Real estate business

Technology is changing the game in the real estate industry

For real estate professionals, just like the rest of us, technology is a mixed blessing. Innovations like virtual home tours are making house hunting more fun, and e-signatures and other tools are making the buying process more efficient.

But a higher volume of easily accessible information means more risks of misinformation and, in some cases, security risks.

A 2016 study by the National Association of Realtors found that 89% of home buyers used a website in their search and 57% used a mobile app or website. And 42% of house hunters looked at online listings before contacting a real estate agent.

This means customers are better informed when they contact the agent and, in many cases, have already narrowed down their search before they start scheduling visits and attending open houses.

Virtual reality

Indianapolis-based Carpenter Realtors started using 3D home tours on their listings about two months ago. They use a camera made by a company called Matterport that scans each room and takes pictures with nine lenses pointing in all directions.

Matterport software uses these images to create a virtual tour of the home. Users navigate as if they were walking around the house on Google Street View or a first-person video game. It also creates a dollhouse view and a floor plan to see the layout of the house from a wider perspective.

Carpenter Realtors has used the software on 70 homes.

Jim Newell, Carpenter’s marketing manager, said it takes two to three hours to shoot and a few extra hours for the software to work its magic. Regular photographs, he said, take a maximum of two hours.

“We saw this as another tool that we could offer our agents to differentiate them, but also to differentiate their individual rosters,” he said.

The company produced approximately 70 virtual tours at no cost to the owner.

“You don’t have that many live screenings,” Newell said. “But when you get them, it’s someone who really cares about the house.”

Joe Shoemaker, broker at Encore Sotheby’s International Realty in Indianapolis, has been in the industry for 16 years. He said this technology has been around for over a decade but hasn’t taken off because most consumers don’t have the technology to access it.

Interactive virtual tours, video tours and online ads are much more prevalent in the industry now that most buyers have smartphones and high-speed internet access.

Shoemaker said a virtual tour enhances the buyer’s experience, but he advises caution when using it to show a home that’s still occupied. He said potential criminals can use online tours to find out where valuables are kept before an open house, as well as how to get in and out of a home.

Technology to impress

Virtual tours can also take the form of slideshows or presentation videos. Shoemaker said he offers customers tours via FaceTime video chat if they can’t see a home in person.

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Newell said Carpenter’s app includes HomeSpotter functionality. Home hunters can visit a neighborhood they like and use their phone to identify homes for sale or recently sold within a half-mile radius.

Social media plays its own role, but more as a way for agents to build a brand than to promote listings. Shoemaker uses Pinterest to showcase her specialty in mid-century modern architecture, for example.

Amanda Hadley, an agent at RE/MAX Metro, uses a service called OutboundEngine to send emails and create social media posts. She shares articles about home design or lifestyle that she finds interesting, rather than posting about her latest ad.

“I like a less direct approach,” she said. “I want to have fun with real estate, and I want my clients to have fun looking for a house and buying a house. I want it to be as seamless and stress-free as possible. The electronic world helps with that.

Advantages and disadvantages

Hadley, Shoemaker and Newell all said the prevalence of online and mobile tools has resulted in a more knowledgeable and knowledgeable customer, which allows agents to spend their time more efficiently.

“Years ago, if you wanted information about a house, you had to call the agent just to find out how many bedrooms it had or what it was listed on,” Newell said. “It’s hard for some agents to adapt, to understand that you want a more knowledgeable customer. This eliminates the time spent answering questions from people who are neither potential buyers nor sellers. »

Hadley has been with the company for about four years. Her experience as an agent is very different from what it was when she bought her house in Fletcher Place 20 years ago.

“You couldn’t get rid of the way you can now, and there would be a lot more research and a lot less options,” she said. “(Now) I can have a client contact me and say, ‘I want to be in this area at this price,’ and I can send them a hundred ads.”

But with that convenience, Hadley said, comes the frustration of online listings with incorrect or outdated information. She said customers would request information about a home they found on the Zillow website and app, only to find out the home isn’t for sale or the price estimate is wrong.

She said is the most reliable source of listings because it’s updated every 15 minutes from BLC, the Central Indiana Realtors Association’s listing service called MIBOR.

Shoemaker said sites like democratized the business by offering listings that customers could see, instead of limiting that information to brokers.

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“Suddenly, as a small office, I could show clients any house. That’s what got me started as an independent real estate agent,” he said.

Like Hadley, Shoemaker cautions against placing too much reliance on information found online. Buying a home is a subjective experience, and an algorithm doesn’t necessarily capture all the nuances a person does.

“The agent helps sellers and buyers determine true value,” he said.

Technology gives real estate agents more marketing and social media options than street signs.

In the wings

A lot of technology isn’t focused on buyers and sellers. Instead, the focus is on streamlining the logistics of the process and allowing agents to spend more time in the field than in an office.

Key to this is the ability to obtain electronic signatures for the plethora of documents involved in a sale.

Hadley said the RE/MAX Metro office recently went paperless.

“I find I can’t imagine not being able to get electronic signatures. It closes the distance gap for sure,” she said. “But some customers don’t have email or don’t believe in electronic signatures. I either have to teach them or convince them.

Hadley also uses the centralized showing service, which schedules her online visits, maps her routes and manages communications with other agents requesting to show her listings.

“It’s a fantastic way to follow everything that’s going on and plan my days with my clients,” she said.

Newell said Carpenter Realtors uses Cloud CMA, which allows agents to quickly perform competitive market analysis giving sellers an idea of ​​what’s for sale in a given area, how a property compares to others and what’s selling. is recently sold.

“It’s a much easier presentation to understand, and agents don’t have to spend as much time putting this information together to make it presentable,” Newell said. “That’s the kind of stuff we got more involved in. Giving our agents the kind of technology that’s easy to use, but has great value for buyers and sellers alike.”

Role of the real estate agent

Newell said he saw the value of the agent shift from being a source of information to helping buyers and sellers navigate the complicated process and paperwork.

Shoemaker said that while technology is a necessary and expected part of it, you can’t completely eliminate the human element from it.

“It’s a growing trend, and not just in real estate, that clients expect to have a truly personal, human relationship with their service providers,” Shoemaker said. “For many people, real estate is the most important purchase they will make in their lifetime.”

For Hadley, that personal touch is most useful with the east side homes, which she can relate to her own experience buying a home in Fletcher Place.

“I see other neighborhoods that look like mine when I moved in 20 years ago. I see what the future holds,” she said.

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