Ryan Schneider said this week that digital real estate experiences are becoming more common, but in general, people also still want to physically experience properties before buying them.

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Realogy chief executive officer Ryan Schneider said during Inman’s monthly Connect Now conference on Tuesday that even as a significant amount of the homebuying experience moves online during the pandemic, there is likely always going to be an in-person component to real estate.

And, he also argued, the now-busy market doesn’t appear to represent a bubble or a fleeting trend.

Schneider made the comments during a Tuesday session of Inman Connect Now titled “The Great Shifts of 2020.” And few shifts this year have been as significant as the move of real estate online — which Schneider envisions being permanent at least to some degree.

“We don’t think the world is going back,” he said while discussing the growing popularity of things like virtual tours and online transactions.

Schneider also believes companies such as his are uniquely well-positioned to thrive during a moment of significant digital disruption.

“I think at the end of the day it is the big companies with the technology and data and scale that are going to be the ones providing the products that can hopefully meet agent and consumer needs for a greater virtual experience,” he added.

For the most part, this shift is also a good thing because “it’s expanding the funnel” of homes consumers might consider buying, Schneider said. In other words, buyers who might have previously limited their searches to a single neighborhood can now explore a wider range of properties — all from the comfort of their own homes.

However, for all the changes going on right now, Schneider does not think that most people are going to end up buying real estate the way they might purchase “shoes or hotel rooms” — which is to say, completely online. The issue, he said, is that real estate transactions are both so much more expensive and so much less frequent than other types of purchases that people still want to physically experience a home before committing.

“I don’t think the entire experience, by the way, is going virtual,” Schneider said. “People still want to walk through their houses.”

Brad Inman, left, with Ryan Schneider at Inman Connect Now Tuesday. Credit: Inman

Later in the session, Schneider also weighed in on the market. As has been widely discussed in recent months, initial concerns that the pandemic would tank the housing market have proven to be unfounded so far. Instead, many agents have reported being busier than ever and having to contend with brutal bidding wars.

Schneider acknowledged that trend during his Connect Now session and reiterated an observation, previously mentioned during a recent earnings call, that the market is indeed busy. But he also added that he is “much more optimistic right now than I was six weeks ago on this.”

“I am increasingly optimistic that there is a trend here that won’t just be a short-term trend,” he said.

Among other things, Schneider said he’s seeing more moves from urban to suburban areas, more activity with second home buyers, and positive trends when it comes to both prices and the number of units hitting the market. And overall, he added, “right now people seem to be willing to move more.”

“I don’t know how long this will last,” Schneider concluded, “but I think there is some fundamental change happening here in society that is likely to be good for housing.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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