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The Observer

Photo of Suzannah Toop

by Suzannah Toop

on May 23, 2019

Is the Intermediary dead? The ultimate wake up call.

The New World Podcast

There's someone who has helped shape my thinking significantly over the past 3 years and I feel fortunate to now call him a friend.

The first time we met, I asked if I could shout him a coffee to let me pick his brains, to which he happily agreed.

So there we were sitting in a coffee shop in Glenelg (a sea-side suburb of Adelaide), and I asked the burning question I was dying to know his thoughts on - what does the future of real estate look like?

His reply was cool, calm and collected. "Well first, the intermediary is dead."

There it was. The biggest wake up call I'd ever had. And it was really confronting. It was 2016, and I was sitting across the table from Alan Noble, the then, Director of Engineering at Google. I was quite taken a back. I'm thinking "he does know I'm in property management right?"

"His reply was cool, calm and collected. 'Well first, the intermediary is dead'"

Four simple words, unfiltered and raw.

These words confirmed what I was too uncomfortable to admit. Fundamentally changing our identity as property managers is the only option.

So what are we doing?

Our proptech start-up company, Virtual Agent is allowing real estate agencies to re-invent themselves.

Instead of a property manager being bang, smack in the middle of an interaction between customers and suppliers (eg A to B to C), we are letting them step out of this position, so they can observe the interaction between A to C.

We have created a new kind of Property Manager. We call them Observers.

Through automation, Observers are freed up to add real value to customers. They are letting go of the admin and are happily allowing technology take over the reins with medial tasks. They are getting themselves out of the middle position.

We believe this is the future of property management. A team of highly specialised, customer focused team members who are not bogged down in administration or medial tasks.

"We have created a new kind of Property Manager. We call them Observers."

Does this come with challenges? Yes, absolutely. You cannot reinvent yourself, and move property managers out from the middle position, without a bit of pain. Resistance to change is real. So too is the fear of letting go.

Adding to the challenge is the vast majority of systems and platforms are built for this middle position - where a property manager touches every aspect of every task. It sounds good in theory, but the hidden risk is the blockage it creates. Especially if they are a closed ecosystem with little flexibility.

But disintermediation is real. And it's coming. You only have to look at AirBNB and Uber to see it in action.

We are proudly moving agencies away from being the intermediary, for those who are letting go. We build products for Observers. And our users are getting results not previously thought possible.

Property Managers want more control. Observers embrace automation.

It's time to join the movement.