Brokerage isn’t going anywhere, but it’s getting a lot more complicated.

I met with a landlord the other day and was speaking with him about where I saw threats to the brokerage model and asked for his thoughts. He acknowledged that commodity (low cost, non-amenitized) buildings may try to offer space directly to tenants and remove the broker, he didn’t see that occurring on higher end building or with companies that viewed their facilities as a strategic advantage. He said it’s still a people business and nobody is going to want to shop for office space online.

The more I research where artificial intelligence and automation can fill gaps, the more I am confident that my industry will evolve, but become more complex. From these two articles (Where machines could replace humans—and where they can’t (yet)) and (The skills your kids should cultivate to be competitive in the age of automation) I take away the idea that messy problems that can have multiple outcomes that require aligning multiple personalities and agendas can’t be achieved through automation or artificial intelligence.

In order to make automation or AI effective, the goal has to be clear. Shipping a widget, welding a steel joint, or scanning an item for checkout are clear activities with binary outcomes. But when it comes to negotiating a deal, there are a million negotiable points to be traded, there are egos to be handled, and there are multiple outcomes that can occur. Even if you could program a computer to help solve for all of those permutations, you have to start with the assumption that everyone is being honest about their motivations going in (which isn’t always the case) and hope that goals don’t shift due to other inputs half way through the process (which they probably will.)

All of the technical parts of brokerage will become automated. Things like running a financial analysis, compiling market statistics, and aggregating available buildings will become fully automated. The ability to synthesize that information and apply it to the client’s needs will become even more valuable.


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