Imagine you’re a Florida property owner with an electric car and an EV charging station at home. You may be at the forefront of the electrification trend in real estate. But if you were in the path of Hurricane Ian in September and lost power, this burgeoning technology did nothing to improve your circumstances during the storm.
“Our grid is a piece of junk; it can’t withstand heat or a hurricane,” Shana Schlossberg, CEO of venture tech firm Upward Labs, said at the recent 2022 Innovation, Opportunity & Investment (iOi) Summit, which the National Association of REALTORS® hosted in Los Angeles. It doesn’t make sense to focus innovation toward greater electrification—including EVs—without also focusing on building a sustainable grid, she said.
But who’s telling this to the innovator?
As a real estate professional with an intimate understanding of the interaction between homes and technology, you can. When new innovations come to the market, often what’s missing is the insight into how the user adapts to it. “Real estate professionals have this unique opportunity to be a conduit between the technology and the consumer, understanding what to do with that and how to make it actionable,” said Janine Sieja, senior vice president of product at Realtors Property Resource®. “You’re valuable in the technology food chain.”
Charting an Ever-Shifting Future
The iOi Summit is itself a venue for such cross-collaboration, drawing more than 400 real estate pros, innovators and investors annually to explore solutions for evolving real estate technology. This year’s iOi included a talk by leading futurist Thomas Frey, a discussion on how sustainability is driving innovation, a look at tech-focused legislation and a pitch battle featuring 12 tech startups vying for REALTOR® support to expand their market reach.
Attendees this year got a window into the rapidly increasing value of sustainability to future real estate technology solutions. “Sustainability is about preparedness for the future,” Schlossberg said. “If your building isn’t sustainable, you’re in trouble in the next few years because energy costs are going up. Suddenly, there’s a market for sustainable homes because of things like grants and rebates. Sustainability is going to be one of the best ways to make money going forward.”
Perfecting technology requires an open mind, said keynote speaker Thomas Frey, a futurist and founder and executive director of the DaVinci Institute. Because our understanding of the future is constantly changing, so must our ideas of how technology can move us forward, he added. “How does the future get created? In our minds and the minds of everyone around us. … People make decisions today based on their understanding of what the future holds. If you change your vision of the future, you change the way you make decisions today.”
Frey predicted that further advancements in autonomous vehicles, in particular, likely will impact homebuying behavior over the next decade.
Dreamers vs. Skeptics
Government policy will play a critical role, said Sam Love, director of business and politics newsletter Invariant. However, a disconnect between the technology industry and Capitol Hill is stalling legislation that could encourage more robust innovation, he said. “In the private sector, there’s balanced optimism about what tech could be doing to solve people’s problems,” Love said. “There’s bottomless skepticism in Congress; their interest is in protecting constituents.”
REALTORS® must continue using their voice on the local, state and national levels to support legislation that benefits the expansion of technology to improve the real estate process, Love added. Lack of Broadband, for example, continues to have an impact on home sales in many places, particularly in rural communities. “In order for real estate professionals to sell homes, those homes need high-speed internet,” Love said. “REALTORS® have a lot of stake in other issues like data privacy, augmented reality and remote online notarization. It’s very important that REALTORS® remain engaged and that real estate has a voice in Washington.”