Real Estate Technology for the Next Century: Our Takeaways from iOi

By September 12, 2018 Blog No Comments
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Two weeks ago, part of the HouseLens team attended the National Association of Realtors’ first annual real estate technology conference. The conference theme was iOi: Innovation, Opportunity, and Investment. We came away with a wealth of insights, both practical and strategic.


Who better to talk about innovation than some of the most successful and most promising real estate technology professionals? But their ideas weren’t just for tech companies. These key insights apply to brokers and agents, too.

Do your product-to-market-fit research (Pearl Certification). Solutions for problems that don’t exist have no potential customer base. If you want to be innovative and successful, research your market to uncover buyers’ and sellers’ pain points. Are they struggling to find affordable homes? Confused about which schools are best for their kids? Frustrated by unresponsive agents? Fit your service style to these market needs, and you’ll connect with a pool of ready clients.

Understand where you fit in the real estate ecosystem (Centriq). Given the complexity of buying or selling a home, it’s no wonder that an entire ecosystem has grown up around the process. Take the time to understand where you fit into this big picture. Where do you stand in relation to online property searches, the agent on the other side of the transaction, lenders, and real estate technology solutions? Then consider how you can reduce friction as your clients move from one part of this ecosystem to the next. The result will be a client experience that generates rave reviews, repeat business, and referrals.

As you scale, practice “ruthless prioritization” (DocuSign). We like to think of growth as gain – but sometimes, to grow successfully, you have to give up something. To take your brokerage or career to the next level, you must identify distractions, wasted investments, and other hurdles. Stop paying for online leads if you’re not responding to or converting them. Stop doing your own staging, photography, or other services that could be affordably outsourced to a professional. You’ll end up with more time to do the things only you can do.


California Attorney General Xavier Becerra gave a stirring keynote on homeownership and the role agents play in their communities. Over the course of his speech, he raised two key questions about opportunity.

Who will have the opportunity to experience homeownership?

Becerra named homeownership as one of three pillars of the American Dream (the other two: sending your children to college and retiring with dignity). Thanks to constrained housing inventory and the resulting damage to affordability, however, this opportunity is increasingly out of reach for Americans. Urban residents, especially, are struggling to find a home of their own. Becerra predicted that our society will need to address several key issues to solve the problem of limited homeownership:  homelessness, housing density, and transportation/traffic.

Who will have the opportunity to service home buyers and sellers?

This was Becerra’s second big question. With the housing market tight in almost every major city, agents are struggling to drum up business. Becerra recommended three ways agents can conquer this challenge:

  • Adapt their “old-fashioned know-how and can-do” to a 21st-century market. Adopt real estate technology that solves real client problems and helps you take on more work in the same amount of time.
  • Learn how to navigate a “faster, touchier (more sensitive), and higher-touch” industry. Stay on top of industry trends and legal rulings, and provide stellar service to every client.
  • Participate in solving the problems that limit Americans’ opportunity for homeownership. With their incredible local expertise, agents are uniquely positioned to do this. Bonus: helping your community is always good for your brand.


Chris Smith and Jimmy Mackin of Curaytor engaged the audience with a lively tag-team on how to invest in yourself and your business. Their presentation primarily targeted real estate technology startups, but many of their insights were also applicable for savvy agents and brokers (who know they’re business owners as well as real estate representatives).

When you’re first getting started in real estate ($0-1M revenue):

  • Build an audience for your brand by providing something of value, such as helpful information on the home-buying or –selling process. Hold back on marketing your services until your audience is asking for them.
  • “If you want to be a leader, you have to be a learner.” Have the humility to understand that you don’t know everything about the industry. Ask questions of your audience, your colleagues, and your clients. Use the insights to improve your service and your business.

Once you’re established and earning a solid living ($1-5M revenue):

  • “Be willing to be bored.” Take the lessons you’ve learned and polish your service or business model. Then do it over and over. Remember, successful entrepreneurship is hard work.
  • “The transition from being player to coach is the hardest part of scalability.” If you want your business to grow beyond your personal capacity for work, you have to hire some help – and that means giving up some control. Many entrepreneurs fail at this stage because they just can’t let go.

When you’re ready to take over the market ($5-10M revenue):

  • Know when it’s time to switch gears. Watch for indicators of flattening growth or burnout. These are signs that you, your marketing, or your business plan are getting tired. It’s time to take things to the next level.
  • “The more work you put into something, the longer the shelf life will be.” To reach the highest level of business success, you have to think beyond the day-to-day. Prioritize projects based on long-term value, not short-term returns. And when you make decisions, think about what they mean for your legacy.

Did you attend iOi? Share your takeaways in the comments!

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