Technology is the new real estate

I recently wrote about companies that are going through identity crises. Are they real estate companies or are they technology companies? Regardless, the big name real estate disruptors have changed the industry. They have given home buyers control of their home search. They have also given home sellers choices of real estate services and commissions. But the recent trend of real estate companies touting themselves as technology companies may be a signal that large real estate brokerages want more change. But are they mistaking the map for the territory?

Are real estate brokers still interested in selling homes?

technology and real estate
Technology (infographic from nar.realtor)

Last November, the real estate brokerage Compass made headlines because of its ability to raise massive capital investments. In a Compass press release, the company announced raising $100 million in capital (Compass Raises $100 Million in New Investment Round; prnewswire.com; November 8, 2017). The colossal investment comes one year after raising $75 million in capital. The capital is to be used for expanding brokerage offices in new markets as well as “building new technology.”

Compass’ vision is to be “the world’s largest real estate platform.” The press release quoted an investor saying:

“Compass has proven that its technologically advanced platform is incredibly attractive to the industry’s top agents…Their position at the intersection of technology and real estate gives them the unique opportunity to be the single largest holder of real estate data, ushering in a new realm of possibilities for agents and clients alike.”

In a similar move, RE/MAX announced this week of its purchase of booj, a technology company. In a February 26th RE/MAX press release, the acquisition is touted as means to “…deliver core technology solutions designed for and with RE/MAX affiliates. The objective: technology platforms that create a distinct competitive edge for RE/MAX brokerages and agents…” (RE/MAX Takes Bold Step to Provide Best-in-Class Technology; remax.com).

Is the shift to  being a technology company about revenue?

It would seem that recent industry moves may indicate that real estate brokers would prefer to be technology companies. However, the latest trend may be more about generating revenue, raising capital and investor relations than it is about selling homes.

Lizette Chapman’s report on the matter is revealing (Tech Startup or Real-Estate Broker? Fidelity Values Compass at $2 Billion; bloomberg.com; November 8, 2017). Chapman likens Compass to Redfin saying that the company “is almost certainly unprofitable,” although generating massive revenue. In her reporting, Chapman quoted a seasoned real estate agent who was briefly with Compass, “The technology was mostly marketing tools…It was sleek, but I can’t say it was different from anything else out there.”

Although many home buyers and sellers turn to the internet for housing information, they don’t wholly rely on technology when choosing real estate services. According to the National Association of Realtors 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (nar.realtor), a majority of home buyers and sellers hired agents with whom they worked in the past, or were referred by friends and family.

The problem with technology is that humans are the ghosts in the machine. The human element, contrary to technology, is erratic, messy, and highly subjective. The human element remains at the core of home buying and selling.

Many consumers recognize that tech and the internet are tools that are often used as gimmicks to get their business. Technology is not a substitute for an experienced real estate professional who can also empathize along the home buying/selling process. The turn to tech only underscores that residential real estate is still a personal business.

Choosing a real estate agent

Choosing a real estate agent is much like searching for a home.  It is an objective and subjective process.

The real estate agent is supposed to be a fiduciary that is supposed to protect your rights and assets.   A real estate agent is supposed to be honest and act with integrity.  They should act in your best interest.

The quality of an agent is not dependent on the firm. Quality agents are affiliated with almost all brokers. If you haven’t already, ask friends and family for their recommendations.

Prepare questions to interview several agents.  The purpose of the interview is to learn about the agent’s professionalism, training, and knowledge base.  You get to hear about their experience, and get a feel how they interact with you.  Besides asking about their experiences, ask how many years they have been selling homes, and if they full time agents.

If you live in an area where agents are licensed in multiple jurisdictions, ask about their experience in the area you plan to buy/sell. Just because they have a license to sell homes doesn’t mean they have extensive experience in that jurisdiction.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/03/02/technology-new-real-estate/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Industry disruptors changing real estate

Reat estate industry disruptors
Reat estate industry disruptors (infographic from nar.realtor)

Buying and selling homes hasn’t really changed much over the years.  It still requires a buyer and a seller.  Getting them together often requires a real estate agent or broker.  Sure, technology has changed the brokerage relationship dramatically.  It has also forced players in the real estate industry to change or get out of the business.  A new trend of real estate brokers are embracing technology like never before.  Will these real estate industry disruptors change how real estate services will be provided in the future?  Will these industry disruptors drive a new enthusiasm for “real estate technology brokers“?

One the largest players in the real estate industry is Zillow.  Although Zillow has a number of services that can bring home buyers and sellers together, they are mostly a technology company that serves to provide consumers information.  The company generates revenue by selling services to real estate brokers and agents, as well as mortgage companies and loan officers.  Many consumers visit Zillow’s websites to view information about homes for sale or rent that are listed with brokers or the homes’ owners.  Consumers don’t pay Zillow a fee or commission for the service.

Over the years, many have talked about how Zillow’s technological influence will predict the real estate industry’s future.  Those real estate prophets foretold a time when home buyers and sellers will be able to do business on the internet without a real estate agent or broker.  But in reality, Zillow’s influence only cemented the necessity of a broker or agent to facilitate the transaction.  Zillow’s success has generated millions of dollars in revenue, but the company has struggled to post an annual net profit.

Redfin is another real estate company that has a significant internet presence.  Some think of Redfin as a technology firm offering real estate services.  But the reality is that it is a real estate brokerage built around technology.  Redfin has built its brand, and went public this year.  Although the company generates millions in revenue, the Seattle Times reported that Redfin’s IPO offering indicated that the company has yet to post an annual net profit and has accumulated losses of $613.3 million (Seattle real estate company Redfin files to go public; seattletimes.com; June 30, 2017).

Companies like Zillow and Redfin are not the only players in real estate know for technology, but they may be the most well-known.  These companies are part of a new generation of companies that strive for a huge internet footprint to drive business.  But Zillow and Redfin demonstrate that technology in and of itself is not a guarantee of profitability, nor has it been an absolute “game changer” for the real estate industry.  Instead, technology has been the catalyst for change.

Industry disruptors and real estate

Consumers probably don’t realize the subtleties, but the rapid changes in real estate technology has forced real estate agents and brokers to change how they engage their clients.  Since companies like Zillow and other real estate aggregator sites have propagated the internet, the role of the real estate agent and broker has shifted away from being the source of information to being the source of a meaningful analysis.  Agents and brokers have also shifted their roles from information keepers to transaction managers.

What better way to be a real estate change agent and industry disruptor than to build a business around technology.   Redfin is probably the most poised to make major impact to how consumers are served in the real estate industry.  With all of its tech goodness, Redfin’s contribution to the industry hasn’t been as much technological than financial.  The brand will likely be known for being instrumental in reducing real estate commissions.  In markets where Redfin has been successful in establishing its brand, agents have been under significant pressure to lower listing commissions and/or offer buyer rebates.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2017/11/26/industry-disrupt…ging-real-estate/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Home designs for multigenerational families under one roof

For Sale“Wait long enough and it will come back in style” is a saying that typically applies to clothing styles and fashion. And unlike fashion trends, which typically relies on pop culture, fads, and a designer’s vision; home design trends are more practical and rely on changing life styles, advances in building technologies, and the development and/or use of new construction materials.

Although the idea of extended family living under one roof has not been commonplace for decades, multigenerational life styles have been trending in recent years. And this year, there was a surge in the demand of multigenerational home designs.

Consider a Pew Research Center analysis, as reported by Sally Abrahms in the AARP Bulletin (3 Generations Under One Roof, April 2013; aarp.org), that indicated multigenerational households increased 10.5 percent (which is about 16.7 percent of the U.S. population) between 2007 and 2009. She also cited a 2012 survey by the Pulte Group, that indicated about 32 percent of adult children plan to live with their parents.

Such surveys make sense, if you consider that our population is increasingly aging. And as long term care costs are increasing, there is growing pressure on adult children to take care of their parents during their waning years and declining health (as was once expected decades ago). Consider the cost of long term care as reported by Genworth Financial (genworth.com): the 2014 Maryland median cost of a private one bedroom accommodation in an assisted living facility is $40,800 per year; while the 2014 Maryland median cost for a semi-private room in a nursing home is $98,368 per year.

Besides the rising aging population, Abrahms also pointed out that multigenerational living is also due to the return of young adults to their parents’ homes. Also known as the “boomerang generation,” many pay rent and contribute to housing costs. About 75% of young adults aged 25-34 moved back with parents; as well 61% of young adults aged 25-34 who know of friends or family who moved back with parents due to lack of living arrangements, lack of money, and/or lack of employment.

In the past, the extended families that lived under one roof had little choice but to make the best use of a home typically designed for one family. However, home builders have taken notice of the trend in multigenerational households and have responded. Amy Taxin, of the Associated Press, reported (The family that stays together: Homebuilders are making room for more multigenerational households; Associated Press – The Washington Times, April 16, 2012) that builders are offering single family home designs with “…semi-independent suites with separate entries, bathrooms and kitchenettes. Some suites even include their own laundry areas and outdoor patios for additional privacy, though they maintain a connection to the main house through an inside door.

Taxin pointed out multigenerational housing options, which includes: Lennar Corp, which offered a 3,400 square foot home in the Las Vegas area that contained 700 square foot suites; and Standard Pacific Homes that rolled out the “casitas” idea which is independent living areas attached to the main house.

After many decades of the “break-away” family, a number of socio-economic factors have come together to bring about the reintegration of the extended family under one roof. The idea that multigenerational living is once again popular has created a new niche and trend for home builders and architects.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Is there a best way to predict the housing market

predicting the real estate marketIf you’re like most home sellers and buyers – you want an edge over your competition.  What better way to get the edge than having a way to predict the market.  If you don’t have a working crystal ball, there are a few methods to forecast and measure housing (some of which have been used in empirical research).

by Dan Krell © 2013

Various studies demonstrate that you can assess and somewhat predict activity in a housing market; which, albeit in hindsight, can assist home sellers and buyers in determining whether it is a good time to sell or buy a home.  For example, I recently wrote about gauging real estate through divorce and premarital agreements; which discussed the implications of these life events to the housing market.  The increase in prenups could indicate an increased perception in the value of home ownership and possibly the overall housing market.

Another recent study indicated that it may be possible to determine home pricing through internet search data.  Beracha and Wintoki (Forecasting Residential Real Estate Price Changes from Online Search Activity; The Journal of Real Estate Research 35.3 (2013): 283-312.) set out to find out if keyword search engine data from Google could determine price shifts in various cities.  They concluded that this may be the first study that directly links “aggregated” search engine data to “abnormal crosssectional home price changes.”

Essentially, the research established that you can figure out metro housing market activity through Google Trends and Google Insights, which provide keyword volume measurement in internet searches.  The study examined the keywords “real estate [city]” from 2004 through 2011, and concluded that “…cities associated with abnormally high real estate search intensity consistently outperform cities with abnormally low real estate search volume by as much as 8.5% over a two-year period.”

And although the study’s authors discussed prior research linking internet keyword searches and consumer behavior, they caution that there are a number of keywords related to real estate that may be more relevant than the keywords used in their study.  Regardless, the authors assume that their results may be useful in home sales and purchases.  More importantly, it may seem as if their results may strengthen the link between specific search engine keywords (e.g, “real estate Rockville” or “real estate Bethesda”) and the ability to predict a housing bubble, or possibly home price peaks.

Generalized, “global” data, such as those described in Beracha and Wintoki’s study, and their meaning may be interesting; however, limiting yourself to such indiscriminate analysis for your home sale or purchase could be disadvantageous.  Global data does not distinguish the many factors that impact regional markets; nor can it sort out differences within a local market (neighborhood data within a region can vary significantly).

Using “global” tools may be useful; however, if you are planning a home sale or purchase – seek out the assistance of a local Realtor®.  Your real estate agent has access to local specific data that is reported through the MLS.  Using MLS data, your agent can prepare a market analysis that compares your home to recent neighborhood sales; the breakdown can put your home in perspective and can give you a price range to assist you in listing or purchasing the home.  Additionally, your agent can provide a hyper-local trend analysis so as to help you understand what to expect from the local housing market.

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Disclaimer.  This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice.  Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction.  This article was originally published the week of November 11, 2013 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.