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10 Real Estate Trends to Watch For in 2017: Samantha McLean

Last week, as I was sitting in Claudio Encina’s hotseat, I had to answer a question about the trends I thought would impact the real estate industry in 2017. Having had a little more time to reflect on everything I have seen, heard and read this year, I’m going out on a limb with some predictions – plus a few Christmas wishes for the industry.


1. Optimising ongoing running costs become a natural part of home-staging before sale. This year we saw realestate.com.au add energy scores to listings to tell people what the ongoing running costs of the home might look like. People are searching for low-energy alternatives in everything, both because of rising energy costs and to lower their own footprint. We also saw Tesla launch solar roof tiles that are more attractive, cheaper and more energy efficient than the concrete originals. So in addition to knowing everything that you possibly can about the house, land and how you might present the property, you can also add value by helping the vendor lower their home energy score.

2. Interactive video, VR, 3D scanning will usurp property video. Remember back to the 80s when you had a cassette deck and you had to play your music from Track 1 to the end? You couldn’t jump around, just fast-forward or rewind. Then CDs came along and all of a sudden you could skip, go back, go forward or repeat at the touch of a button, and that was really ace. It’s pretty much the same with property videos versus 3D scans. If a buyer wants to view the bathroom three times before heading to the kitchen, then so be it – and they probably don’t want to see Ferraris, hip-hop dancers, or a close-up on an expensive watch on the way there. Realestate.com.au appear to be leading by example here; they can probably tell you with some certainty what videos work and what don’t. You need to hone in on what is going to appeal to your time-poor, information scanning consumer.

While I say 3D/VR will be a property video killer, please do not read into this as that I’m saying video itself is on the way out. Far from it. I believe video is absolutely necessary for market updates, blogs, newsletters, content marketing and so on, and may actually increase in property management for things like routine inspections as a more efficient way of doing things or as an added service for investors.

3. Content marketing is the new black. This one is about big data and being big ‘helpful’ (to your customers). This year we saw a product called SmartList, which is pretty good at predicting which house in the street will sell next. Agents who understand this type of technology will start tailoring their marketing more to the audience they are trying to reach, rather than using the standard one-size-fits-all approach – and will be pretty successful along with it. They’ll spend less time marketing to everyone and more time providing value to the people who matter.

4. Bot really…? Chatbots, or bots, will be more of a thing. Consumers are getting very used to push notifications, rather than actively seeking the information they are after themselves. If you subscribe to Suits on iTunes, it’s likely you know what I mean. When my phone pipes up and tells me that there’s a new episode available for download I get excited!
Pushing property information to consumers who are looking to buy or rent, or pushing notifications to owners about information to do with their property, will be far more common – as will pushing the news.

5. Purplebricks (or something like it) may find a niche here in Australia. OK, I know you’re probably not going to like it, but I’m going to explain this from the point of view of the consumer. There are two different planets where consumers exist: those who belong to ‘planet story’, and those who belong to ‘planet price’. On the ‘planet story’ side, people buy into the reasons why you as the agent will get them a premium price for their property: finding the emotional buyer, wanting to deal with a real human – all that sort of thing. These consumers appreciate the personal relationship. But there will always be a portion of the market, ‘planet price’, where alternatives (FSBO) and substitutes (eg. Purplebricks) will suit their purposes just fine, thanks.

There are more interesting (and possibly formidable) models overseas than Purplebricks. One that comes to mind in the US is Opendoor who are seriously cashed up. How it works is that you can sell your home to them and settle within days. No, you might not get the premium price and yes, they take six-eight per cent; basically saying that Americans value certainty of sale over premium price. In other words, they know their market.

After purchase, Opendoor will do the place up (using their deep pockets) and flip it for a profit. On the buy side, if you buy a home through Opendoor it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, just like a washing machine. So the message is: get curious about what’s outside, get clear about who your market is and provide them with value.

6. You’ll likely be including a Facebook budget in your vendor-paid proposal. You can now (thanks to Quantium and CoreLogic partnering up) place an ad on Facebook and target it to a much more niche audience. This means, for example, that if you are marketing a property you have listed, you spend less and reach more of the right people. (This works simply for boosting your blog and other content posts as well.)

7. After all the experts for years have told you not to just put listings on Facebook, next year, do not be surprised if they start telling you otherwise. Facebook Marketplace looks like it could be a bit of a Gumtree/eBay gamechanger. Agents in the US are already sharing their MLS/Zillow listings on Marketplace. Can you boost listings on Marketplace? No, but let’s not rule that one out in the future either.

8. New job roles in EBUs will start popping up. We have seen the rise of ‘super-teams’ already in 2016: lead generators, vendor managers, buyer managers. We predicted in ‘Are You Ready For 2020?’ last year that teams would soon require specialist skills which are not necessarily about real estate – for example, social media managers, designers and even an on-staff videographer/editor. Next year? Yes, probably – see points 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 and 7. Or you could look at outsourcing.

9. The internet of things will become a thing. This is tied to the ongoing running costs, the NBN and technology continuing to move in leaps and bounds. Apple have added a home icon to the iPhone with the message “Start building your connected home by adding lights, locks, thermostats and other home-kit enabled accessories.” Then there are things like this video that everybody loved when I played it at ARPM this year:

When internet enabled devices start combining push notifications with artificial intelligence then we should also be able to start throwing away those appliance warranty papers and maybe not even have to think too much about when things need a ‘service’.

NB. Looking further forward on this one, a message from the crystal ball for property managers: push notifications from internet-enabled home appliances in rental properties will be your friend in the far off future. Knowing when they are about to break down or fail before they do so is going to make your lives so much easier.

10. We will start talking about customer experience and customer service as two separate things. Customer service traditionally has been how we service customers post-sale. It needs to be so much more than this. Forward-thinking businesses will start to focus on the consumer’s experience from start to finish and at every touchpoint along the way, whether online, offline or in person, making sure they don’t just meet, but exceed expectations in the journey of moving home – whether purchase, investment or rental.

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Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Elite Agent and Host of the Elevate Podcast.