Editor’s note: In this three-part series, Inman News looks at what industry insiders and participants expect will drive change and technology development in the next few years. We’ll drill down on two of the hottest Web trends that are expected to get hotter for real estate: mapping and Web applications that drive consumers to broker and agent Web sites. (Read Part 2 and Part 3.)

Consumers’ insatiable appetite for information is what will drive real estate technology developments over the next few years, industry insiders say, but it won’t be about replacing brokers and agents with fancy Web sites.

Inman News asked real estate technology and online company executives where they expect technology to take off, and the prognosis shows applications that give consumers access to more data, more transparency into the transaction and the opportunity to more deeply interact with online content and engage agents when the time is right.

Pete Flint, CEO of Trulia, a real estate search engine, said he feels the transaction itself will not change, “but the actual way that people search for information is fundamentally going to change.”

In a time when the housing market feels uncertain, consumers will try harder to be more informed and that will drive a lot of innovation, Flint said. He anticipates more consumers will migrate to broker Web sites since they are the source of real estate content and brokers will better understand the importance of driving more traffic to their sites through search engines and Web portals.

Flint expects future tech developments in real estate will be data-driven as data will become more widely available.

Marty Frame, chief information officer for Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions, said that more real estate professionals today realize the benefits of putting more information online. “You’re engaging the consumer and you allow them to self direct and you appeal to them because you’ve made yourself useful to them,” he said. When this kind of relationship forms, the consumer will reach out to that agent when it’s time to transact, he said.

“There will be an evolution towards taking things and putting them online in a way we haven’t been comfortable with in the last few years,” Frame said. Nothing as radical as putting property listings online in 1996 has occurred since then, he said, but he expects that to change.

“You’ll see more home value information come online, and you’ll see the consumer participate with the professional,” he said.

As for transactions moving online, Frame said that he’s been seeing companies take a simpler approach than in the past. Rather than try to move the whole transaction on the Internet, more people are starting small with things like documents, which gives everyone a reason to push a little further.

“We’ll really start to see pieces of the industry working together to help the consumer,” Frame said.

Josh Sharfman, chief technology officer for the California Association of Realtors, said that Realtors will drive a lot of future technology development and that those technologies that offer a solution to the question of how to grow a business during a slow market will thrive.

Technology platforms that mimic how people already do business will be the easiest to adopt, he said.

Sharfman also pointed to technologies that help real estate agents communicate effectively with consumers as an important consideration going forward. “Consumers want information and they want it now,” he said. “Agents have a decision to make: they will either be facilitators of meeting that need… or become irrelevant.”

Glenn Kelman, CEO of Seattle-based Redfin, said, “It seems like the industry is becoming more open and consumer-oriented.” He thinks that agents will act more like partners with consumers and they’ll need to be proficient in things like optimizing listings for search-engine indexing to give clients a marketing edge.

Kelman, whose company offers discounts to consumers who use its online services, said that he is seeing “shockingly small brokerages doing big things on the Internet.”

Many industry participants expect mapping to continue to grow more vital to the way real estate information is displayed and searched online. Dave Keillor, president of Technology Concepts, said that while there’s a lot of emphasis on mapping, there will also be a large focus on the ability to drill down to micro-level information and see what’s happening in specific neighborhoods.

Keillor envisions many more developments around data to build intelligence on things like buyer behavior and agent performance. Also, he said, property listings information will continue to be important, but “the battle to control listings is yesterday’s war.”

Zillow President Lloyd Frink also expects a lot more development around information and consumers’ access to data on not only houses, but also agents, mortgage brokers, home inspectors, and many other pieces of the real estate industry.

“As far as the transaction, I think it would be great if more of it were happening online in terms of steps of the process. I think that will happen, but probably one of the big challenges there is who’s going to pay for all that,” he said.


Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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