I have a friend who has been a licensed real estate agent in the past, and is deciding whether to get back into a career in real estate, or consider other options.
My friend asked:
Given all the technology, how much it has changed in the last 5 years and what you’re seeing at conventions as far as tech goes… do you see the role of Realtor or the landscape of Real Estate changing?
Some people are ALWAYS going to want the personalized services of a real estate agent. The convenience for a home buyer or seller that comes with having someone on your side (your agent) doing a lot of the work on your behalf.
Convenience is what sells products and services. Especially for higher end buyers like those with luxury or upscale homes. Concierge service. I don’t see that need or desire changing much. The most convenient thing is having someone else help take care of the headaches, juggle the plates, deal with the other party … lol.
But … there will be some buyers and sellers who continue to move more to the technology side. Especially with Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence and the possibilities I can see for both of those technologies being used in real estate. But I also still see real estate agents being part of that process – just in a unique and different way than they have been.
While that was the extent of my answer (we were instant messaging so I was trying to keep it brief!), I wanted to delve more into Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence and a bit how they are starting to be used in marketing.
These are two areas of marketing that marketers need to be aware of for the future, whether they’re anywhere near ready to consider those possibilities or not. The threshold required to get into these technologies (cost, knowledge, technical ability) is prohibitive right now, but it won’t always be that way.
Here are two examples and how they may apply to real estate in the future (and then imagine the possibilities with other businesses):
Imagine that you work for a corporation in today’s world, and that company is going to transfer you to another state. Along with everything else you have to do for the move, you need to buy a house across the country so that your family isn’t homeless when you arrive.
Most transferees don’t make repeated trips to their new state to go house hunting – it’s just not realistic. Some make one trip, see 5 or 6 houses in that one trip, and have to pick out of what they had time to see that day. In a fast-moving real estate market (like the one being seen in DFW as I write this post), they could put in an offer on their favorite, and not get the house because someone else’s offer was accepted first. It’s possible they wouldn’t get any of the six houses they saw because they’ve all already accepted other offers.
Mr and Mrs Buyer would have to schedule another trip. Or, they would have to let their real estate agent go see a few houses and take their advice on which one would work for their family (always risky). Or if they have a really tech savvy real estate agent, the agent may do a walk-through with the buyer on Facetime and let them see some of the features of the house. (This is why we will still need real estate agents – convenience!).
Now fast forward a couple of years.
Tech-forward agent has implemented Virtual Reality into their services. The buyer can put on a VR headset, from states away, and move around the (virtual) house as if they were there – live. There’s no telling where VR will end up in a few years, but I’m guessing it will be able to do some amazing things (with the right investment in the required infrastructure). Think of it like an immersive video game of house hunting! Go walk around the neighborhood. Open that closet door. Climb up in the attic.
We’re already getting close with the 360 degree photos and videos. Just imagine if you could walk through a house without having to leave your recliner. The future possibilities are limitless and it’s going to be interesting to see where technology takes us.
Taco Bell is playing with this right now, using the platform Slack. You can read a bit about the Taco Bot here: https://www.tacobell.com/feed/tacobot
The premise is that you type to the Taco Bot and tell it “I want a soft taco with beef”.
Taco Bot then confirms your order, telling you what comes on the taco, and offers to list add-ons you can get such as bacon or guacamole. Based upon your answer, it will (intelligently) interact with you asking additional questions. Do you want fries with that? (Okay that wouldn’t be taco bot but some other bot). It will tell you at any time you can say checkout. After asking you questions based upon what input you are giving it, and you checkout, your order would be ready at the nearest Taco Bell (or whatever you choose).
Pretty cool concept, you can see a sample interaction on the page linked above.
Dominos has something similar where you tweet or send an emoji of a pizza to them, and they place your order. Text the pizza emoji and Dominos will automatically place your “Easy Order” that is on file. Check it out here: https://anyware.dominos.com/
Google uses AI to interpret a large amount of search queries. (Lots of articles about this, just Google the term “Google RankBrain” and you’ll find plenty). Using natural language, the way someone normally talks, to search. Much like those commercials you see online where someone asks Google a question. Or Alexa. Or Cortana.
Facebook has quite a bit of AI research if you’re geeky enough to want to read it. https://research.fb.com/category/facebook-ai-research-fair/
In the world of real estate, imagine you get a client lead in your inbox. The AI programs have already figured out what type of home, in what area, the client would be most interested in based upon analysis of behavioral data from their social media and online presence. It caught that the client was doing a search for ob/gyns last week so instead of recommending a 2-bedroom house it switched to a 3-bedroom house.
Then it automatically takes care of putting the client into the proper buckets in your database. And emailing them content regularly based upon predictions of their buying behavior. And upon contract and closing, automates the work that was previously done by a transaction coordinator to get all of the paperwork all of the places it needs to be.
Inman News, a real estate information source, held a Broker vs Bot challenge in which a broker and a computer would suggest homes to a buyer based upon their previous searching. And guess what? The buyer preferred the homes suggested by the bot.
Imagine a chat system on the real estate agent’s website that showed those suggested homes to the buyer, let the buyer choose which one(s) to go see, and then automatically arranged appointments on the available agent’s schedule.
And then you used your VR goggles to take a virtual tour of the home.
And then the AI coordinates scheduling of all of the related services you will need – mortgage, inspection, plumber for the leaky faucet…
While your self-driving car takes you to your son’s little league game. Skip the trip to the grocery store, because your AI already knows what ingredients you’ve used up this past week from your refrigerator and pantry, plus knows that you will need some extra things for the party you have planned this weekend with friends, placed an automatic order with the local grocery store, and the drone delivered your groceries a few minutes ago.
And you thought George Jetson was just a cartoon.
All said and done, I don’t see the need for buyers and sellers to use real estate agents going away any time in the near future. However, I do see the role changing to allow more personalized and hands-on service while being fully up-to-speed on emerging technologies.
And I think it’s going to be AWESOME!