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The next frontier of homebuying apps
In the old days of real estate, buyers often had to wait two weeks to learn of new homes on the market. Even in the late 1990s, properties for sale were listed in thick black-and-white books put out by the local Multiple Listing Service, which were guarded closely by real estate agents and outdated by the time they were printed. Today, technology empowers buyers with easy access to up-to-the-minute listings and far more information than would fit on the printed page.
“I loved the Realtor.com app because I could research homes without having to bombard my agent with questions in the middle of the night,” says Jenée Mobley, recent Triangle homebuyer. “It provided me with an easy-to-read map with relevant listings. If you zoomed in, you could view nearby properties that were not for sale to see when those were purchased and at what price.”
Popular house-hunting sites Trulia, Redfin and Zillow all have their own apps too, with features like neighborhood statistics, crime maps, video walkthroughs and mortgage calculators. Buyers are now able to get information on homes for sale almost as fast as their agents.
“The problem is that a little bit of knowledge tends to be a very dangerous thing when they don’t have all the pieces,” says United Real Estate owner Tristan Pan. “They’ll go on Zillow, which will give them their so-called Zestimate and they will think that’s the price. But the Zestimates are highly inaccurate because they don’t factor for a lot of things internal to the house.”
But with a bit of caution, buyers can take advantage of an arsenal of new home buying tools.
“My clients have been using Homesnap, which allows you to take a picture of any house, whether it’s on the market or not, and on-line information is available very quickly,” says Re/Max United Realtor Carson Cobb. “Another app people are starting to use is called HomeSpotter, [which is] supposed to make it easier for Realtor and client to share pictures and information—basically have a conversation about a home.”
United Real Estate worked with a developer to create its own search app with a GPS-based proximity sensor to help buyers locate the nearest homes for sale. The feature was so popular, Pan says, the company has licensed it for use by other companies.
“In the future, we will see the continued proliferation of apps that make searching for properties easier for buyers and sellers,” says Chip Barker, Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Go Realty. His clients also use apps such as Docusign, which enables them to sign contracts from anywhere; GreatSchools.org, with information, reviews and ratings of local schools; and iMAPS, an interactive mapping app sponsored by local government that includes layers of information, including aerial views and environmental data.
But the future of real estate technology is more than apps. Evolving drone technology (and a favorable ruling by the FAA) allows sellers to showcase their property with 360-degree views and even capture smooth interior video. Navigable 3-D tours from vendors such as Matterport help buyers envision themselves in a home, and virtual tours will become truly immersive as they are paired with technology like Google Daydream, a virtual reality headset system.
And this is only the beginning; tomorrow’s real estate technology will only become more mobile, more intuitive, more timely. Now, if only someone will create an app to move all your stuff!
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