Compass president Leonard Steinberg spends his days showing multi-million-dollar properties to multi-millionaires. But those high-end clients, just like us normals, care about one thing above all: Good old-fashioned time.
“People are going to start falling in love with technology when it gives them time,” Steinberg told attendees of the Fast Company Innovation Festival on Tuesday, during a late-afternoon session at Compass headquarters on Fifth Avenue. “Time is the ultimate luxury.”
Steinberg, formerly a star broker at Douglas Elliman, joined Compass in 2014. Since then, the startup has raised an additional $175 million in venture funding and built out a suite of technology tools that helps real estate agents market their listings. Compass agents are now active in 30 U.S. cities.
— Compass (@CompassInc) October 24, 2017
Compass helps agents maximize their face-to-face time with clients. In Steinberg’s view, prospective buyers are looking for in-home technology to play a similar role. “The greatest opportunities lie in user friendliness,” he says. In other words, operating a fancy lighting system shouldn’t require calls to a manufacturer help line.
Steinberg has also seen a shift away from the cold minimalism that used to dominate contemporary real estate. “When we get home we want calm and simplicity. But people are also looking for tactile things that harness warmth and texture,” he says. “Even patina, which was outlawed, has returned. Technology installed into a nostalgic environment is having a moment.”
Google’s new home assistant fits neatly into that trend, its hardware wrapped in a soft cloak of gray or coral fabric. When voice serves as user interface, screens can fade to the background.