We’re in an extraordinarily rapid-changing environment. What are the trends that will affect us tomorrow? What will fall by the wayside? How can you use these trends to increase your business?

We’re in an extraordinarily rapid-changing environment. What are the trends that will affect us tomorrow? What will fall by the wayside? How can you use these trends to increase your business? Michael Tchong of Ubertrends.com discussed the importance of catching the next trend, or as he put it, “catching the next wave before it catches you,” at a recent Inman News conference in Miami. Below are three key trends that will profoundly affect both our business and our personal lives.

The Digital Lifestyle

According to Tchong, “We are becoming computers and they are becoming us.” We give our computers pet names such as “lappy,” and many of us are addicted “crackberries” (i.e., addicted to using your PDA). Fifty-four percent of us take our cell phones to bed, and 22 percent will interrupt sex to answer an incoming call or text message. Furthermore, an increasing number of us are choosing an online existence to the more traditional real world. Social networking has revolutionized how we meet each other. MySpace.com has 108 million users. Online gaming and “metaverses” allow us to assume new identities in a digital fantasy world where we can look and be the way we want. A misspoken word or simple mistake spreads like lightening over the Web. We shoot pictures of everything and have turned into a nation of Web voyeurs.

What to Expect

Realtors will increasingly feel pressure to be available more than ever before. The younger our clients are, the more likely they will be to expect instantaneous response to their inquiries. Advertising will shift from print to places such as MySpace.com or YouTube.com. HDTV virtual walk-throughs will replace digital photos and virtual tours as the new standard for business.

Tomorrow’s agent will have to be more efficient because the environment will demand it. The digital transaction (i.e., paperless transaction) will simplify the documentation process, increasing the speed at which we communicate and how quickly we close transactions. In fact, buyers and sellers in Holland are already using this new technology to purchase real estate. Cell phone users can click on a single button to identify the homes in any neighborhood that are currently for sale. (No yard signs allowed.) They can make an offer on their phone as well. As the paperless and wireless trends spread, we’ll see a new generation of buyers and sellers who essentially have no borders.

Time Compression

Our lives are becoming increasingly compressed as well. We engage in speed dating and make decisions about the suitability of a partner within seconds Thirty-four percent of all lunches are eaten on the run. We sleep 6.9 hours on average rather than the 8.8 hours people spent sleeping in 1920. Even babies sleep less. We spent $90 billion in gift cards because we’re too busy to shop. We chug coffee and energy drinks and seek balance with yoga.

What to Expect

The increased stress resulting from time compression will create an even higher demand for our homes to be a sanctuary. Many builders already market master bedrooms as “owner’s retreats.” Toll Brothers, one of the nation’s largest builders, now offers “calming rooms” as one of the options in their homes. Modular homes will replace traditional brick-and-mortar homes because they take less time to build, are less expensive, and may be more energy efficient. Appliances are being networked so they can be used from a single control anywhere in the house. Personal landing strips to accommodate Honda’s new personal jets will allow us to reach our destinations even faster.

A Radically Different Real Estate Market

A fundamental shift is occurring in the real estate industry. Just a few weeks ago, the number of single people in the U.S. exceeded the number of married couples. In 2007, 60 percent of our transactions will be with immigrants and minorities. According to Tchong, we also have many more single female buyers as opposed to male buyers: 11 percent of single buyers were male as compared with 28 percent of the female buyers. Even more surprising, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange has launched the first futures program that will allow homeowners to hedge their home’s value.

What to expect

Realtors will have to shift their focus from so-called traditional buyers to working with buyers and sellers who are fluent in a host of other languages. Agents who fail to make this shift will see their pool of potential clients continue to shrink. Those who niche their business to be more international or to meet the needs of very diverse groups will thrive in this new environment. To meet this need, there will be a proliferation of Web sites in other languages.

Having a “futures market” available in real estate will cause extraordinary changes that virtually no one can predict. Title insurers may become the first to offer “equity insurance.” According to Tchong, Realtors may look at what the comparable sales say about a home’s value, and then check the futures’ market to determine whether the seller should be advised to raise or lower their price based upon what the investors expect to happen in the future.

Are you prepared to “catch the wave before it catches you”? If so, you’ll prosper in tomorrow’s market while others struggle to make it to shore.

Bernice Ross, national speaker and CEO of Realestatecoach.com, is the author of “Waging War on Real Estate’s Discounters” and “Who’s the Best Person to Sell My House?” Both are available online. She can be reached at bernice@realestatecoach.com or visit her blog at www.LuxuryClues.com.

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