The Evolution of Buying a Home: The Impact of the Technology Revolution

Can we close our eyes and not only see our dream home, but also a selection of nearby homes that are currently available for sale? Can we tap our forearm and have a holographic popup materialize in thin air, helping us zero in on the exact home that is a near-duplicate of the space we’ve dreamed up? Can we blink twice and register to see that home and receive entry permission No. At least – not yet.

Still, the undisputable fact is that the process of purchasing a home has transformed drastically over the past decade, largely due to the technology revolution all around us. Technology is changing in leaps and bounds, impacting to some degree every single industry and service known to man, woman and everyone in between the two. Real estate is no exception.

Our industry overall moves slowly, often piecemeal picking up on very localized trends, and taking time to digest, formulate and come up with even remotely innovative ways of thinking things up. Yes, maybe not exactly slow on the uptake, but real estate as a whole seems to be on the top-10 “slow adopter” list of technological innovation.

Except – yes, we help save time, the seemingly most precious of human commodities.

Purchasing a home used to be a lengthy process, one that involved a lot of face-to-face time between brokers and buyers. Typically, people looking to buy a home would venture into a local real estate company’s storefront and meet with a broker to help them find a suitable home. The broker would then need to look through a binder full of notes, occasional photos, and sometimes cryptic explanations of how to gain access to a property, and in what stage of the sale process said property might be… (Did I lose you already, just reading this long paragraph? Just imagine the “buyers” from the sentence that opened this paragraph!) This would often be very drawn-out, as the binders, filled with post-it notes, were often not entirely kept up-to-date and brokers would need to place many a phone call to verify and cross-reference. Then, often without too many visuals, the broker would need to tour an array of homes before hopefully landing in the right one, with the happy buyer in tow. The process would continue with the buyer speaking with their bank to have their mortgage approved, which again could and would be a very time consuming predicament, since everything needed to be done in person, sitting at the banker’s desk. Then came Excel spreadsheets and rudimentary databases, then more complex databases, etc., etc. And the broker would have to learn how to use all of them in order to be able to save the buyer their precious time, and hopefully seal a sale in the process.

The process of purchasing real estate has since changed. People can view homes they like online, often seeing a virtual tour of a home right from their phone, tablet or computer screen. Social media tools such as Facebook and Instagram also offer helpful, sometimes allowing behind-the-scenes peeks into homes on the market. Simple Google searches can reveal a lot about the block, the neighbors, the area’s past and present, the flavors. And all this without the buyer even having to spend a cherished day out of their weekend – getting to familiarize themselves with a home or its analog surroundings.

Technology puts buyers in a position where they can more quickly visualize what they’d like to view. Technology also helps buyers understand their own needs and express their desires better to their brokers, who in turn can provide better and more efficient support. Home tours are typically a much quicker event these days, given how people have a sense of what they will be seeing ahead of time, and given how they’re likely to be shown a much more targeted selection.

Only a few keystrokes away from what we need, especially in a metropolis like New York City, we all live in two different worlds – the world of “right now,” and the “I’m too busy, please not right now.” We don’t have the time to grocery shop (or even furniture shop!) in real life, so we relegate the satisfaction of our consumerist needs to all things tech. We don’t have the time to take lunch breaks with friends or visiting family members, and we most definitely don’t have time to preview apartments or townhouses.

Today, most brokerages’ marketing and operating budgets are spent on trying to keep up with – and hopefully exceed – the Joneses’ technology. With technology marching ahead at dizzying speeds, its shelf life and usability are reduced almost as quickly as the value of a car rolling out of a showroom with its happy new owner behind the wheel. And while the broker may be spending an enormous amount of time, effort and money on developing (or white-labeling and purchasing and adopting) the latest and newest tech gadgetry or systems, one certainty prevails: buyers and sellers of property have always been, and will always continue to be one of us. Today, being “us” means not having time. That reality leaves brokers constantly trying to make up for that deficiency by developing tech and systems to save (their clients their) time. Professional photos from myriad descriptive angles, virtual staging, videos, online applications, digital open houses, instant appointment booking, automatic drip campaigns introducing new listing launch – it all works in unison, with that goal in mind.

At the times when even the social media outlets transform or disappear (remember Myspace, anyone?), everything we know is going the way of “buckle your seatbelt Dorothy,” from standard retail – to outdated, inefficient and lengthy processes. So real estate brokers are among many professionals scuttling about to leverage latest tech to deliver time-saving solutions tailored to their microcosm of users. We share in with the general business’ struggles with on-time, rapid launch and implementation.

Brokers without websites (and when I say “website,” I mean a consistently evolving, content-rich, robust digital destination where buyers and renters can easily see what is available right now) are a matter of the past. Brokers involved in apartment rentals, without developed and secure digital application systems, are also almost entirely extinct. At Ideal, our own website has gone through three incarnations (as in – full overhauls), with portions changing daily in order to reflect the rapidly changing needs of our customer base. The latest full-cycle revamp was driven by our desire to make dependable real estate and neighborhood data more accessible. We made the data simple to navigate, while offering unique content – and changes are resonating well with our customers, who expect this level of quality from their trusted real estate company. We make a point to make the latest tools part of the fabric of our marketing coverage – from iBeacon technology, to robust in-house campaigns.

Today, once a buyer selects a home, the purchase process is faster. Digital applications and digitally signed offers are a norm. People no longer necessarily need to schedule a time with their banker to assess their finances. Online tools such as lenda and Rocket Mortgage allow hopeful purchasers to virtually submit requests for loans and mortgages.

Technology has sped up real estate. Homes are bought and sold at rates unheard of before. And if real estate firms want to be successful, they need to invest in technology to make sure they are keeping up with their clients’ expectations within these fast-paced virtual and analog realities.

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