We all know that today’s technology has changed our lives forever. Most for the better, some maybe not so much. But one area that has changed forever is in real estate. Buying and selling real estate is big business, and technology has changed everything!
Here are four ways that technology has made a lasting change to the real estate business:
1. Real Time Data
When I started in the Atlanta real estate business in 1978, we carried two huge MULTIPLE LISTING books listing all the houses for sale in the metro Atlanta area. They were printed on comic book paper, and each book was 2 to 3 inches thick.
And once printed, each book was immediately obsolete. This was before cell phones and before computers, so the only way to know if a house was still available was to call the agent.
Often, the listing office would say “we think there may be a contract on that house” and leave a message for the agent to call back. That was sometimes several days in coming. No, I am not kidding.
Today, almost all listing data is near real time, meaning if it shows as available, then it is. And we can usually see several dozen photos of the house inside and out without leaving our home or vehicle.
Prior to the Internet, it was difficult for a small agency to compete with large companies with big advertising budgets. As a result, it was hard to make a living unless you were with a big brokerage.
Other than putting a “for sale” sign in your front yard, the only way to effectively let the world know that you had a home to sell or rent was to place a classified ad in the local newspaper. As proof of the dramatic change, that section of the newspaper no longer exists in most communities.
Today, free marketing tools like ZILLOW and GOOGLE allow even the most technology challenged agent (and buyer and seller) ways to reach literally worldwide with their marketing message. And it’s just as easy to get on your cell phone or a tablet as it is on your desktop.
Back to early American history, when I started in real estate, we thought of ourselves as the gatekeepers of information about real estate.
What a house sold for was considered private information, and things like square footage and past damage or defects were often never mentioned to potential buyers or renters.
Today, everything has changed.
According the the National Association of REALTORS, some 98% of eventual home buyers begin their research on the Internet, and I think that estimate is low.
It is incredibly easy to find out volumes about a house and a neighborhood, starting with schools, transportation, recent sales, current listings, and education and income levels of neighborhood occupants. You can even easily check to see if there are any registered sex offenders in the area (and most people with kids do so).
Buyers and renters contact agents having already educated themselves about what is available and what they want, and that is a huge advantage for the consumer, in my opinion.
Home lenders and closing attorneys have moved from being stuffy and stodgy professionals to consumer-friendly one-stop shops.
I’m not saying it is actually easy to get a loan these days. But the process is much less painful and happens a lot faster than it did just a few years ago. You can close a loan today in as little as 2 weeks!
Most lenders and closing attorneys have gotten onboard the technology bullet train, but the records room of your local county courthouse still operates much the same way it did 100 years ago.
But mark my words: within ten years, we will see paperless home loan closings, all the while never needing a single signature on a piece of paper. Remember, I said ten years!
Q: Does this mean that eventually, computers will replace agents altogether?
A: I think not. The decision of whether to buy a house or how to sell a house is such a major one that I don’t see it being replaced by an algorithm. It’s just not possible to replace a human being with expertise and years of experience in helping other humans through the long and winding road to the perfect home.
The bottom line: People buy real estate emotionally, then try to justify it logically. That’s why we will always need agents. But technology has forever changed the way we buy sell and rent our homes, and the best is yet to come.