New technology developments continue to appear at an accelerating pace, reshaping how business is done and who is doing it. No industry, including real estate, can escape the impact of these developments.
Will technology open pathways to new business opportunities? Will it streamline mundane aspects of your job? Will it facilitate client service and reduce transaction hurdles? The possibilities are limitless. For some agents, however, technology is also viewed as a threat, upsetting the status quo.
Staggering amounts of technology-oriented investment money are pouring into the real estate sector, targeting every aspect of the transaction and ancillary services. Does this mean your job is doomed for disruption?
No. Just as the first cell phones ushered in new communication options—along with new demands and expectations among clients—today’s technology will undoubtedly alter the landscape, presenting exciting new opportunities to the agents who are most ready and willing to embrace change.
On the other hand, agents who refuse to look forward, or ignore the evolving landscape, risk being left behind.
Preparing for the Future
The most successful agents will likely share two essential qualities—curiosity and a thirst for knowledge.
It’s not essential to develop an in-depth understanding of how different technologies work. It is, however, crucial to have a rich understanding of how technology can work for you.
Stay current on new products and how to leverage them in your real estate practice. Explore various ways technology can:
- Showcase your listings to a global audience.
- Facilitate cross-border communications.
- Automate certain job functions.
- Make you more effective at reaching the right people with your ads.
- Help you focus on your most promising leads.
These are just a few useful applications for real estate professionals. There are many others, either currently available or on the horizon.
Five Core Technologies
The building blocks that lay the groundwork for today’s increasingly sophisticated tech-enabled services include:
1. Artificial intelligence (AI) - intelligence demonstrated by machines which gain their insights from other technology building blocks, including those listed below.
Artificial intelligence is a continuum, ranging from machines that excel at simple tasks (e.g., voice-activated controllers) to “super AI”—when machines theoretically become smarter than humans.
2. Augmented reality - digital images are layered over real-world images, creating a combination of real and virtual worlds. For example, a broadcast of a golf tournament may display lines that trace the flight of a ball across the screen.
3. Virtual reality - a simulated environment generated by computers. Current technology primarily relies on screen displays or visually immersive headsets, potentially augmented by other stimuli, like sounds or odors.
4. Predictive analytics - various statistical techniques such as data mining, machine learning, and modeling, are used to solve complex problems or predict behavior, such as when someone is likely to sell their home.
5. Computer vision - technology that helps computers “see” and understand what appears in recorded digital images or a live camera feed in order to take appropriate actions—for example, facial recognition at security checkpoints.
What About Blockchain?
Although blockchain is primarily used for buying and selling cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin, expect an uptick in real estate-related applications, including:
- Referrals - ReConsortia is an international, crowd-sourced real estate referral consortium using blockchain technology. It’s also a member of the 2019 Class of REACH® companies. reconsortia.com
- Smart contracts - Property transactions, including cross-border deals, can be completed faster and with less risk of fraud. San Francisco-based Propy is a leading example. propy.com
- Ownership shares - Thanks to tokenization, partial shares of significant real estate assets, such as a trophy building, can be sold to investors—who can, in turn, readily sell shares via secondary trading on an international market.
REACH® Technology Accelerator
In the U.S. alone, the real estate industry represents 15 percent of the economy, over $12.5 billion in ad spend, and 2.5 million related jobs, making it a can’t ignore industry for technology innovators.
Real estate professionals, however, shouldn’t sit on the sidelines, merely observing and adapting to new developments.
To help maintain agents’ central role in real estate transactions, NAR helped launch REACH®, a technology accelerator that accepts up to 10 companies a year and provides vital access to the real estate industry for valuable feedback and product development insights.1 Learn more at nar-reach.com.
Since 2013, 48 companies have graduated from the program. Seven new companies joined the 2019 class and will be exhibiting at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco this November.
Several NAR REACH® companies are introduced throughout this issue of Global Perspectives.
1 REACH® is a Second Century Ventures (SCV) company, a venture capital fund that operates independently (does not accept any revenue from NAR membership dues) and supports the development of technologies that are closely aligned with agents’ and brokers’ needs.