At Hacker Connect, part of the Inman Connect New York real estate conference, one session examined the pain points that buyers and sellers currently experience during the property cycle, with a view to identifying what is needed to improve it for the future.
Key problems include:
- Poor communication and a lack of transparency of the process
- Blind bidding wars and a lack of transparency across that process
- Homebuyer and seller fatigue because of the time it takes to find or sell a home, have an offer accepted and then the whole settlement process without any clear roadmap
- Delays in settlement that can totally derail all your work to date finding a property
- Inefficiency in inspecting properties — contacting agents, the hassle of attending or setting up open houses
- Transaction management — in particular, moving to a different state, because laws are different from state to state
- Handoff points across the buying cycle and settlement — the buyer, the agents, the seller or the bank — anyone can and regularly does drop the ball, which results in delays
- Lack of knowledge by buyers and sellers, which can lead to dropping the ball, poor communication and transaction delays
- The emotion of the experience and importance of the purchase of buying a home. It is rarely recognized and results in buyers and sellers feeling stressed and overwhelmed
What was interesting from the conference is the realization that solutions to many of these pain points already exist in the market — it’s just that no one has really brought them together in a meaningful way. A shared vision around what an ideal transaction looks like is what is missing.
So here’s my take on what the future could look like — my best guess based on what I heard!
AI will improve my real estate search
When I log on to a real estate search site to find my perfect home, bots in the background will identify whether I’m looking at buying or selling, and combine that with knowledge about my other web browsing activity to help direct me toward (or simply serve up) better property options that I may not have thought to search for directly.
My activity will result in me being served unique content that’s easy to consume
I’ve been hunting for property, which means the algorithms watching my browsing behavior start to push content to me that helps me research the suburbs I’m interested in, property data insights that I may need to know and, of course, properties that fit my criteria — or perhaps even stretch it a little bit to ensure I don’t get confirmation bias.
This will be served in the form of links, automatically generated reports or easy-to-understand video that makes it easy to learn about the market I’m entering. It also includes virtual reality experiences that allow me to explore a neighborhood without leaving my living room.
Bots will match me to an agent and a mortgage broker/finance solution
Using my social media information, location and other preferences that are revealed by my online searches, the bots will connect me to agents and brokers who are well matched in terms of experience and behavior/style with which I feel comfortable.
This will help me quickly choose someone to trust, and I’ll be able to easily assess/shortlist them by checking out their credentials online.
Having access to my social data online means my broker/bank can get me an even better deal because they can see key data points that I’ve approved — such as employment status.
My mortgage broker will give me VIP status
I connected to a broker early on, and the broker has now confirmed the amount of money I can borrow and classifies me as an “approved buyer.” This status elevates me in the digital world with real estate agents and flags me across the ecosystem as someone who should be taken seriously when I inquire about a home.
This gives me special privileges, such as the right to private inspections on properties and deals with conveyancers, moving services and utility connections when the time comes to move.
Bots will work for agents to streamline early buyer conversations
When I reach out to an agent to inquire about a property, chatbots on the agent’s website will help answer basic questions whatever time of the day or night that I contact them and recognize my approved buyer status.
This will help me refine my search and quickly cross unsuitable properties off my list or refine my search with other properties I may not have seen.
The bots will also be able to book me an inspection after syncing with both my calendar and that of the seller to make sure the time works for us both. They will serve me up links to virtual reality tours that let me do what feels like a live walk-through of the property. This also helps me cull properties off my list.
The bots really help agents deliver great customer service without having to be online 24/7 and help streamline the whole process.
Bots will work for agents to create reassurance for early seller conversations
My first interaction with my agent as a seller is also likely to be a bot. The bot — which feels like talking to a real person — will collect key data points to save me filling in forms and re-entering everything constantly.
The bot will also share information with me that is targeted to my queries and really helps me understand the process I’m about to go through and creates a personalized roadmap of my selling experience so I can see how far along we are at any time.
My agent inspection helps me resolve issues prior to selling
When my agent visits my home for the first time, they create a list of property issues that are likely to affect the sales price of my home.
I have the option of allowing this list to become a document, and my agent can manage the process of local tradespeople who bid to complete the work I can choose to have completed before I go to market.
Alternatively, if my budget doesn’t stretch to that, the items on the list can be made available to potential buyers to see exactly what is required to correct any perceived faults on the property.
Being transparent in this space becomes part of my transparency rating and this improves the ranking of my property within the eyes of buyers.
I virtually visit most properties I’m interested in
Losing your entire Saturday to visit properties is a thing of the past because I’ve been able to check out most properties on my shortlist using virtual reality (VR).
Developments in VR mean I’m not just doing a walk-through — I have a real sense of the proportion and sense of space in the rooms and the flow of the property.
I can do this from the comfort of my home and still pick up the kids from soccer.
When I visit an open house, my phone automatically checks me in
This provides a great data stream to agents to let them know who is truly serious about a property.
It tracks my movements and flags which rooms I spent the most time in so the selling agent can proactively follow me up. I also have access to this data — and it helps me keep track of each property I visit and makes notes of any issues that concern me.
I can forward this data through to my building inspector for them to use as a guide when they inspect the property for me, and to my lawyer to advise them of issues that I’d like them to check in the contract if the purchase proceeds.
And of course, inspections are now cheaper, quicker and centralized
We no longer lose days or weeks — and thousands of dollars — on finding a property inspector and coordinating time for him (or her) to carry out the inspection. Based on my online behavior, I receive alerts advising me if a property inspection has already been carried out that I can bid upon, or purchase outright.
The property inspection process is also a lot faster as most agents share their inspection reports and trades and services quotations, which creates a much more comprehensive report.
Inspectors can also send drones to inspect properties rather than visit in person, which also speeds the process significantly.
Serious buyers are invited to a transaction room
Those buyers who are seriously interested in a property are invited by the agent into a transaction room where all parties can see the latest offers.
All buyers, and of course the seller, receive alerts when a new offer is made keeping everyone up to date. It acts as a de-facto auction and creates enormous transparency.
Special terms and conditions are flagged as part of this part of the process, too, and sellers can see which buyers are pre-approved to purchase and who may have a longer settlement period and therefore need to offer more.
A secure settlement room completes the transaction
Once the home has sold to the highest (or least risky) bidder, the agent invites the buyer, seller, lawyers/conveyancers for both parties and the mortgage broker/bank into a secure settlement room.
Here, contracts are shared, digital signatures are collected and deposits and settlements are collected. All parties have transparency to an appropriate level and receive alerts as the transaction moves from stage to stage, plus clear outlines on what their responsibilities are.
You receive the perfect gift to celebrate
When the transaction completes, an alert is sent to moving and key utility providers (based on your preferences) alerting them to your moving day and inviting them to pitch for your business to get you settled into your new home.
Your agent also receives this alert, and the agent’s internal systems match the experience you’ve had together with your preferences and automatically sends an order for the perfect “congratulations” gift, which arrives within a day.
Your agent stays in touch
On key anniversaries, you receive a message from your agent touching base, to find out how you’re settling in, and letting you know about property values in your area.
It’s a great way for you to keep up to speed with how much your investment has grown and helps reassure you about your decision.
Kylie Davis is the head of property services marketing and content at CoreLogic. Follow her @KDavisCoreLogic.