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In a Crisis, an Algorithm Won’t Replace a Real Estate Agent

In a Crisis, an Algorithm Won’t Replace a Real Estate Agent

Every morning I check the Wall Street Journal and, like millions of other Americans, reel at the destruction the coronavirus is wreaking on our lives and the global economy. In the span of a single financial quarter, a crisis came at us all and we were utterly unprepared. With the world’s media imploring us daily to fully comprehend the magnitude of this worldwide health crisis, and the need to arrest it by staying safely ensconced in our homes, we grapple with our new reality: great swaths of small business owners across the United States watching their revenue streams evaporate, schools closed, entire metropolitan areas at a complete standstill. And amidst all of the mayhem, the markets remain open. Owners of equities still trade as do owners of real estate.

When the economy falters amid a crisis, people communicate differently. Videoconferencing apps like Zoom have been reporting record numbers of new users as people seek to make sense of their worlds and shore up their lives. Though the conversations are online, the interaction is entirely human — there is no algorithm involved. The apps and online conveniences of value in February 2020 have no place in an April 2020 mindset. Mathematical models work to calculate risk, but they won’t pair willing buyers and sellers of real estate today.

Today, talk is not cheap — it holds greater value than ever before. More than a necessity, it is an essential means of recovery, both psychologically and economically. Real estate agents market, contract and close transactions. They are also ad hoc therapists, designers, movers, troubleshooters and, more than likely, the holders of extraordinarily deep contact lists. A top-tier real estate agent has the connections that short circuit weeks of frustration and wrong turns and will apply his/her expertise to strategize ways to navigate tumultuous times. Crisis management is a real estate agent’s middle name.

Real estate doesn’t vaporize; it remains through up and down cycles. In 2008 when the real estate bubble burst, many U.S. homeowners watched the value of their homes fall dramatically. Ten years later, housing prices rebounded and, in some cases, home values even exceeded their 2006 highs, according to a 2019 LendingTree report. The management and sales of real estate requires a steady non-reactive hand. Real estate, no matter what anyone tells you, is emotional in a way that connects to the head to the heart.

Buying a home, as noted in a 2018 New York Times article, can be one of the most emotional transactions a person can undertake. A personal residence, vacation property and even commercial real estate, industrial real estate and leasehold interest all touch lives. They connect people to their pasts, to their futures and to their real estate agent who, more than any app or algorithm, is there to guide them when a pandemic-sized crisis seemingly emerges from nowhere, upending life as we know it. In the words of Brene Brown: “Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.”

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