Purchasing a home can be a tedious process. Before the age of the internet, buyers would contact a local real estate agent, set up an appointment to visit, sift through a list of homes and schedule a time to visit them one by one. But with the advent of new digital tools, real estate has seen significant impacts to the usual way of doing business.
Buyers and sellers can now view virtual tours of homes, access agents via apps, instant message or social media, and securely sign paperwork online, providing a more simplified and transparent buying and selling process.
Not only is the process of homebuying easier and faster, but information is far more accessible than ever before. Today, no matter which side of the transaction you are on, four technologies will likely play a significant role.
It’s clear that mobile technology has had a significant impact on the way people search for homes. Gone are the days of real estate agents keeping lists of properties in three-ring binders or viewing listings in the Sunday paper. Today’s buyers are shopping for potential homes from their smartphone over dinner. They are better informed and demand a more user-friendly experience with better online search functions and customized alerts.
We will also see continual advances in machine learning that will deliver better search results. Similar to user experiences on Google and Amazon, real estate websites are rising to the occasion to make home recommendations that go beyond the number of bedrooms and price range (think preference matching like dating apps).
Real estate mobile technology will morph from housing matches based on data entered in forms and websites to image recognition software that utilizes text or other digital footprints to recommend homes.
2. On-demand tours
We are living in a world of increasing blended digital and physical interaction. Shopping and ordering things online has progressed from two-day delivery to same day delivery or local pick up. Alternatively, you can let devices like your fridge do your ordering for you with the help of Alexa and Amazon integration or through dash buttons that can be used to order detergent or cat food when you are low.
With this level of on-demand access, there is no doubt that consumers will expect to see it enter the real estate market through on-demand tours. Savvy homebuyers have already figured out that you can “tour” a neighborhood with Google maps, and they know where to find virtual tours of homes.
You can expect to see an increase in virtual tour technology, through augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and tours captured with drones. Although virtual tours won’t replace in-person home showings, it will save buyers time and narrow the pool of potential properties. VR and drone guided tours give prospective buyers a complete 360-degree tour providing a better sensory experience of the home that can’t be captured with images. Whereas AR offers virtual staging that can help buyers see homes under construction or take a “walk through” with their own furnishings in the home.
A trend that recently hit the market helps buyers with instant home tours via apps that “hail” an agent to a home that is on the market. We will also see more applications for smartphones that will offer 3D images of a home’s interior, allowing potential buyers to play with color and furniture arrangements.
Automation in marketing by way of auto-posting social media and automated email drip campaigns boosts efficiency by cutting down the time it takes to distribute marketing content. However, this is just the beginning of what can be automated. More and more tasks that require the human touch today will be automated to give agents increased flexibility and efficiency.
We will see automation continue to impact the real estate industry through software that will deliver better leads through the power of data collection — empowering agents to close deals faster and spend more time addressing client needs. Many of these technologies have built-in dashboards displaying real-time performance metrics on both sides of the transaction. Not only does this mean better customer service to the consumer, but an overall better experience for all parties.
Real estate agencies will increasingly turn to automation to produce a price estimate and valuation rather than working it out by hand. Computer generated pricing data offers a more scientific approach than the broker’s instinct providing transparency to the transaction and speeding up the negotiation.
The use of AI, or applications that can mimic human learning and decision-making through the analysis of data, has been creeping into all industries that use the internet to interface with consumers.
Real estate is no exception. We first saw this enter the industry in the form of chatbots that can engage in conversation with website visitors to pre-qualify leads or answer commonly asked questions. Now, instead of working with an agent who lists a home on a multiple listing service (MLS), sellers can turn to companies using AI to analyze thousands of data points to serve ads on social media and websites to consumers identified as likely to purchase.
These online ads are served en masse to individuals that appear to be potential buyers. As clicks come through the ads, the algorithm deciphers the commonalities between the consumer profiles and then turns that learning into new ads to search for new leads based on those patterns.
AI can also assist brokers in predicting the close price for a current listing and estimate when it will close helping to take the guesswork out of the pricing. Predictive technology used in this way ensures a better marketing strategy and a quicker close.
Where does your agency stand?
There is no doubt that buyers value real estate agents, they also value agents that can streamline the homebuying process. Ana Desa, a real estate agent in Miami says, “I achieve success by finding the perfect balance between the newest technology in the market such as client matching algorithms, virtual tours, and instant communication and the human element.”
Using an agent/client matching algorithm that harnesses the data from the website and the qualification process to distribute leads ensures the best possible relationship and a successful transaction.
“Brokerages that offer digital tools to update calendars, schedule showings, manage metrics and clients, and the progress of each deal, ensure a seamless experience for both the buyer and the agent,” says Alan Kervor a real estate agent in Miami. “Mobile technology allows me to manage all aspects of the business remotely, making it easy to communicate with all parties.”
The magic really happens when agents can go paperless with the integration of digital contracts. Tools such as HelloSign and DocuSign allow agents and clients to sign electronically on iPads or tablets without ever having to step foot in the office. This can mean the ability to sign on the dotted line during the showing from any device.
Although there have been great strides in real estate technology, this is the beginning of potential impacts on the industry. Not only does the adoption of technology in real estate provide a seamless experience for the buyer and seller, but it also makes the real estate service itself less burdensome to agents.
Real estate agencies at the helm of the movement to faster and better technologies are no longer real estate agencies; they are efficiency brokers. There is no doubt that agencies that continue to utilize technology to benefit the end user will emerge as market leaders.