Buying or selling a home is a major life decision, and the process can involve a whirlwind of information. According to the National Association of Realtors, the Internet is one of the most popular resources for potential home buyers, with 95% of consumers searching for real estate online. Moreover, a record 51% of those surveyed claim they are actually finding their ideal home via Internet searches. A good real estate agent can help their clients cut through the noise; however, there is a limit to just how much they can help with the final decision.

While the real estate industry as a whole has been somewhat slow to adapt to the digital world, real estate professionals are now able to arm themselves with a myriad of new tools to do their jobs better. New artificial intelligence and automation tools are helping agents unlock more information for their own businesses as well as for their clients. Furthermore, these technologies are eliminating many of the pain points involved in the home-buying process for both sides. Here’s a look at just a few of the exciting trends taking place in the world of real estate technology and how to prepare your business.

Use automation to nurture leads

Automation tools can help real estate professionals connect with more leads and improve the customer experience by providing clients with faster information. At a time when everyone is seeking immediate answers, automated messaging and marketing tools can help agents connect with potential customers on Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Kik, or wherever customers may be spending their time.

There are still many doubts about the consumer value of AI assistants in this space. Many people claim that too many of the chatbots that currently exist only help the real estate business and not the buyers. However, there are a few noteworthy bots emerging. Aiva, a text-based concierge, appears to be one solution that benefits both sides by allowing real estate agents to send leads from their phones and nurturing the leads with a human concierge.

It may be awhile before we see AI assistants enter the mainstream, but there are plenty of other marketing automation tools agents should consider to garner a consistent flow of leads. Whether it’s automating the process of sending emails and direct mail, or automating social media posts across all platforms, plenty of businesses are showing enthusiasm for automation software and using it to power their efforts. A recent Imprev Thought Leadership Survey revealed that two in three (67%) real estate executives had a great deal of confidence in this emerging technology, saying it will be among the most important technologies for real estate brokerages by 2022.

Incorporate VR/AR experiences

Though many experts say we are still 15-20 years away from a completely VR home purchasing experience, VR is already providing some exciting solutions in the world of guided and interactive home tours.

Today, one in every five home buyers makes an offer without ever visiting a property. It’s now common for tenants to commit to a lease for an apartment without a tour. For real estate professionals, tapping into VR to create a phenomenal experience for the buyer doesn’t have to be super complex, or expensive.

Virtual reality platforms, such as Realync, allow consumers to tour an apartment, ask questions, make notes, and share comments before committing to a property. Matterport is another company leading the way in 3D real estate marketing services. Scans of a home with a Matterport camera does not require any technical skills; anyone can use it. The camera generates a “Dollhouse View” of a property that gives buyers a truly unique perspective. With a recent injection of $5 million in funding to further develop its AI deep learning research for use in 3D capture technology, Matterport is leading the real estate advertisement space in big ways.

Augmented reality can also help real estate professionals bring traditional materials, such as blueprints and photos, to life right in front of buyers. For example, viewers can see completely interactive 3D models of homes and modify aspects to change paint colors, try different furniture, etc. Augment is one AR software that allows agents to see when, where, and how often people use their AR interactive print campaigns. Other companies like Daqri have built AR hardware which services the construction workers while on-site.

Using AR and VR technologies, buyers who do not live near a property, or even in the same country, now have the opportunity to digitally tour a home in a much more immersive way, helping both agents and potential buyers save a considerable amount of time.

Keep an eye on the digital-only agencies

From lead generation to property maintenance, automation is creeping its way into all responsibilities of the real estate profession. Many platforms, like REX, are challenging the traditional roles of agents and claiming that automation can enter the entire process of home buying and selling.

By avoiding multiple listing services, REX automates the entire process a traditional agent normally performs by using a variety of digital tools and allowing more communication between the actual buyers and sellers of a property. The result of using a fully-digital real estate agency is an extreme reduction in agent fees. REX changes sellers a 2% sales commission fee, rather than 6%, the industry standard.

Other web-first real estate companies to keep an eye on include Redfin, which went public in July 2017, raising $138M and is currently valued at $2.03B. Redfin’s mobile-based listing notifications, on-demand home tours, and intelligent pricing tools claim to have helped its agents be three-times more productive and save customers an average of $3,500 in closing costs.

Get in front of the camera

There are few better ways to show off a property and your expertise than with video. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) revealed that 73% of sellers would choose a real estate agent who could market their property with video, and agents are rushing to social platforms to disperse their content.

YouTube is now the top video research destination for property hunters, and many agencies use YouTube to share their listing videos. YouTube is also a popular destination for agent videos. In fact, “Find an agent” searches on YouTube have increased 46% year over year.

As nearly every major social platforms become more video-focused, real estate professionals that don’t leverage its power will be left behind. On Facebook, a video post receives, on average, 135% more organic reach than a photo and 82% of Twitter users now watch video content.

Beyond posting home tours or listing videos, agents can also use live video to connect with customers and show a more human side of their business. Live video can be used for interviews, Q&A sessions, behind-the-scenes content, and live events. With tools like Facebook Live, BeLive, and Zoom, recording live video is now easier than ever and expected to become a mainstream marketing channel in the new year.

Evaluating the numerous tools aimed at solving the pain points of real estate agents and homebuyers can be overwhelming and has caused some fragmentation of the industry. Many real estate professionals are feeling a great deal of pressure to keep up with their competitors and are buying into overlapping or novelty solutions.

Goldman Sachs research shows that the VR and AR potential in real estate is undeniable and predicts that the market will reach $80 billion by 2025. The reason there is so much potential is that these technologies have the ability to solve two of the largest problems faced in the world of real estate. Not only do they solve the issue of how efficient agents can be when traveling between multiple properties they have for sale but they also eliminate buyer’s disappointment when a property “doesn’t look like the photos” – a major win for both sides of the table.

Adrian Fisher

Adrian FisherAdrian Fisher is the Founder and CEO of PropertySimple, a real estate technology company that allows agents to take control of their personal brand by automating social media posting.