28: Technology in Real Estate
It's like a treadmill. You can have a $500 treadmill or a $5000 treadmill. They're going to both be the same if you never turn them on.
About This Episode
Technology is more a part of our daily lives than at any other point in history, but real estate has always been resistant to its progress. This episode breaks down some of the biggest technological changes coming to the real estate industry, and highlights some tools that should be a part of your business right now.
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JON: It’s the year 2030, and many parts of being a real estate agent have become automated. The human aspects of the business are still what sets you apart from the many robots trying to take your job, but signing piles of paper upon closing is a thing of the past. You advertise your services on a variety of platforms and leads find you. They either request your service as part of an iBuying process, or they meet with you virtually. Some old-school buyers may insist on meeting in person, because real estate is a huge purchase and even in the age of lag-free virtual simulations, they prefer face-to-face.
JON: Since everyone has their own VR headset, most open houses and home showings are attended via VR or augmented reality built directly into your phone. When a buyer wants to actually attend a showing, you pick them up in your self-driving car and discuss options with them in the backseat as you’re zipped along to the house.
JON: Smart locks have become ubiquitous, and make it extremely easy to take a client to a showing, though you’re only allowed in during your scheduled appointment time. Your cameras capture everything and everyone at an open house and upload it directly to the cloud, practically ensuring your safety.
JON: The real estate industry has a bad rap for being slow to change and resistant to new technologies, but startups now rule the world and technology is an unavoidable part of daily life. Whether you’ve embraced new tech in your workflow or are still clinging to the paper trails of the past, this episode is for you as the future of real estate.
JON: Hello and welcome to Shop Talk: The Real Estate Show. I’m Jon Forisha, and on this episode we look at the technologies currently reinventing and those soon to reinvent the real estate industry.
JON: If the intro to this episode had you scowling at your possible future, you’re not alone. While everything I said was of course speculation, all of those technologies are based in reality. There probably is some version of the future a decade from now that looks pretty similar to what I described, but then who knows? One decade ago, the first smartphones were just proving how transformative they could be, and everyday services provided by the likes of Uber and Airbnb didn’t even exist yet.
JON: First, let’s talk about why real estate and technology don’t get along. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the typical REALTOR® is a 54 year-old white female that attended college and is a homeowner. With that being the average, there are of course many agents far older than 54 years, and typically as we get older and set in our ways, we adopt a philosophy of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
JON: And for a large swath of the industry, that philosophy is exactly why closing on a house still involves scribbling your signature on so many papers that your hand goes numb. The tenets of real estate are based around good customer service, and no technology in the world can turn a bad customer service experience into a good one. Despite all of our fancy electronics, the human touch is still a comforting and necessary thing, particularly in the case of buying and selling expensive homes.
JON: John Sebree is the CEO of Missouri REALTORS®, making policy decisions for over 20,000 agents. When asked about how he’s seen technology change the industry, he had this to say:
JOHN: I would say, you know, for the buyer, well even for the seller, it's a wonderful thing because if I'm a seller, I want eyeballs on my property. Now more than ever, there are going to be more eyeballs seeing my property because of technology and what's happening in technology. If I'm the buyer, I have options there as well. Where in the last few years, where I've seen some great movement is with the closing process. You know, for those of us who have bought a lot of houses, not being a real tour, signing my name 700 times and not really paying that much attention to what I just signed. I know I'm probably not supposed to say that, but the average buyer is not. They just know they want those keys. So how many more times do I need to sign? And so finding new ways to make that closing process less cumbersome, I think is sort of the next frontier. And we're seeing a lot of good technology improvement in that area.
JON: Instead of fighting with technology, real estate agents would do well to adopt tools that help fill in the gaps of their business. The biggest opportunity that currently exists and which can completely alter the way you work is a smart CRM system. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, and there are dozens of quality systems you could adopt that essentially become an extension of your memory.
JON: The best CRMs incorporate some kind of artificial intelligence, and once set up properly they can automatically send emails on your behalf to stay in touch with your client base. No longer will it be up to you to remember a client’s birthday or their daughter’s name, nor will you wake up in the middle of the night realizing that you’ve neglected them for the past year. A good CRM system can give your brain superpowers.
JON: The other current technology you’re probably not taking full advantage of is social media. Don’t get overwhelmed with new players like Snapchat or Tik Tok, which at the moment are populated by users so young that they wouldn’t do your business any good anyway. When it comes to building out a presence on social, Facebook is still king, with Instagram not far behind. Facebook makes it simple to create your own page or group and customize it to your liking, and now they even include scheduling options so you can set up a whole week’s worth of posts at one time and then move on with your life. Included in our show notes is a link to our new blog post about how to rock your social media presence like never before.
JON: Drones have proven to be incredibly useful tools for getting a unique vantage point, especially when you’re listing a luxury property. Though buyers will likely never see their house from the sky, having a bird’s eye view in the photography slideshow helps the property stand out, while making you shine as the innovative agent you are.
JON: Tonya Eberhart is the founder of BrandFace, which helps real estate professionals and business owners build their brand and land more clients. When asked which technology is most worth an agent’s time, she had this to say:
TONYA: That's a super easy answer. It's whichever one you are most comfortable with that you understand and that you're actually going to use. Because it's like a treadmill, right? You can have a $500 treadmill in your house or you can have a $5,000 treadmill in your house and they're both going to be equally the same at the end of the day, if you don't turn them on and if you don't actually step on them and move. So I would say whatever your comfort level is, you know, if you've got a platform that you're super comfortable using, if it's MailChimp or Constant Contact or you're using the top producer or Boom Town or whatever, CRMs and email marketing programs, all of those things. Um, those really are just personal preference because actually at the end of the day, they all work. Yes, some work better than others for your specific needs, but only you can judge that.
TONYA: It's really to us what matters a lot more than which platform you use is what goes into the platform. You know, good in good out, right? Branding in and branding out. So, um, if you're just going to use it like everybody else is using and just pop your name into there and use all the templates that are in there. Just don't waste your money, right? Because, because your prospects are getting those same emails and postcards from about 800 other agents. So you want to ins fuse your own brand into it somehow and make sure that they remember you above everybody else. So a lot of people focus way too much on the tools and not nearly as much on the mess.
JON: After the break we tackle the promise of AR, VR, and 3D printing.
JON: For the last few years, the major phone companies would have you believe the virtual reality revolution is right around the corner. Partly this is because smartphones are a mature enough technology that it’s hard to stand out from the competition, but it’s also partly true. Though VR and its cousin AR - which stands for Augmented Reality - have thus far really only been used for gaming, there are a lot of interesting applications. Augmented Reality has the potential to reinvent what it means to get surgery. Imagine a surgical robot doing the operation while the trained surgeon controls it from many miles away.
JON: But in real estate, VR seems like a great option for walkthroughs. Some companies like Matterport already specialize in 3D mapping entire houses so that interested buyers can virtually walk through it without ever visiting the property, which is a huge benefit to out-of-state buyers. In the future, as VR improves, we’ll likely see more investments in virtual walkthroughs.
JON: Smart homes are also a technology mature enough to be unavoidable at this point. Over the last few years, Amazon and Google have been in an arms race for who can stick their smart speakers in more homes across the country, and with every new Alexa or Google Home comes a lot of smart home capabilities. Whether you just want to be able to tell your voice assistant to turn off some lights or if you want to be able to control your alarm system and thermostat remotely, smart home technology can easily help you do it. In the coming years, we’ll see a continuation of this trend, to the point where pre-wired smart home capabilities will likely be a big selling feature in certain markets.
JON: We recently put out an ebook about iBuying, which is linked to in the show notes. Though many agents are nervous about this trend, iBuying isn’t quite the axe to realtors that many have feared. Essentially, iBuying is done through an app and can net a seller an immediate closing price. The downside - and there are several - is that the amount offered is typically far below what you would get with a traditional sale. The seller is also on the hook for any home improvements, which are determined by a third party and are undisputable, as well as not factored into the final selling price.
JON: Even though major players like Zillow and Amazon are edging into the iBuying space, it only seems like a viable option for sellers who want to get rid of their property quickly and don’t care about their ROI. That human touch that we talked about at the beginning is a huge component of real estate, and with iBuying you lose that aspect. It’s like comparing Craigslist to a traditional car dealership; yes, some people will choose one over the other, but a vast majority of customers will take their enormous financial purchase seriously and will still look up their local agent.
JON: Michael Hellickson is the founder and CEO of ClubWealth Coaching. When asked which technology could most change an agent’s life, he had this to say:
MICHAEL: Your freaking calendar! So I mean it just cracks me up. You know, you've got all these agents, they want all this fancy technology and this and that and the other yada, yada, yada. And they don't even have a freaking calendar and they don't live by their calendar. You know, and granted, number two would be your CRM. Of course, CRMs are very, very important, but that's too easy. And answer calendars, what matters. All the CRMs in the world aren't going to help you if you don't have a calendar that you follow. You've got all these agents that buy all kinds of technology and do nothing with it. You know, they love to buy programs they think are going to bring them business. So I'm gonna write a check and make money. Dude, I got news for you. If it were that easy, Zillow would already be doing it. Trust me. So when it comes to technology though, there are great programs and great technology platforms out there that should be implemented. The key is if you are adverse to technology and you need to find someone who's good at it and let them do it in case in point, most administrative assistants are far better in technology than the team leaders. So you know what? Stop trying to be great at it and lay your freaking assistant do what they're good at and get out of their way.
JON: As technology improves and makes it easier for us to do more in shorter amounts of time, we’re losing a sense of community. Much has been said about how people don’t even know their neighbors anymore, and it’s just too easy to hang out and watch Netflix instead of driving downtown to go to that event you were invited to. One recent innovation that bucks this trend is the sharing economy, which consists of your Airbnbs, WeWorks, and Ubers.
JON: Basically, the sharing economy is centered around the growing trend of not owning things, and just paying for them when you need them. Instead of owning a car, you could pay to hitch a ride with an Uber driver. Instead of owning a vacation home, you could shell out some money and stay in a really nice Airbnb in your dream spot. Instead of getting an office for your new startup, you can just grab a spot in your local WeWork.
JON: That feeling of isolation is factoring into how new housing is being built. Shared living spaces are being built across the country and one of them, called HubHaus, even uses a proprietary algorithm to match residents with their ideal roommate. This growing trend may very well factor into how our future neighborhoods are built, with more community engagement and events designed to get you out from behind your screens and in front of other living, breathing humans.
JON: Many formerly mid-tier cities are booming like never before, and most of them are experiencing growing pains. In places like our homebase in Denver, first-time homebuyers are priced out of an aggressive market, and in 2017 as many as one third of Millennials still lived at home. Affordable housing is a serious problem in astronomically-expensive spots like the Bay Area, and some companies think technology is the answer.
JON: Modular homebuilding is catching on, with prefabricated homes promising to drastically lower constructions costs. A big reason for the slow housing recovery after the Great Recession was due to the speed and cost of new home construction, but what if we could literally print a house? Using gigantic 3D printers and specialty printing materials, new houses can be printed in roughly 24 hours with a cost of just a few thousand dollars.
JON: It’s the early stages for 3D printing on that scale, but as the technology progresses we’ll likely be seeing a lot more of 3D-printed homes. Future homeowners may make it part of the homebuying process to go out to their new land and watch the huge printers construct their house, line by line. Who knows, maybe your next office building will even be 3D printed and you’ll come and go via humongous automated drones. Only time will tell.
JON: That’s it for this episode, thanks for listening! If you enjoyed the episode, you can subscribe and review us on your podcast player of choice. Join us next time for a chat about branding yourself with Tonya Eberhart and Michael Carr from BrandFace.
JON: Shop Talk is a production of The CE Shop.