The secret to understanding the next big thing that will change your business is to look at what is happening on the fringes of technology. Kylie Davis takes a look at four pieces of fringe tech that are starting to have an impact on real estate right now.
1. Push technology
Instead of expecting a customer to constantly go to a web portal and look for what they want, push technology brings the information and answers to you.
When buyers are in their chosen areas, properties for sale will send alerts to their phones using iBeacons – small chips that can be attached to any object and send alerts via wifi.
The new real estate apps Homepass and Followit are examples of push technology. Homepass allows buyers to ‘check in’ to an open house, while FollowIt sends updates and alerts about properties that the user has flagged he or she is interested in.
Setting up systems to allow properties to be quickly connected into these systems and making the engagement experience worthwhile for consumers (i.e. by unlocking special content) will ensure the adoption of this technology, creating a broader and measurable reach for agents.
2. Artificial intelligence
We are becoming used to the idea of computer programs that become smarter and more aware of our preferences every time we use them. Our Facebook preferences, for example, are constantly refining the quality of our online feed.
The combination of big data collected from more and more sources will refine algorithms to the point where they start to both predict individual behaviour and help decision making. This is known as machine learning and it is expected to play an integral role in the future of home search, potentially acting as a defacto buyer’s agent.
How will it do that? Currently, buyers go to a portal and we put in our selection criteria and are given a list of homes we can consider. We then have to contact the agent if we’re interested. Machine learning will combine your portal search with general online search behaviour and social media information to help identify, refine and present potential properties, learning from what is liked and rejected with each interaction. So if you say you want to live in suburb A but the majority of your interactions and friends are in suburbs B and C, the machine may soon start to recommend a broader area – and potentially even book open for inspections into your calendar.
For agents, artificial intelligence and machine learning is a boon, allowing CRM and database systems to become smarter and automate more and more tasks.
3. Virtual reality
Once the tech of choice for gamers, VR is now being adopted to immerse customers into a sensory-rich experience. Property is a natural fit with VR, allowing buyers to virtually walk through and experience a property’s features and lifestyle, even if they cannot physically visit the site. It can also give the experience of making changes to the property virtually – such as furnishings, paint, views, making it ideal for new homes and off-the-plan sales.
Virtual reality has been featured repeatedly over the past few years at real estate conferences but it’s now moving away from a fun fad to a heavy lifting tool. New home and apartment agents who are active in this space will reap huge rewards by allowing buyers to genuinely ‘see’ what they will get.
A lot has been heard about blockchains, but what on earth are they?
Blockchains are the technology that sits behind Bitcoin, the virtual currency system. A blockchain is a distributed database that maintains a continuously growing list of data records protected from tampering.
Blockchains use timestamps to batch recent transactions into “blocks” with each block including the prior timestamp, forming a chain of blocks. Blockchains allow enormous databases of financial transactions running in multiple locations to reconcile with each other in close to real time.
The reason this is important to real estate and property finance is because it could allow sophisticated financial transactions – previously the auspice of the banking system because of huge security costs – to be transformed. It has the potential to allow local real estate agent offices to not just help you originate your loan, but actually fund it.