As vice president of SVN Chicago Commercial, Deena Zimmerman works with national retailers searching for commercial space. About 80 percent of her clients are looking for properties in Illinois from out of state. She’s currently working with two clients located in California. If it were a few years ago, they would have had to fly to Chicago, and Zimmerman would have picked them up in a rented vehicle to go tour properties—which may or may not have met their needs. That’s an expensive and time-consuming endeavor, Zimmerman says.
Today, the process of serving her clients has changed because of technology. Zimmerman discussed her use of drones and beacon technology to more efficiently meet the needs of her clients during a panel on disruption and opportunity at the 2017 REALTOR® Broker Summit in San Diego.
Through a video conference call, Zimmerman was able to show her California-based clients properties in Illinois by utilizing small drones equipped with cameras that can fly both inside and outside buildings. She can control the drone’s speed and zoom in on particular features, giving her clients a high-quality property tour experience without incurring costly travel expenses. “We are able to make a split-second decision on a property instead of wasting everyone’s time,” Zimmerman says.
Many commercial property owners are offering drone tour services to prospective tenants who are looking to rent space, but Zimmerman says she also hires a separate aerial photography and video production company, Seen Above Media, to arrange for drone footage.
Another technology disrupting the real estate industry is 3-D printing. Brad Allen, managing partner and broker-in-charge of The Art of Real Estate in Columbia, S.C.,
works with three builders developing about 10 homes at a time. He uses 3-D modeling of floor plan renderings that include structural elements such as walls, columns, doors, and other features, allowing buyers to get a better visual of interior space and room configuration. It helps clients make a faster and easier decision on the house they want to buy, he says.
“The builders love it, and for the consumers, it’s a tool they haven’t seen,” Allen says. “That’s why I can compete on the grand scale against bigger companies.”
Jamie Wilson, president and CEO of ZapLabs, which was acquired by Realogy in 2014 and has developed many of the technology and business management solutions for Realogy’s brands, says technology should be used to solve a customer challenge. Look at the drivers behind tech changes, he says. Today, customer expectations are shifting toward smoother, easier, and faster services.
Take Amazon, for example, which recently launched the Amazon Go store in Seattle. Sensors automatically scan your Amazon app when you enter the store. Customers can pick up groceries and goods, and then simply walk out without having to go through a regular checkout line. The sensors record purchases as you leave the store and charge the account on your Amazon app.
“We’ve got to embrace technology [in real estate] to meet consumer demands,” Wilson says.