How will new technology change real estate? [Real Estate and Tech Series]

The property sector in Australia is not known for its rapid uptake of technology. In fact, it is renowned for being one of the more slow-adapting industries on this front.

As a group invested in innovation and committed to ensuring our members can benefit from it, EAC’s new Real Estate and Tech Series will explore emerging opportunities and future projections.

In part 1 of this first 2-part series, we envisage what real estate might look like in the future, based on current trends and new and evolving technology. In part 2, we discuss ways agents can start to prepare for these changes now.

Australia’s emerging proptech sector is producing new platforms that will change the way we do real estate in this country.

When the advancements being made throughout the rest of world are also considered, real estate sales and property management as we know them, will most certainly look very different 10, 20, 50 years from now.

But are we ready to embrace these changes to ensure our clients experience the full benefits?

What might real estate look like in the future?

Let’s take a step-by-step through the real estate sales process and explore what technology may mean for how we do business, and indeed, our role in facilitating sales decades from now.

None of us knows for certain what the future of real estate will bring, but existing and emerging technology is already hinting at the direction our industry might take.

What will your home look like?

According to futurist, Morris Miselowski, the properties you are selling are set to change.

In the future, agents might be competing for listings in built-up urban areas, featuring streets of skyscrapers and apartment buildings, rather than the suburban homes on a nice block of land we are used to now.

Demographics, population, the economy, environmental factors, technology and our needs will influence how our homes are built. Remote work will likely increase demand for home offices, and apartment buildings will more often be multi-purpose with workplaces and shops included.

Smart technology might make houses accessible and viewable remotely, cleaned automatically, furniture more sparse, space-saving and practical, and each area (of which there will be fewer) multi-functional and adjustable using technology.

How will you market property?

Technology will have a big role to play in the transactional service agents provide, but also in shaping the way we deliver a truly valuable experience for clients.

In coming decades, listing a property may become a task that can be completed at the click of a button (or a vocal instruction), as a system collates and interprets data before automatically producing your listing.

High-priced portals may be a thing of the past as blockchain technology provides for a single decentralised database that enables more transparency and control of the property listing (see Imbrex as an early example).

Property marketing might become highly automated and may rely largely on data and the power of machine intelligence for quick and informed decision-making and action.

With every device, from your smart fridge to your mobile phone equivalent, to your workout tights connected, we will not only have more data about purchasing and behaviour, we will also have ways of reaching consumers and connecting to them right when they need us most.

These insights, derived from an abundance of data, might allow us to personalise advertising and marketing beyond anything we see on Facebook now (currently one of the most advanced ad platforms for personalisation), and consumers may be prompted to take action based on their own, individual behaviours.

With the buyer interested, initial viewing of the property might not take place in person, but rather through virtual reality (VR).

VR headsets (or no need for headsets!) may enable buyers to step through the property, as though they are there, exploring every room, every nook and cranny, walking the neighbourhood in real-time, without ever leaving their lounge room.

Using augmented reality, prospective buyers will envision improvements to the home, redesign spaces and furniture and draw on actual products for sale, which will be catalogued and available for purchase at the click of a button once the property is sold.

The result of these evolved processes will be a more streamlined approach to transaction — but the agent still has an important role to play, one that, for the foreseeable future, no technology can replace.

Real estate will likely become much more service-oriented, rather than sales-oriented, as the agent role transforms more into that of a trusted partner and guide for the sales process.

Human agents, unlike the technology that will support them, will draw on empathy, emotional intelligence and the ability to build genuine relationships, to attract people to their brand over others, to ensure a client experience is comfortable, and to facilitate negotiation for a purchase that will always be largely emotional.

How will you manage enquiries?

One of the biggest complaints about real estate agents is they do not respond quickly enough to enquiries, or they do not respond at all. For some agents this comes down to poor time management or prioritisation, for others, it is the simple fact that wearing too many hats leaves little time for admin.

In the future, your virtual assistant will be able to answer enquiries for you. Unlike virtual or remote assistants of 2019, where the term largely refers to a human assistant based somewhere else, for example,  Singapore, the virtual assistants of the future will be digital and based in the cloud.

Your artificial-intelligence (AI)-driven virtual assistant will take care of your admin before you even realise there is admin to be done, it will draw on data to help you predict market trends and share insights with your clients, and it will respond to your buyer enquiries in a timely, factual manner.

But what it may not be able to do convincingly, is replicate human emotional intelligence, so, as explained by Harvard Business Review, “Those that want to stay relevant in their professions will need to focus on skills and capabilities that artificial intelligence has trouble replicating — understanding, motivating, and interacting with human beings.”

How will you sell and settle?

As time passes, the world will become a smaller and smaller place, and most buyers will not just be local, they will be global. They will be spread out, as remote work enables people to live anywhere they choose, while working in businesses HQ’d on the opposite side of the world.

Property transactions will take place online. Properties will be listed online, offers will be made online, accepted online, exchange and financial requirements will take place digitally.

In reality, we are entering this time for real estate now. Already:

  • Platforms are facilitating online sales
  • Sites like PEXA are supporting (and mandating) digital lodgement and settlement
  • Blockchain is paving the way for streamlined, secure and accurate title transfer
  • Cryptocurrency, as a concept, is paving the way for more global currencies

So, where will you fit in?

While perhaps real estate won’t change exactly as described, the advancements in technology we are seeing now are making changes of this nature highly likely.

As an agent, especially one who intends to still be operating in 10 or 20 years, the prospect of new technology influencing what we do and how we do it to such an extreme degree can be daunting.

It’s easy to succumb to doom and gloom and accept the belief that we have no real role to play in this industry in the future.

But while all of the technology listed works to streamline what we do, none offers the same level of humanity that we can — the ability to connect, form relationships, provide support, and give expert, emotionally-intelligent guidance.

So how do we prepare for these changes and plot a path into a future where agents are still very much a requirement in real estate transactions? Stay tuned for part 2 in this series!

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