Mary T. Prenon
As we all slowly begin to navigate the post-pandemic world, we continue to grapple with many of the changes that have occurred over the past year and a half. Almost every industry was affected, and real estate was no exception. Face-to-face meetings were replaced by video conferencing and teleconferencing, handshaking turned into rubbing with elbows, and virtual open days often resulted in buyers buying real estate unnoticed.
While the requirements for masks and social distancing may fade into the background over time, much of the new real estate technology that emerged during the pandemic is likely to remain for the foreseeable future.
Technique on a high note
Kelly Dunn Rhines, Broker and Senior Real Estate Manager with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicagohas come to rely on a host of new applications, websites and systems to make life easier for brokers, buyers, sellers, photographers and even home inspectors. In her 20 years in real estate, Raines has seen many changes over the past two decades, but in the past year, she says, technology seemed to have reached a high level when it comes to real estate.
While home videography was a staple before COVID in some markets, it has become a must-have, especially for high-priced ads. “We now have a lot more sophisticated editing with music and special text fonts to really enhance the video,” Reins explained. “Customers also like to have access to these videos so they can share them on their social media.”
Raines usually offers free photo and video services to his clients, as well as “soft staging” such as changing towels, adding new bedspreads or fresh flowers. For those who need a “hard set,” like bringing in furniture, she will put her salesperson in touch with one of the home decorating salespeople.
The narrow market and historically low stocks across the country have led to the rapid proliferation of new websites and apps like Remine, Zenlist, Homesnap and more. “For example, Remine can show you if a homeowner has refinanced in the last few years. If they haven’t, and interest rates are now at an all-time low, they might be thinking about selling, ”said Raines.
Remine also partners with a number of MLS nationwide, including Midwest Real Estate Data (MRED). Among many other benefits, the technology allows MLS to customize listing fields for their market areas and allows brokers to submit listings via desktop or mobile devices.
Using the Zenlist app, shoppers can actually access private listings to see what’s going on in the market. “This gives them the advantage that they are really prepared so that they can jump into the territory right away,” added Raines. Zenlist combines active listings with both private and pre-sale, providing potential buyers with the same information normally reserved for real estate agents.
Meanwhile, Homesnap is providing buyers with a national home search portal with the same real-time MLS information available to agents. The free app offers detailed listings with high definition photos, property history, and unique features such as searching the school area. “Another great feature is the ability to show the buyer where the property ends, as the app also provides accurate parcel lines,” said Raines.
On the other hand, WealthEngine is a subscription app that provides contact information for high-end potential buyers to help sellers find the right buyer for luxury properties. Searches can be conducted using a variety of factors such as geographic location or income. “Rather than just relying on a buyer to offer it to the masses, this app allows you to detail and identify potential buyers of luxury real estate,” Reins explained. “It helps you to be proactive in this regard, and even if they are not currently in the market, they may appear in the future. It’s a great way to meet new people. “
Rines also uses the FOREWARN app, which helps to accurately identify over 80% of potential buyers. The application can check the current ownership of property and vehicle, financial risks and criminal record.
Technology as convenience
In addition to introducing new real estate apps, Raines has had to learn how to manage smart home systems for her ultra-luxury ads, many of which are located on the North Shore. These upscale listings more often include wall mounted mini computers that control everything from lighting and security cameras to HVAC and music. “I think I need to be about 20 minutes early for the show to get things set up,” she said. “It’s definitely a new skill set that I had to learn – it’s literally like ‘light, camera, action’, especially when I have to run a movie in their theaters.”
Her clients should also feel comfortable giving Raines access to their security codes. “Now that smart homes are on sale, the new thing we are seeing is bringing in audio / video professionals to transfer services and replace codes,” she added. “These are not only movers and decorators anymore.”
Make a deal
Even home inspectors have jumped on the tech bandwagon. “Instead of just taking pictures, they are starting to use drones to see all aspects of rooms, and humidity meters to detect water hiding behind walls,” she said.
The final table has also changed over the past year, with Raines predicting that the new lineup is likely to become the norm in the future. “I didn’t attend the closing for about 14 months,” she admitted. “There used to be more than 10 people there, but now I don’t think there is a need for that number as it was successfully done with just a few important people.”
Rhine’s predictions about the future of real estate technology are pretty clear – she thinks it’s all forever.
“All of these new technologies have propelled our industry forward and also helped eliminate the randomness of the wider marketing network,” she said.
Launch during COVID
Real estate newbie Caitlin Wright from @characteristicsSt. Charles’s office agrees. She started doing business very recently – in fact, a week before the stay-at-home order was issued in Illinois last year. “I remember panicking that no one would buy houses, but it was the other way around,” she recalls.
As with many parts of the county, large cities began a mass exodus as people fled to suburban or rural areas to gain more space and safety from the pandemic. Wright works with her mother, who has been in business for 16 years. “For me, this was due to the fact that many home buyers were leaving the city for the first time, so I was dependent on virtual shows, 3D tours, floor plans and a lot of social media,” Wright said. “Zenlist was also important to us because it allowed customers to dive deeper than just using the MLS. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of ‘contingents’ in homes even before they got to the MLS. “
Wright relies heavily on social media for lead generation, getting around 90% of her leads from Instagram and LinkedIn. “You have to be consistent and succeed,” she said. “This is a great way to showcase real estate and also provide something of value, such as market news or homeowners advice.”
Even as the pandemic is coming to an end, she still plans to use digital presentations before meeting with potential customers. “I can create and ship them to potential buyers and sellers, and I think the younger generation really prefers that,” she said.
Like Rines, Wright sees similar technical trends: homeowners are installing smart home systems, and inspectors are using drones and scanners to view chimneys and other parts of the home that are sometimes difficult to access.
Social media required
Broker for more than three years with City of Dreams Edison Park Real Estate Agency Abby Powell is also a fan of new technologies that help buyers of all ages find their home. Zenlist, social media, 3D tours and floor plans are also part of her real estate arsenal. “Programs such as Matterport not only allow a potential buyer to virtually“ tour ”the home, but also provide wall-to-wall measurements, which is important for people who want to bring a lot of their current furniture with them,” she said. “I will definitely continue to use this – it gives people the advantage to be better prepared when they actually see the house in person.”
Its social media platforms include Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and TikTok, which allows it to post as many minutes of videos as possible. “Due to the limited amount of time, I can make my ‘presentation in the elevator’ there, generate interest and provide a direct link to a virtual tour of the property,” she explained. “It’s also important to use the right type of hashtags so people can follow them.”
Zoom, FaceTime and other teleconferencing technologies will continue to be a part of Powell’s daily life. “For now, it’s still about staying safe and healthy, but after the pandemic, I think these tools will continue to be important for a lot of people who have become very tech-savvy during this time.”
Most importantly, Powell encourages her followers across all platforms to share content so that she can continue to grow her social media presence. “You know the old adage, ‘Your net worth is equal to the size of your network,’” she joked.