilize only 50 to 60 percent of the technology capacity of the company's two offices.

But once the older agents learn the value of the technology and how to use it, "they do appreciate the benefits," Lomagno added.

Not all older agents have to be pulled kicking and screaming into such concepts as broker reciprocity. Most of 90 agents at Powhatan, Va.-based Napier Realtors ERA are older than 35, but that hasn't stopped any of them from embracing broker reciprocity.

Lummie Jones, vice president of brokerage, said the secret lies in agent technology training and an enthused supportive broker.

"We help our agents understand the power of sharing information. And we're all making more sales as a result," she said.

Jones said the office broker's attitude is crucial in the technology adoption process.

"Brokers must help agents keep up with times and embrace new ways to work with buyers and sellers," said Jones. "It's our duty to train and help our agents accept changes that affect their business."

Copyright: Inman News Service



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