(This is Part 4 of a four-part series. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.)

Are you ready to look into the future of real estate?

(This is Part 4 of a four-part series. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.)

Are you ready to look into the future of real estate? If so, grab your crystal ball and predict which of the following will be keepers and which will soon go the way of the buggy whip.

You may think that what you’re about to read is wishful thinking of today’s real estate entrepreneurs or you may believe that it’s the face of things to come. Whatever your take is on the following, these are the innovations that will influence your future.

1. Transparency

As the Web continues to collect more historical data about property, the sales prices of properties as well as their history are no longer shrouded in mystery. What still appears to be mysterious, however, is mortgage. Brad Inman described a panel where he had several mortgage brokers on stage and he asked the question, “How do mortgage brokers get paid?” Each attempted to answer. He turned to the audience and said, “How many of you understand how mortgage brokers get paid?” No one raised his/her hand. He asked the same question and the panel again tried to answer it. Again, no one in the audience understood how mortgage brokers get paid. The point is that the Web is now making it virtually impossible to continue to hide important information from consumers. Transparency means that every step of the transaction will be accessible to all parties involved.

2. Citizen journalism

People long for community and enjoy sharing their personal stories. The tremendous success of MySpace.com proves this point. Boomers are now getting into the game with a new site called Eons.com. The over-50 crowd now has its own space to share all that matters online. Another great example of citizen journalism is http://www.judysbook.com/cities/seattle/. Agents and companies who jump into blogging or to hosting community Web sites will have a competitive advantage over those not marketing in these venues. Furthermore, leads get to know and trust you through a blog, and it’s a simple way to build relationship with little effort on your part.

3. RSS

People are being inundated with information. Make your communications concise and to the point. You can use the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) software to let visitors on your Web site know that there is fresh content on your site. The RSS link also helps to build repeat organic traffic. This in turn, raises your search-engine placement. Also, be sure to tell leads how you found them. In most cases, someone visiting your Web site does not expect personal contact. When you personally contact a lead from any source, tell the lead how you obtained their contact information.

4. Youtube.com

Visual tours will be replaced with video tours. Youtube.com allows amateurs to upload their own videos. Buyers and sellers will come to expect a great video as part of a full commission package.

5. User-generated content

Wikipedia.org is the model for a user-generated encyclopedia. What’s interesting about this trend is that users actually correct inaccurate or inappropriate entries. This “collective wisdom of the crowd” could become an important tool in real estate. Software already exists that allows both agents and buyers to comment on the homes they see. Imagine how powerful it would be to show an overpriced seller the real feedback of what the buyers think about the price and the condition of their property.

6. Easy access

Today’s consumers want to see everything about a given property when they are sitting outside of it in their car. They want to know the price, the comparable sales, school information, chamber of commerce information, etc., all from the convenience of their cell phone or computer. Call Capture (IVR systems) and companies that provide text messaging, such as CellSigns.com, are an answer to this consumer demand.

7. Virtual real estate gets real

Did you know that there is an alternative real estate reality where virtual real estate is traded for real money? If you haven’t heard of “Second Life,” this hot new community may take you by surprise (http://secondlife.com/whatis/). People buy Web real estate for “lindens.” Lindens are now being traded on their stock exchange for real dollars. You can buy and sell property or just about any other virtual product. Think this is not serious? One woman in Germany made $180,000 (real U.S. currency) last year. Some companies with brick-and-mortar stores are now making their products available through their virtual store on “Second Life.” Membership should triple from 400,000 to 1.2 million in the next six months. Will those of us who sell the real thing join the virtual property party?

8. Consumer rebates

Redfin.com has made a major splash with its aggressive Web marketing and its 66 percent rebates for consumers. With the slowing market where sellers offer full commissions plus additional incentives, it will be interesting to watch how well this new model does.

9. PropertyShark.com

If you haven’t visited this site, it’s a real eye opener. Although PropertyShark is only in a few states, the richness of its data is amazing. I checked several of the properties that I had owned when I lived in Los Angeles. They had accurate information on my neighbors, the complete permit history of the house, comparable sales, and a host of other data. If this is available in your state, the data should be linked on your Web site as well as being part of every listing presentation that you make.

What does the future hold? Which new business models will survive? How will we do business five years from now? Only time will tell, but I certainly plan to attend the next Real Estate Connect to get a clue.

Bernice Ross, co-owner of Realestatecoach.com, has written a new book, “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters,” available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com.

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