The introduction of the Real Estate Self Transaction (Rest) platform of the Dubai Land Department (DLD) has been greeted with reactions ranging from mild concern to outright panic across the industry. What will this mean for real estate brokers and the industry as a whole? How will brokers remain relevant in an era of greater automation and transparency? And could this really be the beginning of the end for many brokers as some have suggested?
This isn’t the first time that commentators have declared that brokerages’ days are numbered. In my 15 years in the industry I’ve witnessed the shift from print media to the internet, the rise of the portals, the introduction of virtual reality and the growth of online agency, all of which have to some extent been hailed as the beginning of the end for traditional brokerage. And yet the industry has continued to grow and on every occasion good brokers and good brokerages have not just been able to survive, but have thrived.
Making the transaction process more transparent, more mobile and less labour intensive will make transactions simpler and quicker, but they will not take the place of the broker’s main role, namely getting all parties to the deal table.
Firstly, we should acknowledge that it is clearly not the intention of the DLD to send brokerage the way of the dinosaurs. Rest should be welcomed for the progressive, modern step that it is in the continuing maturating of the marketplace — and a move by the DLD to streamline “brokerage procedures”, not to end brokerage. Making the transaction process more transparent, more mobile and less labour intensive will make transactions simpler and quicker, but they will not take the place of the broker’s main role, namely getting all parties to the deal table.
There is a huge amount of work that goes in the sale or rental of a property, from advising the client on price, effective marketing, proactive callouts to generate interest, qualifying buyers, generating and conducting viewings, negotiating price and contract terms and finally agreeing the deal. A good broker will continue to have plenty of opportunity to add a huge amount of value to their clients’ sale or search.
However, not all brokers are good and not all add value to their clients and these brokers should be afraid. I’ve experienced it myself in my own search for a property and sadly it is still too prevalent in this market. It is likely that Rest, blockchain, portals and a more buyer- and tenant-centric marketplace will put further pressure on bad brokers, as increasingly clients will refuse to pay for substandard service if they can conclude the transaction themselves.
The role of the broker has evolved over time and will continue to change with the arrival of new technologies and initiatives from the DLD, but good brokers should not be afraid. Technologies that deliver efficiencies are opportunities. Technologies that make transactions more transparent create certainty and confidence. Those brokers that will use the extra time given back to them from greater automation to invest in themselves, their businesses and their clients, will see their market share grow in a landscape that will be less forgiving for those unwilling to change.
Richard Waind is director of brokerage at Better Homes. The views expressed here are his own.