In 1991, the National Association of REALTORS® made an “office of the future” video predicting what kinds of space-age technologies would change the home buying and selling process by the year 2000.
Jon Coile, broker-owner of Champion Realty in Severna Park, Md., dug this gem of a video out of the NAR archives for his presentation Wednesday at the Broker Summit in Atlanta.
Did NAR get the fashion wrong? Yes. (Is NAR really known for its fashion sense?) But how far off was the video, really?
Today we have AT&T Digital Life (the home automation mentioned in the video), Skype (video calls), thumb drives (mini discs), MLS with photos (home tour line drawings), smart appliances (“Microsoft Maytag software”), Siri (talking cars), and GPS (car navigation systems). “And they’re still going to need an agent – they got that right, too,” Coile said.
So this video begs the question: What does the next decade hold for the real estate industry?
Jon Coile speaking at the 2014 Broker Summit in Atlanta.
“I’m no expert on this stuff. I’m a broker; I sell houses,” Coile said. But after doing some research and observing trends in his own real estate business, Coile came up with his predictions for the next technology shifts on the horizon:
- Big data: Data is everywhere. You’re supplying retailers with your spending profile and shopping habits on a daily basis — and you might not even know it. From your grocery store club cards to your online searches, businesses are gathering data about you. Target, for example, made headlines when the company sent maternity and baby product coupons to a teenager before her father knew she was pregnant. “Data is all around us,” Coile said. When it comes to real estate, there are already apps like SmartZip that use data to predict when someone is likely to sell.
- iBeacons: These transmitters send signals to smartphones and are largely used for “proximity marketing.” For example, a retailer could send a coupon to your phone when you walk into a store. “Could you imagine putting beacons out at open houses?” Coile asked.
- Wearable tech: Google Glass already exists, albeit in its early stages, and Smartwatches, which provide access to e-mail, calendar alerts, news updates, social media accounts, and maps — from your wrist — were all the rage at the 2014 Consumer Electronic Show.
- Augmented reality: This technology overlays data on an image or view of the physical world. You can see this in apps like Homesnap, which uses a phone’s camera and internal GPS to give the user data on a home. Champion Realty has an augmented reality app called X-Ray Vision that allows the user to point a smartphone camera at a listing from the street to see photos and specs of the house. “These apps are actually not that expensive [to create] and are worthwhile,” Coile said.
- Drones: Amazon is requesting permission from the FAA to use drones to deliver products under 5 pounds. With warehouses in many metropolitan areas through the country, Amazon is already within close proximity to their customers. And the company says 86 percent of its shipments are 5 pounds or less, so drone deliveries would be a game-changer. “Amazon has geared up their system; they’re just waiting for FAA to get on board,” Coile says. Drones can travel 45-50 MPH and carry an HD camera. There are even GPS-synched drones that can follow a beacon hooked to your wrist, for example. Drones for real estate? “They’re going to come, but it’s going to take a while,” Coile said. The FAA recently put the ix-nay on drones in real estate, stating in June that real estate professionals could be subject to FAA’s safety and designated airspace enforcement. But NAR is currently working with the FAA to expedite the development of rules that would allow real estate professionals to use drone technology to market properties in the future.
Going hand-in-hand with tech innovations is consumer convenience. Here’s what Coile said brokers will need to do today to attract tomorrow’s customers:
- Agent review sites: Are you on Yelp? Yelp = real reviews in the eyes of consumers, Coile said. Client testimonials on your website? Not so much. “They want honesty, and they want reality,” he said. “If we want to raise the standards [of our industry], we have to allow the crappy agents to get crappy ratings.”
- Shift to mobile: iPads were just invented in 2010, and smartphones haven’t been around much longer, but they’ve caused a dramatic shift in how people search for homes. According to NAR and Google’s 2013 report, “The Digital House Hunt: Consumer and Market Trends in Real Estate,” 90 percent of home buyers search online during their house hunt; 48 percent of people use a mobile device in their search; and 45 percent used the device to request more information about specific home features or real estate services. Those percentages are only going to increase in the future.
Last, Coile talked about the need for succession planning. When he started in real estate in the early 1990s, the median age of a REALTOR® was 46. Today it’s 57 (and the median age of the U.S. worker is 41). It’s up to brokers to do more to recruit younger agents and managers and to create a viable career path for the next generation.