While I was in a real estate designation class at my local MLS a few weeks ago, a fellow Realtor started a discussion about the recent Zillow/Trulia merger. As the instructor started talking about it, he seemed to get overwhelmed by the amount of questions from other Realtors in the room asking how this will affect the industry. He went on to talk about how things used to be before the internet and how difficult it has been to adapt to the changes that the internet has brought to the industry. I was struck with the realization that the internet is the most powerful business tool available, yet it is also one of the least understood tools by many real estate pros. The conversation ended with the instructor stating that he was getting depressed and wanted to move on to talk about the old school tried-and-true tactics that are proven to bring business. He was done talking about the internet for the day, but that conversation has been the best part of any class I attended.
The internet has taken the real estate industry by storm and shows no signs of letting up. Consumers are constantly using the internet to find homes, research REALTORS®, analyze financing options, and gather advice about all things real estate. Meanwhile, I keep hearing brokerages and real estate instructors teaching the same old stuff from years ago when I first entered the real estate industry. The internet changed the real estate business instantaneously and many great professionals are still trying to understand what just happened.
After being immersed into the conversation about the internet and real estate at my local MLS, I thought it would be a great idea to continue the conversation online and ask some of my favorite real estate professionals on Google Plus for their advice and experience on the issue. I reached out to 17 real estate professionals and asked them two questions. I also asked them to take a poll with a few relevant questions to go along with the article, to offer the readers an idea of the experience and opinion that the group has on this topic. You can click the link below to be taken directly to the poll results, which are also at the bottom of this article, if you would like to start there.
Special thanks to all of the real estate professionals who offered their insights and experience in their contributions below. These are outstanding professionals who are socially active online, offer great insights into our industry, and have a strong internet presence. I've learned a lot from many of them. You can click on their names to be taken to their Google Plus pages, or you can click on the link under their name to view their websites and real estate content. If you would like to respond to them personally, add them to your Circles on Google Plus, or find them on other social platforms through their websites and introduce yourself. :)
Here are the 2 questions I asked some of my favorite real estate professionals on Google Plus:
In your experience as a real estate professional,
How has the internet changed the real estate industry to date?
What changes do you think the internet will have on the real estate industry over the next 20+ years?
A Top Medway Massachusetts REALTOR® who has been selling real estate for almost twenty eight years.
Andrew, thanks very much for allowing to give my perspective to your audience. There is no question that the internet has dramatically changed how real estate sales are conducted. Let me offer a little perspective on things so those reading can understand how things worked when I started in the field. During my first year in the business, which was in the mid 1980’s, the internet was in its infancy. In order to see properties for sale we generally do not go to the computer to look. Every week real estate agents would wait with baited breath for the MLS books to arrive. The books were like a fat encyclopedia. As a Realtor these were like gold and you were supposed to guard them with your life. I am chuckling a bit because you were not supposed to let a client look at the book. Of course many Real Estate agents did not follow that rule but none the less consumers did not get on a computer to see homes. They relied on us as real estate agents to find them a home!
Boy, have things changed! We used to be the gate keepers of information. This no longer exists today. Back then a buyer would tell us what they were looking for and we would provide them with a suggested list of homes to view. Most of the time the exact opposite occurs today - buyers now provide us a list with properties they would like to view. Buyers are now empowered to freely look at properties at their leisure. They don't need a real estate agent on most occasions until they are truly serious about purchasing a home.
When I first started in the business there was no email either and fax machines did not exist for a few years after I started practicing. To many real estate agents today, the thought of actually driving to a sellers home with an offer in hand is probably unheard of. The internet has made our job a lot easier on so many levels. Communication is far more easy today than it was back then. Because of technology our daily lives can be far more productive.
Over the last five years or so with the advent of social media, the internet has become even more of a tool for consumers to not only communicate but to help them with their needs. I don't see this changing anytime soon. As we move forward in time there will no doubt be more innovations and improvements that will further enhance what we are doing today.
Without a doubt, the ability for consumers to go online and do much of their own research is one of the biggest changes I see in the real estate industry. They are smart, savvy, and many have a very good grasp on exactly what the local market is like, specific communities they want to live in, and often come fully armed with statistics on crime, schools, and general real estate information. I think that is good for our industry as the better equipped buyers, investors, and sellers are, the better real estate decisions they will make. Of course that means we also need to be online, to ensure we not only know what they know, but also to provide quality content (via blogs, videos, social media, etc.) that will help them make smart home choices.
I believe Zillow has made it clear they want to be the know-all-be-all online source for our industry, and if their purchase of Trulia goes final, they will be well on their way to near-complete market domination. Where does that leave agents? At least in the immediate future it means we need to be focusing on local…meaning we know our communities, have walked the land, physically toured that cute property on the corner of the cul-de-sac, etc. and that is the tangible piece these online giants are missing. If we hold our ground and communicate that expertise to consumers we will continue to reach them where they live, work, and play, both short-term and perhaps even 20 years down the road. If we are unable/unwilling to carve out our piece of this industry and co-exist with the large RE related companies, the vast majority of agents will either step in-line and become part of the Zulia machine or become extinct.
The internet has played an integral part in changing the Real Estate industry. Valuable information can now be found in lightening fast speed while searching the internet. There are Home Sellers and Home Buyers who are seeking out this information and if you’re a Real Estate professional it should be as clear as day to you on what this can mean for you in your Real Estate business. With these changes, Sellers and Buyers now have the ability to take a much closer look at the Real Estate industry compared to years past. For the consumer who wants to educate themselves, the internet is the medium to education themselves, as they no longer have to read a book to find out industry specifics or simply rely on what friends and family tell them. They also have the ability to seek out information on us Real Estate Agents, our knowledge/skill and how we compare to other Real Estate professionals.
The internet has introduced a lot more competition with many more players in the industry, where an individual is now up against industry giants all competing for the same piece of Real Estate pie. It’s a lot more difficult for the individual to soar when so much search revolves around the internet.
A Real Estate Agent has a fantastic opportunity to rise to the top of all the chatter from what and how they present online, to then be viewed by their associates and the consumer favorably. If as a Real Estate Agent, you do this right, it puts you at an extreme advantage now and for years to come to be viewed favorably.
In the years ahead, the internet will continue to impact the Real Estate industry where if you're not an active participant you'll be left by the wayside. It's not about whether or not you participant but rather how are you going to participant. It will be imperative that you have a Social Media plan that you can stick to and make work for your business model. Real Estate content is the new door knocker where the content you put out will open doors for you. You'll have to continually write (drip) Real Estate content that our customers demand in order to be seen as a knowledgeable, trusted Real Estate professional; think of it as the new drip campaign.
First off, Andrew, thank you for asking me to be a part of your article discussing how the internet has affected the real estate industry to date and in the future! As we know, the internet has changed almost every industry, and real estate is no different. It plays a huge role in day-to-day business operations.
The internet has changed how potential home buyers gather their information. Today's home buyers would prefer to gather information about homes before they pick up the phone and call a professional. This is easily done, thanks to the internet. They are able to view tons of photos and get information on neighborhoods, which in many cases helps them eliminate potential homes without the need of having to view in person. Future sellers must know this is how buyers will continue to do their research and need to take this into consideration when hiring a real estate agent to sell their home. No internet presence likely will mean an expired listing!
The internet will only continue to change the real estate industry. I believe that real estate agents who are not able to adapt and learn how to utilize the powerful tool that the internet is, will be out of business or will see a severe decrease in their business.
The internet has changed the real estate industry in some great and not so great ways. For a great example, mortgage clients have gained a tremendous convenience with online applications and the ability to get pre-qualified without ever having to leave the house. On the flip side, when clients are shopping for interest rates they still can’t trust the results because online mortgage companies are constantly advertising interest rates that are not available for their particular situation.
Local real estate has seen a great improvement, giving clients the ability to look and shop for homes on trusted sites. However, this is only a benefit if the client is looking on sites with up to date information with local real estate professionals. If I was to pick one internet tool that has changed the entire real estate industry for the better it would be digital real estate contracts. This one tool that is available on many online platforms has saved countless amounts of hours for all parties involved.
In the next 20 years I believe the real estate industry will see even greater benefits online; with new tools and ideas created to increase productivity, the clients experience, and the reliability of information. In the next few years cloud based applications will be a huge benefit to agents, and the years to come the convenience of virtual and real 3-D walkthroughs for clients to view online. Imagine, one day you may be able to schedule an entire day of showings through your agents website, have a driverless car pick you up and take you to each appointment, sign in for each lockbox with your fingerprint and record the entire walkthrough with your wearable recording device.
No matter how much technology advances there will always be a need for real estate agents to help guide clients through the ups and downs of the ever transforming and always changing real estate industry.
Number one, it has changed the way consumers find houses, with over 90% of buyers looking on the internet! All kinds of information is available to them at any time...neighborhoods, schools, amenities...everything. That reality has created an entire new market of third party aggregators who are fighting for our dollars. This has forced agents to either get on-board, or create their own online platforms.
As for the future, this development may give way to a more broker-centric model, for those brokerages who are large enough or have the resources to compete with the dominate players in the real estate information proliferation industry.
As a Realtor, I became a fan of the internet early on. I moved to Las Vegas from San Francisco in 2002. I started by looking at homes online. In those days it was Realtor.com and not much else. It didn't seem that all the listings were published online in those days. The ones that were published only had one or two photos.
The internet didn't help me find my home but it helped me find Realtors. I exchanged emails and phone calls with a handful. One of them sent a long drawn out email that was more about how hard she worked and didn't have the time to call. Another shined me on to an assistant.
The Realtor I picked was the best at responding. He answered my questions with emails and he called me. I had inquired about his listing because the photo and description looked good. He showed it to me when I got to town and it wasn't as nice in person. I didn't buy his listing. I still worked with him because we had established a relationship.
As an agent, my first Broker in Las Vegas wasn't encouraging about the website I had created. He thought my time would be better spent door knocking. A few years later his college kid designed his first real estate website.
The internet makes it easier for buyers to view homes without getting in the car or on a plane. We're beginning to experiment with drones for giving an over-view of a street and aerial views of homes. Video is replacing "virtual tours" because it can give a more realistic view. We can use FaceTime to walk through a home with our Out of State buyers. You can now sign documents on your tablet or smart phone.
The biggest area where we see the internet create problems is automated home values. The computer generated estimates aren't reliable but some people trust them. I recently had an offer from someone who was convinced that an online company had the database to support their values. That buyer didn't realize the database is raw material that needs an expert interpretation. The database gives a condo on the 3rd floor with no view the same value as one on the 40th floor with Strip views. It gives a home that backs to a noisy street the same value as a similar home that has golf course frontage.
And there are the websites that don't update their listings. It's frustrating for buyers to put together a list of homes only to find that their favorites aren't currently for sale. It isn't unusual for a listing that sold 2 or 3 years earlier to pop up on some of the national sites.
The internet isn't going away. It will continue to evolve and in my opinion, will make the process of buying and selling a home easier. It won't replace having a local expert who can verify the info consumers view online though. The best agents will embrace new technologies and use them to help their clients.
As a mortgage lender, for those who search online, the Internet has given home buyers/owners access to learn about more financing options and to better understand the process needed to qualify and get a loan closed and funded.
The down side of the Internet and borrowers having access to so much information is the sheer volume of wrong or outdated information. So, trying to find out what is real or accurate and what isn't remains a big challenge.
For example, I get calls quite often from borrowers asking about how to qualify for a seller funded/assisted down payment assistance program. That was outlawed or banned way back in 2008!
Over the next 20 years, I think we will see technology will eventually automate the loan application process even more than it has now and possibly eliminate some jobs. There is still an amazing amount of physical man hours being used to process and approve a loan application. This should streamline the process.
I also think we will see more and more people buying and selling homes without hiring the full services of a real estate agent.
In my opinion, the internet has had a huge impact on the real estate industry as follows:
- Homebuyers can now access home listings and market reports without the help of an agent.
- Homebuyers can virtually visit homes through videos and live transmissions.
- High resolution color images have helped tremendously in attracting attention and showcasing a listed home.
- Competition within the real estate industry has been greatly enhanced.
- Information is reaching the market at lightening speed. No more waiting for stuff to get printed and mailed or faxed out.
- Home buyers and sellers can evaluate real estate professionals through their social media posts and interactions without having to contact them first.
- Legally binding electronic documents have not only reduced the use of paper and its storage and handling, but also significantly sped up the time it takes to execute them.
While these developments changed the customary ground rules and ruffled many feathers within a short period of time, the future promises to bring even greater upheavals to the industry. So, fasten your seat belt and be prepared to navigate through the turbulence ahead.
While it's hard to predict the future, I feel that the following developments are well within the realm of possibilities.
- Google Glass will become an indispensable tool. You can read more about it at http://goo.gl/xPChzY
- Reputation will take center stage as online evaluations mushroom and sites learn how to keep them honest.
- SEO will become even more complicated, requiring the help of dedicated specialists.
- Online videos of listed homes will become interactive. You get to choose which room to visit, how long and what to zoom/focus on.
- Virtual tours in 3D will bring a property to a potential buyer, rather than the reverse.
The internet has allowed clients to be more empowered in the real estate process. They can better educate themselves on the choices they have as far as Realtors, homes for sale, lenders, and loan programs. Potential buyers can narrow down their desires and options before going out to look at homes. They can also find out which loan programs would work best for them. They have to be cautious though, because the internet does not replace the need for a professional Realtor or Mortgage Broker. The internet needs to be used in conjunction with professionals.
The internet will continue to change the real estate industry like it already has been for years. More transactions will be completed online and the client will have better access to listing information. I believe we will also see new platforms for real estate and mortgages offered solely online. This could be a good or bad thing.
The internet has totally transformed how real estate is presented to the public.
In the old days, real estate agents would have to contact each broker for their current listings, exchange data and either fax or mail the listing details to their clients. It was a very ineffective process due the delay in information exchange.
Advertising of listings and self promotion was mainly done in the newspapers and real estate magazines. In most instances, the homes were already sold, before the ads even hit the media. It was extremely ineffective and expensive.
The introduction of the mls system changed how real estate agents and their clients could view other broker's listings.
The internet had opened up communication for many businesses. I knew it could do the same for real estate.
As one of the first Realtors in the Naples area to understand that the outdated and inefficient way of sharing property information needed to be changed, I searched for a solution.
My husband and I worked hard on developing real estate websites for myself and for other agents in the brokerage firm. Once, we could connect the mls to the websites, we were in business. The traffic was slow at first, but with other methods of marketing, the websites were a hit in no time!
The internet has transformed how real estate is viewed, therefore, it has changed the way clients do their research and approach showings. Now, potential buyers and renters can do their research on the web and not hit the streets, until they have screened the details and photos.
Home sellers can research how local Realtors market their listing, not only on their websites, but on all local real estate websites, through broker reciprocity.
The future of real estate will primary be fueled by web marketing via real estate websites and social media. Property searches will continue to be web based and the best media to display property photos and video.
Google maps have enabled consumers to pin point the location of the properties, research the schools, shopping, and dining.
Social media will continue to be a big part of internet marketing and will be critical to real estate in the future.
For information on Naples properties: www.deblamb.com
I think the internet has made it much easier for consumers to find information. Sadly this can be a problem as the information can be incorrect or outdated and more importantly, information is NOT knowledge or experience.
Don't get me wrong. I love that consumers can become very well educated about the home buying and selling process. It just gets frustrating having the same conversations over and over again about how Zillow is inaccurate or that a home they found online actually sold months ago.
I also like that the internet can make it much easier for consumers to avoid scams.
Think about how social media has changed real estate. Consider how just a few years ago it would have been hard for an agent such as Andrew in Colorado Springs to find an agent such as myself in Anderson SC. The networking and sharing of ideas between real estate pros has and is going to make it easier for the cream to rise to the top.
Sadly it also provides plenty of shiny objects to distract us!
I honestly think the biggest impact in the future will be changes in how homes are marketed such as advances in virtual reality.
Also the hoopla about drones will eventually be settled. This will also open up new interesting ways for real estate to be marketed.
The internet has revolutionized real estate because consumers now have massive amounts of real estate data and knowledge at their fingertips. Real estate professionals used to be the gatekeepers of such information, but that's simply not the case any longer. At any given moment a buyer or seller can do a quick search to find current interest rates, recent neighborhood sales, active listings, commentary on what the local housing market is doing, ballpark valuations, and even reviews for companies that might be good to work with. Whether the information consumers find is accurate or not is one thing, but what is true is that consumers tend to trust what they find online, and they certainly want to play an active role in the real estate process.
Over the next 20 years, consumers are bound to rely even more heavily on the internet for most facets of life, which means the real estate tools and information that are available now will be dwarfed in comparison to what consumers have in the future. This means real estate professionals will need to focus on customer service, professionalism, a strong web presence, and intricate knowledge of local real estate trends and neighborhoods. Moreover, as various online real estate websites become more powerful and new ones emerge, conversation will continue to unfold about the real worth of various real estate professionals; not to mention MLS systems and real estate associations.
The internet has changed everything for the real estate industry. For the vast majority of real estate professionals, this is where we:
- Find new business
- Do our research
- Get properties sold
- Network with clients & colleagues
- Find the best service providers
- Learn how to improve our businesses
- and a lot more
The internet has become the lens through which we see almost everything - so it's hard to imagine a world without this crucial exchange of information.
With any luck, I think the internet will continue to add more transparency and easier access to information about properties, agents, investors and a multitude of other things. While there can certainly be some downsides to the changes that the internet continues to bring to our industry, I see a much stronger upside in the long run. I'm excited to see the new innovations that will come to the real estate industry over the next twenty years.
It is safe to say that the internet has impacted many forms of business. In fact, some businesses, such as eBay and Amazon, launched entirely as an internet based enterprise. Real estate agents have also quickly adopted many benefits of the world wide web to improve their networks and make more transactions.
Probably the most noticeable change brought by the internet to real estate is how people shop for a home. Potential buyers now have the ability to look at thousands of homes right from their computer, laptop or mobile device. Digital cameras make it possible to take multiple pictures and even record a video walkthrough of the home.
Multiple websites also allow home buyers to do research on the area. Local school reviews, tax rates, property taxes and even crime reports are readily available from different sources to give buyers a full picture of the home and community before they purchase.
Agents have also benefitted from the internet from the ability to showcase their talents. Photos of sold homes, testimonies from happy clients and the ability to present content are all common place via the internet. Agents also have the ability to attract new prospects every day of the week throughout the year thanks to their own website as well as social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Potential buyers and sellers can also investigate potential real estate agents by using 3rd party sites that have reviews and comments from past clients. Agents that focus on excellent service and keep in touch with their customers will usually have the best reviews and a good reputation in their community.
One of the biggest advantages for real estate has been the ease of doing business thanks to the internet. Buyers and sellers can sign electronic documents from mobile devices. Buyers that are moving between states or even countries can prospect particular homes and arrange the whole transaction remotely. Sellers now have a much wider pool of potential buyers thanks to multiple websites and the availability of social media.
Considering the vast impact that the internet has already had on the real estate industry, it is easy to see that more technical skill will be necessary for agents. The ability to communicate with sellers and buyers across multiple mediums such as text messages, email, social media and video chat will be almost a must-have for each and every agent.
The ability to connect with other agents and complete transactions smoothly will also be quite important. Since more agents are dealing with clients that are relocating to different areas it will be necessary for agents to build up their contacts across state lines. Working with various lenders, escrow agents, title companies and even home movers will help successful agents stand out from the crowd and harness the technological advancements of the future.
Similar to most industries, the internet has changed the way we do business. The first thing we do as consumers is look online for an answer to a question we have, a solution to a problem we have. Why should real estate/home buying/mortgage lending be any different? Not only are consumers looking for answers to specific real estate needs online, but they're also expecting to find plenty of quality information about the real estate professional they're working with. If they cannot find helpful information online about the professional they're working with in 2014, it begs the question, "How serious is this person about their business?"
The impact the internet will have on the Real Estate industry will continue to be a positive one in my opinion. It promotes healthy competition among professionals, and allows anyone with drive to make a name for themselves. It allows us to pull tax records, verify employment for a borrower, and research questionable property specifics within seconds. It allows us to promote ourselves with an abundance of free tools, and paid resources as well. Of course the internet will never be the end all be all. There will always be that MOST important human element in the real estate interaction... looking someone in the eye, shaking their hand, and providing the genuine reassurance we all need in the significant event of buying/selling a home. It's a connection you simply can't make over the phone or through the internet. However, no one can deny, the internet allows us to be extremely efficient from a marketing and research standpoint.
Real estate agents have always had to master marketing and advertising in one form or another, and the digital sphere has absolutely created a spike in competition thanks to search ranking concerns. But despite the rat race, one thing that hasn't changed is that reputation is still king. A big shift we've seen is that a significant difference between internet-savvy realtors and those who are not is that the savvy realtors treat the internet like a space to generate yet more good word of mouth. They've made their mark on social media doing just that - being informative pillars instead of spammers, and home buying and selling authorities instead of ad mongers.
What's going to happen in the years from now? We foresee a shift to mobile. If agents can get themselves on client phones and continue to focus on generating good word of mouth there, they're likely to be one step ahead.
Final Thoughts From Andrew Fortune
It seems that this conversation of the internet's effect on the real estate industry is something that every real estate professional thinks about on a regular basis. The real estate industry is in a unique time right now, where consumers are quickly changing their shopping habits and understanding marketing techniques at an increasingly rapid pace. Just a few years ago, I could receive hundreds of leads through a basic real estate website using "forced registration". Now, most consumers have learned to avoid these marketing practices and continue looking around for other real estate websites that will not force them to do anything. The consumer is the king online and we are constantly scrambling to keep up and learn new practices to meet the modern day consumer's mentality. I feel that this struggle is at the forefront of what it means to be a modern day Realtor. It's exciting for some of us, and down right terrifying for others. The conversation about the internet's effect on the real estate industry is a fascinating one.
I currently spend more time trying to adapt and learn new online strategies than on any other part of my business. I want to be a part of the revolution of the competitive online business space. I am driven in part by the fear of being left behind by internet changes, and I know many share this fear. It's clear that social media, mobile device usage, mobile responsive websites, electronic document management, and national real estate websites are all going to continue to change the way that we do business. Knowing how to master and leverage these tools as real estate professionals will be a dominant factor in the advance of our business and interactions with consumers.
I am excited about the future of real estate. The sky is the limit and we are a part of a unique time in history that will most likely define the way that the real estate industry is run for decades to come. As new real estate professionals enter the business, they will most likely continue to create new strategies and improvements to the way we do business online. I look forward to these advances and am encouraged by the interaction of the real estate professionals who have contributed to this post. So, what are your thoughts about the future of real estate? Are you excited or terrified? Do you embrace the coming changes?
Quick Survey of Our 18 Real Estate Professionals
How many years have you been a real estate professional?
|1 to 5 years||1||5.56%|
|5 to 7 years||6||33.33%|
|7 to 10 years||3||16.67%|
|10 to 20 years||5||27.78%|
|More than 20 years||3||16.67|
What percentage of your business comes from the internet?
Do you feel that Zillow & Trulia are a threat to the real estate industry?
In your opinion, what percentage of real estate professionals in your local area leverage the internet well?
|Less Than 10%||7||38.83%|
|50% or more||2||11.11%|
Do you feel that the internet has had a positive or negative influence on the real estate industry over the last 5 years?
Hi there! I'm Andrew Fortune. I'm a full-time REALTOR in Colorado Springs, CO and the owner of Great Colorado Homes, Inc. Real estate is a passion of mine. I enjoy writing for home buyers and sellers to help simplify the process in a visual format. I also enjoy writing for Realtors and sharing some of the technology tricks I've learned over the years. Feel free to contact me directly, or leave a comment in the comment section below. You can also follow me on any of these social platforms. :)