Every industry is getting disrupted as mobile technology gets faster, the internet gets further reaching, and more and more people stay plugged in all day every day. Real estate though, being so entrenched, has sort of resisted such revolutionary change for a while.
That’s changing. And fast.
Companies like HomeLight, Zillow, Redfin, Opendoor, and the like are applying rapid technological innovation to the housing market and selling a home today is starting to feel significantly different.
What was once a people business is suddenly a people using machines business and we’re left wondering: what’s next?
How Did We Get Here?
Real estate agents have always turned to technology and media to sell homes. When newspapers reigned supreme, agents were classified as experts. When YellowPages showed up on people’s doorsteps, the best agents were on the cover.
In Web 1.0, they took to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to advertise homes for sale. Then sites like Zillow, Realtor.com, and Trulia started to grow massive audiences off the back of Google’s success and created new opportunities to reach people.
Out with the paper business and in with Web 2.0. Advertising homes on the internet suddenly required multimedia prowess: videos, photos, widgets, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)!
And in 2016, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), 44% of people looking for a home began their house hunt online. As millennials, the first “tech-native” generation, start to settle down and purchase homes, that percentage rises every day.
So, what does the next wave of change look like in real estate?
What’s Going to Happen to the Future of Real Estate?
As the media environment continues to splinter and it becomes harder and harder to reach potential homebuyers, real estate agents become even more valuable. Real estate agents, in order to thrive in today’s market, need to keep on top of the latest technological advances.
They have to know how to navigate the most recent home listing platforms, like Zillow, or how to grab attention on social media platforms like Facebook and Snapchat.
In fact, the marketplace has become so complex and the tech-savvy agents have become so valuable that more homeowners than ever before choose to work with a real estate agent to sell their homes.
Here are a few of the ways real estate tech is changing the game:
Say Adios to Viewing Homes in the Flesh
I can’t say Virtual reality was once only a speculation that we saw in movies and TV shows but now, it’s become a commodity for video games, seeing the world, and even real estate.
According to NAR, 52% of first-time buyers started their house hunt on the internet. The instinct of a majority of people searching for a home was to open up their computer or smartphone before looking through the paper.
The internet offers instant accessibility for almost anything, and when virtual reality makes a real estate breakthrough, the selling process will be even quicker. People will already have been able to view the home without actually stepping foot in the house.
VR isn’t going to make the home showing obsolete—this is a home we’re talking about after all—but if someone decides they’re not interested after an online tour, then they won’t be as inclined to set up a physical showing.
In the future, agents will use virtual reality to speed up the sales process significantly.
Say Hello to Real Estate Efficiency…Tenfold
A home isn’t sold overnight. Between listing the home on various platforms, showing it to potential buyers, and writing up contracts, the time spent adds up. Its lengthiness is due to home sellers and real estate agents having to go through these steps physically.
Fortunately, the internet has sped up the process and most sites have interfaces that are easy to work because they’re organized in such a way that users can quickly add and edit information. Sites like Zillow and the Multiple Listing Service, though, still require manual entries, and writing content and adding photos isn’t the quickest process.
Automation could potentially speed up this process even more using data. One thing that’s been popping up frequently is image recognition, where a computer can extract various information from a photo. We’ve seen this type of technology on Facebook and Google Photos, and as the technology behind it becomes more widespread, we can likely expect to see it on real estate listing sites. Imagine uploading a photo of the house and the site automatically detecting its features and computing that information into a comprehensive listing.
Less Conversation, More Selling
New technology allows agents to quickly schedule viewings, set up a 3D tour of the home, and add showing notes to the cloud—and it lets homeowners find a real estate agent located near them (sometimes within inches!). Whereas twenty-years back, people needed to physically go out and meet agents or talk to them on the phone about the entire process, modern day technology allows sellers to do most of the work without having to leave the comfort of their living room.
On the other side of things, with investments, more and more “iBuyers” are entering the housing market and threatening to remove people from the transaction altogether.
Selling your home to an investor has always been somewhat of a tricky process. Not only do investors not need licenses to buy your home, but the risk of a scam made the entire process somewhat sketchy. On sites like Zillow and OpenDoor, you can present your home to verified investors and receive offers, well, instantaneously. (Granted, at a fraction of the profit.)
If this automated marketplace trend continues, you might find yourself selling your home in your sweatpants.
Modern Real Estate: A New Age of Data
The way that we’re able to extract, process, and use data will likely be one of the most significant precursors to the future of real estate. Data algorithms have already transformed the way that the real estate game is played.
A great example is our own HomeLight agent matching algorithm.
The algorithm that we use to recommend top real estate agents in your area taps into a massive pool of data from national real estate transactions. By extracting data and numbers, we’re able to connect you with an agent who is perfect for your needs in a matter of seconds.
Sophisticated algorithms like these, are expected to become better at making predictions for real estate related inquiries. Data science, machine learning technology, and more algorithms might even eventually predict market changes, and facilitate the finance process.
The future of selling homes is almost certainly going to be much more advanced than it is now and how it’s handled is dependent on how real estate agents take advantage of it.