Technology continues to evolve and change the way we do everything – from buying clothes and groceries, to selling used items, to even buying and selling homes. Smartphones and tablets are ubiquitous and, like it or not, most of us rely on them to conduct our daily personal and professional business.
When it comes to real estate, mobile technology is so advanced that buyers and sellers can basically do it all from their smartphones or tablets. From browsing homes online to virtual tours and signing documents, one can basically purchase or sell a home, from beginning to end, simply with the use of technology. So how exactly have technological advances impacted the real estate sector?
According to Calgary Realtor Tanya Eklund, “More than ever before, technology has and is transforming the real estate industry. After nearly 17 years in the industry, I feel the last five have catapulted the real estate sector. With search engines and geo-farming, we can search virtually anything and target market our listings to the specific markets we choose. The opportunities are endless in terms of what can be accomplished through digital marketing and having an online presence.”
Richard Dolan, president of REIN (Real Estate Investment Network), says, “The largest and most significant undercurrent to the world of real estate and its direction has been the reshaping of its landscape, driven by the importance and role of technology consumers demand for a digital experience. The digital commercialization of real estate sales and transactions is inevitable given the ease of access, the flow of data, and convenience of experience. People can simply shop for real estate from their phone.”
Technology also creates options for the consumer. People can hire real estate agents advertising lower commission fees but also have the option of buying or selling their home sans agent using a “no commission” brokerage and doing the work themselves. This, according to many real estate professionals, sounds appealing but certainly has some drawbacks.
Eklund explains that per the Competition Act, the public has the option to hire lower-rate commission companies to put their home on the MLS for a flat fee. “When this ruling first came into effect, it had Realtors buzzing in on how this would affect their businesses. I am and always will be a believer in ‘you get what you pay for.’”
Considered a full-service Realtor, Eklund not only provides a wide range of marketing options but the expertise homeowners just do not see when selling on their own. She explains that not having the knowledge in handling a realty transaction when selling a home can cost a seller thousands of dollars. “Over the years, I have developed a marketing plan that one could not offer by utilizing a fee-saving brokerage. Often we deal with sellers who are frustrated with the process and lack of exposure their home is receiving so they call and ask for something more.”
Dolan acknowledges that anyone can buy and sell real estate online but ultimately those making the financial investment wish to have a live voice – before signing on the dotted line – to confirm their belief they are making a smart decision. He believes there will always be the need for a Realtor in a real estate transaction. “And contrary to popular belief, this is driven and fuelled by the digital phenomenon, for a good reason, not bad.”
The digital phenomenon Dolan speaks of is forcing real estate agents to up their marketing game. In order to stay current and competitive, real estate professionals must learn how to be creative and tech-savvy using a variety of marketing tools such as online videos, aerial footage, email blasts, clever social media marketing, virtual tours and much more.
“Because 95 per cent of a buyer’s experience begins online, this fact fuels the very essence of what it means to be a real estate sales professional,” Dolan explains. “Just because people access more information more readily doesn’t mean they can act just as fast. The more information one has, the more thought leadership they require.”
The quality of photo imagery in video has grown to an all-time high, confirms Dolan. “Consumers expect a broadcast quality experience when it comes to shopping and viewing real estate opportunities. This has forced the real estate sales professional to transcend traditional sales techniques and marketing tactics to becoming an expert in taking photographs and hosting their own video tours. This requires the development of a skill in new technology such as hardware, editing and the ability to post online.”
“If you feel this is not something you want to partake in,” says Eklund, “you will be left behind as marketing evolution is happening and will continue to happen.”
CREB (Calgary Real Estate Board) president David P. Brown explains that part of their strategic plan – launched three years ago – is to provide excellence in technology. “So it’s not only the focus of Realtors, but it’s the focus of the board as well.”
Brown says the board has come up with some incredible tools to make the lives of Realtors easier, which in turn is much better for the consumer. One such tool is mapping which gives real estate professionals the ability to go in and see the permits for a particular house. “We could have never done this in the past and not this quickly. Again, one step forward.”
CREB is constantly looking at all available technology tools. And although they dive deep into technology, they don’t necessarily accept everything in terms of technological advances. “It has to make sense,” says Brown.
The impact of technology in the real estate sector permeates all across the industry and includes advances in the area of home inspection as well.
Lucas Kirsch, owner of 20/20 Master Home Inspections Inc., says, “There are all kinds of gadgets and gizmos in my industry.” One of the best technological tools today, in his opinion, is the FLIR® (forward-looking infrared) thermal camera. “This is by far the best thing to discover new problems that wouldn’t have been caught 10 years ago.” In second place is the HD sewer cameras that Kirsch claims have saved his clients thousands of dollars on problems below the surface. And last but not least, moisture meters are an amazing tool when dealing with suspect moisture issues.
Kirsch says he’s on the fence, however, when it comes to drone technology. He acknowledges they are useful on a roof, for example, but his preference is to get up close and personal by walking it.
“At the end of the day, the best technology isn’t worth a thing if the inspector using it doesn’t have the experience, education or communication skills to use them all.” But of all the technology available, Kirsch admits that the greatest thing as a home inspector is his iPhone. “It functions as my camera and my daily organizer.”
We can’t deny that technology continues to move fast and forward, but one thing all real estate professionals can agree on is that nothing can truly replace the value of human interaction. When it comes to investing in real estate, whether it be buying or selling, there are a lot of emotions attached. These emotions need to be nurtured by human connection.
“Video and photos alone do not excite buyers; it is the human confirmation that does, and that requires physical interaction in the presence of the magic and power of a real estate sales professional,” says Dolan.