The U.S. housing market is booming. The National Association of Home Builders cites 1.16 million total housing starts in 2016, which was up nearly 5 percent from 2015, and is forecasting a 10 percent increase in single-family production for 2017. What's more, existing-home sales in January reached their fastest pace in nearly a decade, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.
To deal with the surge of potential buyers, along with the tasks of attracting new sellers and managing existing leads, real estate brokerages and agents are increasingly turning to new technology.
There has been a lot of discussion in the industry about the potential of virtual reality. Sotheby's International Realty and Redfin are harnessing the power of VR to offer 3-D home tours on listing pages. While this technology offers an immersive experience to potential buyers, the cost involved in rolling it out en masse may be too great for some brokerages.
So, while we wait for VR to mature, here are other new technologies that can help real estate brokerages solve problems and improve services for customers.
Harnessing Emerging Social Media Platforms
We’re in a seasonal influx where many new and existing homes are becoming available. It can be difficult for brokerages to keep agents and potential buyers informed about these new listings without the right technology.
For years, brokerages have been leaning on social media platforms to showcase new properties and harvest new leads. Most use Facebook, but Snapchat, which has 158 million daily users, is becoming the new promotional tool of choice across a range of industries.
Thanks to Snapchat’s recently added video function, which rivals Facebook in terms of daily video user engagement, brokerages can quickly record videos of new listings and share them instantly. This is attractive to sellers and buyers alike, with 73 percent of homeowners saying they would be more likely to list with a brokerage that offers video marketing techniques.
Showcasing a listing on Snapchat is becoming increasingly popular in booming real estate hubs like New York and is sure to take hold across the country. A 2016 CNBC article argues that Snapchat offers potential buyers a “behind-the-scenes” view of properties for sale or rent and allows brokers and their agents to interact with leads through private messages to offer more information and arrange viewings.
Cultivating New Agents With New Technology
According to a recent Imprev Thought Leader survey, 85 percent of broker-owners stated that recruiting more agents—especially younger ones—was their most critical business challenge.
To attract the best talent out there, brokerages need to harness social media channels, develop a slick online presence, and offer subscription-based lead generation tools such as realtor.com®, Zillow, and Zurple to maximize sales opportunities.
Once they have an agent on board, brokers need to provide the technology and support to cultivate relationships with agents and keep them from straying to other brokerages. The paperless movement is growing, so training agents in the best programs to use is essential.
There are also emerging technology platforms that can improve communication and company culture for remote teams. Slack offers a range of powerful integrations and numerous bots that will allow agents anywhere to collaborate quickly and freely on their mobile device. It’s the perfect communication tool for idea sharing. Users can tag other members, share files, and set reminders for themselves or others to follow up with leads.
In the fast-paced world of real estate, you could lose a commission and a client by forgetting to follow up, send a document for signature, or reply to an inquiry. Asana, a cloud-based CRM tool that enables agents to log in remotely, can help your team stay on track. Brokerages can log in and get a bird’s-eye view of all the live projects in action, while individual agents can set tasks for themselves or others to be completed by a certain time and then monitor the progress.
Using Virtual Assistants for Scheduling
There were roughly 2 million active real estate licensees and approximately 86,000 real estate brokerages registered in the U.S. in 2015. The average brokerage had between 20 and 25 agents that year.
One way to help agents with tasks such as scheduling showings or client consultations is by offering or encouraging the use of virtual assistants. Advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence, and natural language processing are leading to a number of tools that can relieve the strain of administrative work.
Tired of playing phone or email tag with agents or clients? X.ai is a bot that can help brokerages or individual agents arrange meetings by connecting users’ calendars and offering exact time options that fit everyone’s schedules. The bot even takes location (in-person meeting place or conference call) and time zones into consideration. It can calculate travel time between meetings and will send reminders to both parties. The bot will even follow up if someone doesn’t reply.
Agents make the lion’s share of their wages through commissions and want to work for brokerages that have the tech in place to help them make great client connections and sales. To keep surfing on top of the wave of new properties and leads, brokerages need to stay on the technological front line. Whether you want to recruit millennial talent or retain your top agents, it’s up to brokers to keep their finger on the pulse of technological advances in the industry.