The real estate industry has changed a lot over the last decade, and new technologies are having a surprising amount of an impact on the way that real estate agents do their jobs. At the same time, comparison sites and other newcomers to the industry are giving consumers more choice when it comes to buying and selling property.
All of this means that the industry as a whole is coming to terms with what maturity looks like, while iterative development and brand new technologies are changing the way that real estate agents work on almost a daily basis. And now that we're getting stuck into another new year, it seems as good a time as any to take a look at what's in store.
With that in mind, here are just a few of the trends that are set to disrupt the real estate industry in 2018 and beyond.
Blockchain is the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but it's not just the new payment methods that are set to change the way we do real estate. The blockchain is effectively a decentralized database that can't be compromised, ensuring the integrity of the data and allowing for records to be created for every property in the country.
For real estate agents, if such a system were to become mainstream it could dramatically reduce the potential for fraud and enable us to access much more data on individual properties and home owners. This would be good news for both real estate agents and their customers, but it would also require them to change the status quo to integrate blockchain information within their current workflows.
2. Augmented and virtual reality
AR and VR technologies are big news at the moment as they're rapidly becoming more and more viable as consumer technologies. You just have to look at the success of Pokémon Go to see how AR and VR have the potential to shake up the real estate industry. Imagine if people could take a virtual tour of a potential house before they went to see it. It could make the whole process much more efficient and it could also make people more likely to make a purchase.
Meanwhile, augmented reality could come in useful when people are trying to visualize what an empty house will look like once they've moved their furniture inside. If a potential buyer has already taken the step of planning out exactly what the house is going to look like, the chances are that they're keen enough to make an offer.
3. Big data, AI and machine learning
These three technologies are at their most effective when they work together because AI can be used to process the data through the process of machine learning, identifying new patterns that we might not have seen before. Just imagine how powerful it would be to have advance notice of a trend that will affect house prices such as if a large number of college graduates are suddenly flooding into the area.
This data (and the ability to understand it) could well be the key to success in the real estate industry moving forward. If we're able to get a comprehensive view of the housing market, we can more accurately react to what's happening and use data to back decisions instead of simply reacting to things on a hunch.
As artificial intelligence gets better and better at processing natural language, so too will the chat bots that AI powers. In fact, they're rapidly becoming the new norm across a diverse range of industries thanks to their ability to reduce the amount of time that employees need to use while empowering the consumer to look at what's on the market and to find answers to simple queries about house prices and availability.
The great thing about chat bots is that they can work around the clock without tiring, so if nothing else then they can at least provide your business with a more powerful way to process customer queries out of hours. Used correctly, they can even become a key part of your marketing approach, capturing data and generating leads that could go on to become paying customers.
5. Peer to peer communication
This trend has been going on for several years now and it's unlikely to stop anytime soon. Thanks to the rise of the internet, discussion forums and social networking sites, it's never been easier for people to bypass realtors altogether and to make peer-to-peer deals with no middleman.
This is a big threat to the real estate industry, and many companies are reacting instinctively by trying to limit the amount of data they share about their listings and looking for ways to disrupt the peer-to-peer process. Instead, it's a smarter idea to focus on the service you offer and adding value to customers' lives so that even if they could make a peer-to-peer sale, they'd still choose to make the trade through your company.
No industry is immune to innovation, and real estate is no different. In fact, you could argue that the only certainty in the coming months is uncertainty, and we could well find that the primary driver of change in 2018 and beyond will be some new technology that hasn't been invented yet.
That's why it's important to keep your finger on the pulse of innovation, and it's a good idea to continue to keep your eyes on the tech blogs and the major shows throughout the year so you can be quick to react to anything that might come along and change the industry.
Many companies choose to go for an 80/20 approach, where they spend 80% of their time on established activity and 20% of their time being the first to adopt new technologies. If those new technologies don't pan out then you've only lost 20% of your time, but if they do then you'll be the first to take advantage of them and thus the first to reap the rewards. In my eyes, it's a risk worth taking.