Editor’s note: Inman News is exploring what the next decade may hold for real estate professionals in "2020 Re-Envision: The Future of Real Estate Brokerage," an editorial project that features a survey and related articles. Readers are invited to submit guest essays detailing their vision of the future for the real estate brokerage industry. Send your guest essay to future@inman.com by Feb. 28, 2010.

The year is 2020 and the Johnsons just found out that they will need to move. It seems that Sally can make more money but her employer wants her to reside in an exact geographic location instead of working in a virtual office like most people do.

The Johnsons will need to sell the house, which is easy to do. The Johnsons call the cleaning service and the videographer and order a complete scan.

Once the Johnsons have all of the information together they send the information along with video to the National Homes For Sale Database (NHFS). The data is inspected, certified and deemed to be accurate and guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Information (USDI).

On the other side of town, the Smiths just found out that they will be having a baby. After discussing it, they decide that they are ready to buy a house.

Jim Smith has already put the parameters for the type of house they want into the "Realto-Magic" system, which is part of the NHFS created by an organization called NAR, which no longer exists.

The database now belongs to homes.org, a nonprofit consumer protection agency. NAR sold it to pay the rent. When the system finds a match, the Smiths will be notified. If they don’t find a match they may need to change their parameters or wait a while.

They have already sent their secret code and credit-chip information to the lending company, and know how much money they can borrow.

The next day while Jim is watching the house-bot cleaning and sanitizing the kitchen, an alert comes in through the household computer, indicating that there is a home for sale that meets their needs. Jim is excited and relieved because he thought the refrigerator might be sending out alerts again, and he wasn’t in the mood to call the landlord again.

The house is shown on the screen, and Jim looks it over and finds that the price of the home is in their affordability range. After looking at the 3-D tour of the home and the surrounding area, the disclosures and the complete scan, he decides that they should see it.

The pictures are all in high-definition 3-D, and there is no need for special glasses. Jim can move around in the images and he can zoom right in on the crack on the foundation and get a measurement. He can move around the block and across the street. He can clearly see that the next-door neighbor has a golden retriever, likes to grow geraniums, and has a swing set in the back yard and an infant seat in the solar-powered hover car parked on top of the garage.

He presses the "appointment-o-matic" button and puts in his secret ID, and then selects the time he would like to see the house. A small plastic disk comes out of the universal printer thingy in the wall, and the word "confirmed" flashes across the screen.

The following Saturday the Smiths go to look at the home. They get to the front door and stand by the door machine so their retinas can be scanned, and then Jim slides the plastic appointment disk into the reader.

As the door opens a voice says "Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, the Johnsons are not at home but please come in, remove your shoes, don’t let the cat out, and ignore the crying baby in the closet."

Near the front entryway is a screen with information about the home, including the results of the last house scan, which looks very good. …CONTINUED

As Jim touches the images of the appliances, they tell the Smiths how old the appliances are and when they were last serviced. It is the same information they already saw, but most buyers like to see it in person.

The Smiths walk around the home and decide that it is perfect for them.

Jim presses a button indicating that he has reviewed all of the information. He has one question: "When do the Johnsons want to move?"

The computer responds with a list of dates. Jim says "Sept. 15," and the computer says "yes."

When they get home, Jim brings it up on the screen of the household computer and slides the disk that was printed when he was approved for a loan into the slot thingy on the wall. He then uses the plastic disk that he got so that he could see the house into the same slot.

Thirty seconds later the word "Congratulations" flashes on the screen. The Smiths’ offer is accepted. The Johnsons will move out next week and the Smiths will move in a day later.

When the Smiths move in the bank will be alerted by the computer as they unlock the front door, using a special key. At that moment, funds will be transferred into the Johnsons’ account, the locks will be changed, and the printer thingy will generate a new key and the automatic mortgage payments will begin.

The transaction is smooth because all information about the home is in a database and the value of each home is kept up to date. The exact condition of the home, including any defects, are known because of the scan.

The history of the house can be looked up on the "interwebs" and will show insurance claims and any money that was spent making improvements on the property, when they were made and who made them, and whether any warranties are available with the press of a button.

Technological advances made it so buyers and sellers got what they always wanted. They could quickly and safely buy or sell a home on their own, without paying a human third party, because by 2015 an app will have been invented for everything except drinking, smoking and sex, but by 2025 that will change too.

For Realtors, this story doesn’t have a happy ending. Except for me, because I become a world-famous travel and leisure photographer and take pictures all day in exotic locations and write for the new Inman News Travel Portal.

I suspect that our clients would read this and smile. I know my clients appreciate what I do because they tell me that they do — but I also know that I can be replaced and that it is consumers who will determine the future of our industry and they have already started, we are just following their lead.

It is their real estate, their time and their money, and they are the biggest stakeholders in our industry.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.


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