6 Ways Tech Will Change How You List Homes

At this week’s RESO conference, experts explained how innovations would change how MLSs, brokers, and agents bring property to the market.

After what's felt like years of excruciatingly slow change, it seems multiple listing services are poised to embrace a number of new technologies and big shifts in the ways sellers list their homes and buyers search for them. At least, that was the overriding mood at the spring conference of the Real Estate Standards Organization, held in Chicago this week.

RESO Executive Director Jeremy Crawford addressed the sold-out conference, saying that not only is RESO focused on continual development of the Data Dictionary and Real Standard Transaction Specifications—a framework to facilitate the exchange of real estate data—but they also work to get ahead of challenges to the listing systems in place in the United States and Canada. “We’re looking for solutions for what’s going on in the industry today and five years from now,” Crawford said.

Attendees heard from a wide variety of speakers about how innovations coming to the market in the next few years could affect the way real estate professionals interact with MLSs, listing portals, and consumers. Here are a few trends real estate professionals should be on the lookout for in the coming years.

  1. Microclimate monitoring. Tom Flanagan, vice president of technology for Alain Pinel, REALTORS®, in San Francisco, told attendees about his project creating and mounting weather stations on his brokerage’s offices. The stations, which cost less than $100 to build, measure everything from carbon dioxide and noise levels to humidity and temperature, helping them better understand what it’s like to live in any particular place in the Bay Area. “Microclimates change almost by the block in the city,” Flanagan says. “All of these environmental factors impact peoples’ lives, and they’re critical in the homebuying process.”
  2. Next-level house numbers. RESO is currently working on creating a “property unique identifier” or PUID for every structure in the United States and Canada. RESO board member Rebecca Jensen—who is also CEO of MRED, the aggregator for the Chicago-area MLS—told the audience that having a way to identify every property, whether it’s for sale or not, would be incredibly helpful for the real estate industry and many other stakeholders. “There are a ton of different business cases for that,” she said, noting in particular the mortgage and title insurance industries. “If we could do this, it would bring a lot of order.” However, she noted that such a game-changing development will take time. “We understand that the scope is quite big,” she said. “This is a big, hairy, audacious goal.”
  3. Making listings easier to see. Tom Weiss-Lehman, data production specialist at Redfin, said one development his company is interested in is enabling the home-showing experience to be “more Uber-esque.” He says if MLSs could better encode information about the availability of a property, they could develop a system where buyers could schedule a showing with a click of a button. “Most of the time, that information is in the system and doesn’t show through to us, or it’s in the agent’s notes,” he said, lamenting that they haven’t figured out how to extract that data in a standardized format. “It’s a little bit of a challenge.”
  4. The democratization of big data. John Tolva, president of PositivEnergy Practice and the former chief technology officer for the city of Chicago, told attendees that cities have been measuring and publishing data for many years, both to decrease inefficiencies and build trust. But he says now that the Internet of Things is “beyond the hype curve,” ordinary residents are gathering, cross-referencing, and publishing data that can help real estate pros better describe what it’s like to live in a particular area. “Now it’s about a person not in the government,” he said. “It’s about being more citizen-focused [and] thinking of the city as a platform.” Chad Curry, managing director of NAR’s Center for REALTOR® Technology, hopes to help members tap into that platform. “We could have been resistant to this,” he said, noting that some data could be considered stigmatizing. “But the consumer wants this. They want to know this.”
  5. Smarter MLS fields that do the work for you. Laura Stukel, energy efficiency consultant and real estate pro at L.W. Reedy Real Estate, has been working with technology companies, REALTOR® groups, MLSs, and government agencies to coordinate work on the Department of Energy’s Home Energy Information Accelerator for the last year. She told attendees she’s excited about how the auto-population of data in the MLS can help educate listing agents who don’t know much about eco-friendly improvements. “Listing agents sometimes don’t know what this is, and they don’t want to touch it with a 10-foot pole,” she said. Automatic population “can really help them understand.” For example, she said that for a condo building that had achieved LEED certification, that data could be auto-populated in the MLS every time an individual condo from that building went up for sale. She said the next step would be collecting and displaying such information in the single-family housing market.
  6. Innovation in other industries means there’s no rest for real estate technologists. The promise of new efficiencies is exciting, but it will also create demand for more of the same. Glenn Phillips, CEO of Lake Homes Realty in Pelham, Ala., worried rapid advances in technology happening in so many other industries could make real estate companies and MLSs look like “slackers” by comparison. “The consumer is expecting that we’ve already figured these things out,” he said. “That’s going to be a problem for everyone in the industry.”