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The real estate industry is ready for technological disruptions in 2019

Real estate agent Shawn Zigelstein remembers one time, only a few years ago, when printers, scanners, and fax machines were the most important tools in his trade.

Now, the gadget is almost obsolete.

"I don't even know when was the last time I sent a fax, to be honest with you," laughed Zigelstein, a salesperson with the Royal LePage broker in Richmond Hill, Ont.

"Oh, the dilemmas we once experienced were hard to believe. Now our clients can open their phones, press a few buttons and [offer] the paper has been signed. "

Zigelstein said technology adoption in real estate has grown exponentially over the past few years and this is a trend that he thinks will only grow as more options are available and selling agents scramble to lure in the millennial market.

Agents who do not adapt to this change will see their business drop dramatically because they cannot adapt quickly enough.-Shawn Zigelstein, broker

"Agents who do not adapt to this change will see a decline in their business because they cannot adapt quickly enough," he said.

From smart phone applications such as Loom, which allow sales agents to share screens and presentation slides remotely with clients, to digital signatures that can be verified with cellphones and tablets, technology forms a new way for sales agents to do business.

Historically the industry & # 39; slow & # 39;

Historically, the real estate industry has become "slow" in terms of embracing technology, said Frank Magliocco, a partner at PwC Canada who specializes in the housing market.

"But I think what you will see now is a significant increase in embracing that technology after becoming more important," he said.

"It will be increasingly important to stay and compete in the market. Once you see this technology proven, you will see more adoption."

According to PwC, proptech, which is broadly defined as the technology used in the real estate market, is a US $ 4.6 billion industry in Canada and the US in 2016. Last year, that number rose to US $ 7.3 billion, an indication that interests and opportunities in space have also grown.

Magliocco said proptech, which it calls a cousin of the fintech banking industry, can refer to anything from online listing websites to smart buildings that use big data to automate heating and lighting to 3D printing houses.

"Think of the banking industry many years ago, before fintech … banking had to be done on its own. This entered and changed the entire business model. Now you deposit checks and transfer money and you can do everything on your cellphone," he said.

"Real estate used to be heavy on paper with many lawyers involved and surveyors going out to inspect space and measure space. It was no longer needed."

Change client expectations

Stephen Jagger, one of the founders of IMRE, a company that runs artificial intelligence personal assistants for sales agents, says technology is so embedded in everyday life that clients expect to be able to use it in their real estate transactions.

Chatbot IMRE can answer basic questions from prospective clients on behalf of brokers 24 hours a day via text and social networking. He uses machine learning to answer questions about lists, such as prices, number of bedrooms and the school district where the house is located. However, bots cannot answer subjective questions intended for movers, such as different environmental comparisons.

Jagger said this type of technology does not replace real estate agents, but like all good technologies, it improves their work.

"[Realtors know] You have to be responsive in five minutes or you lose your edge, "said Jagger, whose company is based in Vancouver." This allows the sales agent to focus on high-level tasks, such as showing the house, instead of answering random questions all the time. "

However, Toronto broker Cam Woolfrey said technology would not make the real estate industry obsolete.

He said a broker with experience "can make the experience."

"Clients really see the value of dollars in that. If you have the knowledge and experience, then the client will see it as very valuable."

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