For the last two years, investors have poured billions into property companies that are using technology. According to the Real Estate Technology Sector Summary 2018 Year-End Review by GCA Altium, overall growth equity funding in the real estate sector was up 84 percent year-over-year in 2018. This jump in investment has led to radical changes in the US real estate industry. This makes real estate one of such thriving industries as e-commerce and transportation.
According to the 2019 edition of Inman Disconnect, homebuyers and real estate agents will swap roles over the next five years. In the future, agents will seek clients as opposed to homebuyers seeking agents. The number of real estate agents will shrink, and only the most competitive will remain.
The ubiquitous Uberization backs up this shift. Uberizing implies hiding the intermediary – that is, the party in charge of connecting clients and service providers. Uber for real estate implies that the intermediary is the real estate platform. It facilitates communication, but its presence is imperceptible.
In this post, we outline how buyers and real estate agents interact and discuss how these interactions can be improved. Real estate platforms aim to seamlessly connect agents with sellers and buyers. Let’s find out how to do this in the rapidly changing market.
Matching customers and agents
Before buyers and sellers are matched to each other, they have to be matched to real estate agents. This matching has to be done after an agent lists real property on multiple listing services. Agents with higher ratings have a competitive advantage in the real estate marketplace, as sellers can choose the best-rated agents.
The following three brands have already built their real estate businesses around the principle of matching.
Nobul.com is an online Canadian real estate marketplace that allows agents to compete for clients. The service enables buyers and sellers to compare agents’ services and decide on the agent they prefer. On Nobul.com, a buyer/seller describes the type of real estate they want to buy/sell. Interested agents can then reach out with their offerings. Nobul charges agents a 20 basis point referral fee – $2,000 per $1 million of real estate value – for closed deals.
Property Whispers is an Australian matching platform that covers the residential marketplace, including real estate that’s advertised for sale and that’s for sale off-market. The platform is appreciated by agents, brokers, and vendors since it helps them get the contact information of matched buyers. In a world where traditional advertising campaigns cost thousands of dollars, the platform charges agents only $99 plus GST per listing (with a free trial provided). Private vendors, in turn, pay only $139 plus GST to list their properties.
Homes.com is also built around the matching principle. With the platform’s Snap & Search feature, buyers just take a photo of a home they like and the service helps them find similar ones. In addition, the platform provides a kind of conversational search. It navigates a buyer to their ideal location providing average area pricing by helping buyers choose criteria that matter to them the most. Filters such as “must-have” and “around” (for approximate pricing) enable users to find relevant listings. All property results have a match score on a scale of 0 to 100, showing how closely a property matches the user’s preferences.
Online matchmaking in the real estate industry is expected to grow. But the key to success is not just matchmaking but improving all other interactions between demand and supply – including property viewings.
On-demand real estate showings
It’s standard practice for real estate platforms to connect homebuyers who want a tour with nearby real estate agents ready to take a new lead. Naked Apartments, a New York-based listing site gained steam in the rental market by letting renters instantly book showings.
Half of the time, apartment tours don’t end with a single flat, since an agent typically shows a client multiple nearby units during one visit. According to a report by the NAR, 10 weeks was the average amount of time home seekers spent finding a property in 2018. Buyers looked at an average of 10 homes.
Digital real estate companies are trying to simplify and speed up the housing selection process in two ways.
Easy offline home tour bookings
The Redfin aggregator offers on-demand home tours in the form of a “Go Tour This Home” option on listing pages. By clicking the button, home buyers can select their preferred date and time.
A lightning bolt symbol by the time slot means the tour time has been accepted by the listing agent. This guarantees that the showing will be held. Once everything is arranged, the user meets the agent at the property.
The Showing Suite app is tailored to scheduling property viewings via text message. Agents add a phone number buyers can text to schedule property showings and access home information. When an agefnt signs up, they can import their active MLS listings to the platform.
Then agents can activate a Showing Robot on those listings to automate scheduling. Agents can customize how they and their sellers prefer to be notified of new showing requests. Agents can also choose to confirm showings manually.
Yalantis has developed an app for organizing home tours with all necessary features for buyers, sellers, and agents. We invite you to check out the case study if you’re interested in native app development for your real estate agency.
Virtual tours and video walkthroughs
It’s obvious that buyers want to physically examine a property before buying it. It’s also great that people can minimize travel to homes they would like to see thanks to virtual tours. With virtual tours, homebuyers don’t need to schedule multiple real estate showings before deciding on a property to buy. Virtual tours are especially helpful when people want to purchase a house overseas.
The Zillow 3D Home feature, which is totally free for listing agents, integrates with Zillow and Trulia listings. Agents just have to capture panoramas and the app automatically creates a tour. There are also apps dedicated solely to virtual tours. Realync allows users to interact via live video and audio, take pictures and notes, and send messages. Each tour file is automatically saved to the cloud for later access and sharing.
Video walkthroughs are another common practice to show properties remotely. Walkthroughs are short videos of a listing recorded by a mobile phone or some other device. The Zillow Real Estate app (iOS only) has a feature for recording such videos.
As an intermediary between a seller and buyer, agents strive to ensure stable communication until the deal is closed. The best way to do that is in-app messaging.
Today’s mobile property listing apps carry millions of listings, which can be overwhelming and confusing for homebuyers. In addition, these apps tend to send homebuyers notifications for all kinds of properties that may or may not interest them.
A real estate app that directly pairs customers with real estate agents can offer access to properties that are more likely to match a homebuyer’s preferences.
A real estate platform can achieve better user experience by enabling messaging between homebuyers and real estate agents using various forms of media.
Real-time chats enable a constant connection between a client (the app) and the server. In this case, the server knows the online/offline status of each user and can make sure messages are delivered instantly.
Real-time chats are typically implemented with the XMPP protocol. This protocol has to be transported across the network using a transport binding such as TCP/IP (used with native clients on devices), HTTP, or WebSockets.
There are a number of ready open-source and paid solutions for integrating real-time chats into an app:
- Pubnub provides global cloud infrastructure and key building blocks for real-time interactivity.
- Socket.IO enables real-time bidirectional event-based communication.
- Twilio is a platform that enables phone calls, VoIP, and messaging to be embedded into web, desktop, and mobile software.
- Matrix is an open standard for distributed, real-time communication over IP. It allows you to integrate your own real-time communication service into their ecosystem.
- Actor is an open-source messaging system with rich mobile and web clients that can handle millions of simultaneous users. It uses its own protocol for communication between servers and clients.
Real-time messaging is the best option for real estate applications because it allows for a more personalized user experience and greater responsiveness.
In the era of digitized real estate, there are still some issues related to offline interactions and quality of service. Let’s focus on these issues.
Challenges to ensuring smooth interactions
Apps that support showings on demand cater to people’s growing appetite for immediate gratification, but they also raise a number of concerns for agents, homeowners, and homebuyers.
Traditionally, a buyer first meets an agent in the office for an initial conversation and only then arranges showings. Digital real estate apps don’t require that an agent be acquainted with a potential buyer, and meeting a stranger might be dangerous. Apps like Silent Beacon and Trust Stamp are tailored to ensuring realtors’ safety.
Silent Beacon, for example, has a panic button and is considered the most trusted app. It provides a list of emergency contacts to send alerts to by means of call, email, or text message. In addition, Silent Beacon shows an agent’s current location to trusted people within five seconds. The greatest feature of the app is that agents can use it to reach 911 directly. We suggest you consider implementing such functionality to ensure your agents’ safety.
2. Suitability of agents
Trust is one of the most important factors for establishing a good reputation for your service. Originally, marketplaces like eBay, Airbnb, and Etsy built trust via social validation in the form of reviews, recommendations, and ratings.
This model was successfully borrowed by real estate platforms like Nobul, which ranks all agents, assigning them a score based on clients’ preferences. This model provides healthy competition, where the most professional and reputable agents compete for customers and offer them incentives.
3. Convenient for homeowners
Homeowners don’t always want potential buyers to visit their home at any hour and on short notice. Implementing virtual home tours can minimize such inconvenience.
As we can see from the recent trends, in the near future, homebuyers and sellers are likely to swap roles with agents. Instead of buyers/sellers looking for agents, agents will compete for clients. Some businesses have already begun implementing solutions to meet this trend including topnotch management software, realtor apps, and other custom applications. Many such platforms are immature, but they represent the marketplaces that will soon become the norm. Keep it in mind when you decide to outsource real estate app development.