A look at the next big leaps in the technologies affecting the real estate industry
Technology is so much part of our daily lives that almost all of the news we consume seems to connect to technology and its uses and abuses.
For real estate agents, it seems that every other email in our inbox involves new tech, improved abilities or the challenges posed by tech.
Let’s take a look at some of the most buzz-worthy tech topics from this year and find out what to expect in the new year. You might find that what started out as an obscure side note will become a central part of your tech game plan.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI has been in the air this year at Inman conferences as well as in the tech and real estate press. Although many still think of AI in terms of its applications to robotics, in reality, it is just an outgrowth of algorithms, except they have the ability to self-improve and become smarter and self-learning.
How you use it now: According to Andrey Nokhrin, CEO of FLIPT, “AI is a complicated topic because there are many different applications. It has been mostly applied to repetitive tasks because that creates more data and simpler decision-making for the AI.”
Real estate has mostly used AI for chatbots, according to Nokhrin. In its most basic explanation, this means that when someone visits an agent’s website or blog, the chatbot can respond based on the keywords that the person writes.
The drawback? AI is only as good as the data it’s basing its predictions and responses on, including the amount, quality and freshness of data, Nokhrin said.
How you’ll use it in 2018: “Realtors are starting to use AI to target their advertising,” Nokhrin said. “It can show ads to homeowners going through life-changing events: those who’ve changed their status from married to divorced or who posted a photo showing that they are pregnant or graduating. Marketing budgets go further because more leads are generated, and they are more targeted.”
Nokhrin credits FLIPT’s early adoption of AI for much of the platform’s effectiveness.
“We started working on machine learning about three years ago. Data is the most critical asset to having the best AI.”
Nokhrin also believes that just as with Netflix and Amazon, AI can very effectively make suggestions, which could be a game changer in more efficiently identifying what clients are looking for.
“The increased adoption of AI will probably lead to many platforms, and eventually real estate websites making suggestions for properties or neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s interesting to fantasize about what kinds of tasks could be automated through AI.”
He believes that touring homes could be narrowed down more than before, saving agents from having to drive buyers from listing to listing dozens of times over, by utilizing 360-degree virtual tours. Buyers can whittle their lists down to two or three homes before seeing anything in person.
Bitcoin and blockchain
It seems like everybody on social media in the past few weeks has been obsessed with bitcoin. And why not? For those early adopters who bought bitcoin before it was cool, the cryptocurrency’s meteoric rise has been nothing short of a daily lotto win, with hundreds of dollars added every time they refresh their Coinbase app.
How you use it now: With this fall’s first ever Bitcoin-only real estate purchase closing in Texas, the buzz began and hasn’t let up, with luxury agents stating the bitcoin price for their properties and a Miami condo creating a Bitcoin-only listing.
But the volatility of the currency calls this strategy into question, especially because the value can change even during the hours it takes to turn the bitcoin into cash for the closing.
Currently, it seems, Bitcoin’s primary purpose is as a buzz-builder for luxury listings, creating a hook that gets them more attention and more potential buyers.
In addition, it appeals to early adopters and international buyers who may be looking for a place to park their fast-rising bitcoins for more reliable gains.
How you’ll use it in 2018: The jury’s still out on bitcoin as a viable currency for real estate transactions.
There are many cryptocurrencies out there, and until there is more stability in their valuation, it would be difficult to see how it can become a major player in the real estate industry, though they will no doubt continue to be used as an occasional notable exception.
But what cryptos are built-on, blockchain technology, has many practical applications for real estate and related industries.
According to the National Association of Realtors, because the blockchain creates an “instantly verifiable, secure public record,” it can speed up transactions by allowing property and title docs, insurance information and many other items required during the mortgage and closing process to be accessed more quickly and reliably than ever before.
The International Blockchain Real Estate Association (IBREA) is currently working to create and implement standards for the development of best practices to drive the adoption of blockchain and bitcoin by the real estate industry.
The more such practices are defined and regularized, the more these technologies will continue to be adopted, developed and seen as reliable.
You use apps all the time, and if anything, you’re too addicted to your phone and tablet, right? We all have our favorite apps, and there seem to be more every day. But how can you use apps more effectively to build your business?
How you use them now: For many of us, mobile apps are essential for everything, but they are generally considered a shortcut to the “real” version of our CRM, workflow system, transaction management site or other tech.
Systems and processes are ideally handled on a laptop but can be managed on the app if necessary. Often, the trade-off results in decreased functionality but greater convenience.
Even social media is often easier to manage on a computer, although it is accessed almost exclusively on an app. In fact, some settings can only be adjusted through the online version of many platforms, and sharing and distribution is often much easier through the full version.
How you’ll use them in 2018: As we grow increasingly used to being off-site and working from anywhere, the hottest new mobile apps will increase our productivity and help us stay organized.
Keeping tabs on all of the information generated by all of our different email and social media accounts, lead gen platforms and even face-to-face meetings (I know, right?) can be a challenge, but smarter apps can help you wrangle all of that information and use it to grow your business.
If you’re part of a team, you must have a workflow app. Slack is the one on everyone’s lips right now, and it seems to be a favorite for its simple, intuitive and oddly friendly user interface.
Asana is another favorite, as is Trello, which creates workflow boards that help you not only share and collaborate but also more effectively track your own personal progress.
Need an assistant but can’t afford one? Look no further than 24me, one of the latest “smart” assistants. Integrate your calendars and schedule tasks, and let your assistant prompt you when you have things to get done.
It will even tell you when you have a little downtime and make recommendations for tasks that you could fit into your schedule.
It’s a brave new world, and every year seems to bring new tech trends that are daunting at first, but eventually become essential. Rather than ignoring or dreading change, keep looking for ways to make it work for you.
And remember — if everybody’s talking about it, there must be something there. Don’t be afraid to jump onboard and find out how you can put these technologies to work for you and your business.
Christy Murdock Edgar is a Realtor, freelance writer, coach and consultant with Writing Real Estate in Alexandria, Virginia.