When Rich Barton co-founded Zillow in 2005, he knew the virtual homebuying and rental marketplace would shape the future of real estate. Now, after nearly two decades as Zillow's CEO, Barton -- who previously co-founded Expedia, and Glassdoor -- offers founders advice for capitalizing on the next big real estate boom.
How will real estate change in the next five years?
Virtual 3-D tours and remote, digital closings will be the norm. No more driving downtown to sign a mountain of closing documents. Also, a large number of people will sell their homes through an app, without making big changes -- like updating kitchens, painting, and other fixes -- to prepare it for sale.
Over the next decade?
Buying a house will be as easy as trading in your car. It will be transparent, with no information gatekeepers and no surprises. And it will move faster, thanks to the stress-reducing benefits of tech. Real estate agents will still play a key role, connecting with high-impact, qualified buyers who have already looked around and narrowed the field, and are ready to make an offer.
How can founders take advantage of these changes?
There are knottier problems to solve in real estate than in ride-hailing or booking a vacation. It can be time-consuming and tedious to get financing, and frustrating to wait for funds to clear escrow. Touring a home on your schedule, versus the limited times many sellers can provide, can be a hassle. It can also be difficult to figure out where to live when you've sold your home and are waiting to move into your new place.
Ask anyone who has shopped for a home recently about the hurdles they faced along the way, and you start to really understand the mind-boggling number of problems that still need to be solved, from appraisals to inspections to timing the sale of an existing home to the closing of a new one. Innovators will succeed by putting the customer first.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of Inc. Magazine. The original article incorrectly states that Rich Barton co-founded Nextdoor.com. He did not. Barton invested in Nextdoor.com, and served as a Nextdoor.com board member for the first seven years of the company's existence.