Over the past six months, nearly every industry in our economy was accelerated by technology due to COVID-19. Whether consumers or businesses were ready, the global pandemic forced us to conduct business almost 100 percent virtually. Residential real estate was undoubtedly one of the industries most affected. The entire process from start to finish shifted, and now the future of real estate has never been more technology driven. Follow along as I address how COVID impacted technology changes in residential real estate and take a glimpse of where the industry is headed.
The Cloud Movement: In the past, real estate has always been paper-heavy, so when the economy shut down there was a scramble to set up remote workforces. Paperless transactions became key, and cloud-based systems were essential to survival. In most markets, there was no option to go into the office and pull files or save paper documents. Streamlining the entire real estate process on a digital platform between all parties was the biggest step businesses could have taken to continue serving their buyers/sellers through stay-at-home orders. In some areas, real estate was deemed essential. Therefore, in-person meetings were unavoidable. However, choosing to conduct minimal tasks face-to-face and saving the bulk of the process for digital gave peace of mind to both employees and consumers. From now on you must be forward-thinking on the cloud movement and flexible to support a remote workforce because office days in real estate are long gone.
Productivity Tools: With that said, the technology movement in real estate started a few years back, but COVID placed urgency on the digital drive. The real estate professionals adapting best are those placing the biggest priority on transforming their business with productivity tools. Some veteran real estate professionals are not keeping up with the times, creating a competitive gap between them and the tech savvy. The goal for the entire real estate industry should be to streamline and automate the entire process with technology to make it as painless and easy as possible for buyers and sellers. This is done by integrating the best practices and tech tools into one system. This enables all parties to work in partnership more effectively and efficiently. If you are an investor, your productivity tool should assist in managing your leads, conducting property assessments, making the offers, negotiations and settlement, renovations, accounting, purchasing, scheduling and field management. If you are an agent, your productivity tool should manage lead generation, negotiations, settlement and closing procedures.
Going Contactless: On the consumer side, technology has allowed buyers and sellers to move extremely quickly from start to finish. You are now able to search and view properties on new platforms and even some agents are showing houses via FaceTime. Agents sharpened their marketing with 3D tours and began hosting virtual open houses. Investors with state-of-the-art technology can now quickly analyze property values and provide home sellers an offer within minutes. Signing documents over email using e-sign is also the new normal. Now more than ever, consumers have multiple options to navigate real estate contactless.
Your Technology Platform: The key to ensuring the process is seamless for consumers relies on your technology platform. You must have a deep knowledge of the real estate industry. Some industry veterans are not tech-savvy, and some others who are tech-savvy do not hold industry knowledge. When companies build technology around faulty business practices, the platform fails and vise-versa. Marrying technology with industry expertise will provide the most robust infrastructure. This will maximize workforce productivity and give customers a unified hassle-free experience more rapidly than the pre-COVID days. If you choose to purchase a software package instead of building one, ensure your goals are aligned with the software’s capabilities. For example, firms with significant growth plans should invest in software that can scale with their needs by offering extensive functions for multiple users. Small firms may not need all those extra capabilities. Think ahead and invest in a system that will grow along with your needs.
Looking to the future, technology will continue to evolve and reshape the way real estate is conducted, courtesy of COVID-19. The one factor that the pandemic will not change is the importance of personal relationships. Investors, agents, lenders, and brokers should continue to build their sphere of influence. Technology cannot replace human interaction in this regard. As you map out the future, keep these points in mind and remember that technology is only as good as the knowledge base it is built on. You must understand the best practices and know the policies and procedures to develop the most dynamic package. The companies that develop these integrated systems will have significant productivity advantages and cost savings. They will also recruit the most elite agents/employees because the future of the industry lies in technology.
Nick Ron, CEO of House Buyers of America, is a tech-savvy industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience as a real estate investor. Since 2001, he has bought thousands of homes in the D.C. Metro area through his hybrid real estate model that balances technology with human, on-the-ground expertise.