The real estate industry made a giant digital leap forward in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic and government-issued stay-at-home orders forced agents to quickly embrace technologies. They needed tech that would allow buyers and sellers to conduct real estate transactions remotely. Thankfully, recent advances in PropTech (Property Technology) had created the tools real estate agents would need to guide their clients through contactless purchases and sales.
PropTech got us through the worst of the pandemic. Nearly all real estate agents in a recent survey agree that PropTech was essential to keeping their businesses afloat during the pandemic. 96 percent of agents to be exact. But now that vaccinations have been widely distributed and we’re reopening the world, have these digital tools served their purpose? Or will agents and their clients continue to use PropTech to close real estate deals remotely?
Is the future of real estate digital?
Big Benefits of PropTech for Real Estate Agents
Since the beginning of the pandemic, real estate agents have experienced three key benefits:
Allowing real estate businesses to operate safely during the pandemic
Making agent workflows more efficient
Saving money and increasing profitability
Allowing Real Estate Businesses to Operate Safely During the Pandemic
9 in 10 real estate agents surveyed report that they invested in more and/or better digital tools since the onset of the pandemic. These tools include PropTech like:
Software that allows clients to sign documents digitally.
Services that create 3D home tours or virtual reality home tours.
Smartphones with better quality cameras to produce video walkthroughs of homes and neighborhoods.
Data management systems to coordinate with colleagues and clients with an organized dashboard.
File share programs to give clients and colleagues access to large video files for pre-recorded virtual home tours.
95% of those agents who invested in enhanced digital offerings say that they would not have been able to stay financially solvent over the past year if they hadn’t.
Real estate has always been a competitive industry. Many agents immediately adapted to the quickly-changing circumstances of the pandemic, offering buyers and sellers a way to complete their real estate business digitally. Any agents who didn’t have the tools to offer these remote services would have struggled to compete.
Making Agent Workflows More Efficient
But PropTech didn’t just keep agents in business. It made their businesses more efficient and their lives easier. Three-quarters of real estate agents said that the increasing popularity of PropTech makes them feel empowered to better serve their clients.
Take big data, for example. When sites like Zillow® made MLS data available to the general public, there was some fear among agents that buyers and sellers would have less need for professional representation in real estate transactions. But the mass distribution of this housing market data actually helped real estate professionals. It took some of the mystery out of home buying. This made first-timers more comfortable with the process and made homeownership feel accessible even as homes were becoming less affordable. Today’s agents love that their clients can quickly and easily get all the details for homes on the market.
Just as importantly, 81 percent of agents agree that PropTech has made their jobs easier. This is evident in the increased popularity of virtual showings. Agents are now able to record video walkthroughs of their listings and publish the videos online so any buyer can virtually tour the home. This video tour weeds out many of the buyers for whom the house wouldn’t be a good fit. And it doesn't require the agent to physically show the home to each of these buyers. This saves agents hours of time and heaps of frustration.
Saving Brokers and Agents Money
The virtual showings alone save agents lots of money in terms of both hours spent showing homes to uninterested buyers and gas money spent physically driving to each property. Additionally, the rise of virtual brokerages (in which agents work remotely rather than working from a shared physical office space), saves brokers a small fortune in overhead costs. This allows brokers to offer agents a higher commission split, helping agents net more income.
But there’s another area in which PropTech is saving agents a substantial amount of money: augmented reality staging.
Augmented reality is when digital elements are placed in real-world environments. It’s an ideal tool for home stagers. Rather than physically moving furnishings and accessories to a home, augmented reality stagers insert digital furnishings and accessories into photos of the home. This creates the experience of seeing a staged home online without the expenses.
48 percent of real estate agents said that they have used virtual or augmented reality house staging applications in 2020. And they reported saving an average of $12,857 per listing thanks to this useful PropTech.
Ways the Future of Real Estate is Going Digital
With these undeniable benefits, it’s no surprise that the future of real estate is digital.
Because they’ve been such a wild success, virtual showings will continue to grow in popularity. Through the pandemic, real estate agents have gotten comfortable conducting virtual tours:
48 percent of agents use 3D walkthroughs
45 percent use communication tools like Zoom or FaceTime to conduct real-time private tours
42 percent have used virtual reality showings via VR headset, which is particularly useful for agents representing new construction properties before construction is completed.
Agents estimate that around 60 percent of their tours during the first 12 months of the pandemic were conducted remotely. Nearly all agents (95 percent to be exact) agreed that they prefer to do things this way!
Another key PropTech trend to watch in the immediate future is the rise of virtual brokerages. Pre-pandemic, around 41 percent of agents were working from a virtual brokerage. A year into the pandemic, 88 percent of real estate agents were operating from a virtual brokerage.
And those who haven’t already made the transition to a virtual brokerage are planning to. Only 1 percent of agents say that they are operating from a physical location and have no plans to transition to a virtual brokerage.
The future of real estate is digital!
Could PropTech Replace Agents?
With all these PropTech advancements, should agents be worried about becoming obsolete?
24 percent of real estate agents confess to worrying about being replaced by PropTech. Agents 40 and older are 55 percent more likely than younger agents to express this concern.
But most agents see a future where PropTech works for them rather than against them. Most agents believe that the human element can’t be replaced by technology. Except for strict investors, buying and selling real estate is an emotional process. Buyers and sellers want to feel a human connection with their agents. They want to know they are represented by skilled professionals who understand the nuances of pricing strategy, negotiation, and communication. 82 percent of real estate agents agree that they will need to incorporate proptech into their business strategy to stay relevant going forward, even after the pandemic ends.
Take Your Real Estate Courses Digitally
PropTech isn’t just for showings. It also enables you to take online real estate courses!
Do you need your pre-license real estate education to qualify for your real estate exam? Or continuing education courses to renew your real estate license? Aceable Real Estate School offers the best online real estate education experience available. Enroll today!