When I first started my career as a real estate agent, home buyers would visit real estate offices to peruse printed listing books and consult with agents to find out what properties were on the market. Agents were the keepers of information and, short of driving around neighbourhoods looking for “For Sale” signs, there was little research people could do on their own.
Oh, how times have changed!
Technology has turned real estate on its head. These days, 8 out of 10 people use smartphones, tablets and/or computers in their home buying process. They can do everything from search available listings to get pre-approved for a mortgage, all from the comfort of home. Technology has made it so much easier for buyers to:
- set up searches that will notify them when a property matching their specifications comes on the market
- take virtual tours of properties to decide if the house is worth their time to visit
- compare mortgages online, which gives them an idea of what they can afford before they even start visiting properties
- and, with the ability to scan and email documents, as well as the advent of electronic signatures, sign legally binding documents remotely.
Buyers are more hands on than in the past, and have higher expectations. Not only do they have access to far more information, the ease of communication the technology allows also means that clients expect quick reply times and near constant access to their broker.
According to JP Morgan Chase & Co., technology allows buyers to research their brokers, the markets and the buying process. This transparency has actually deepened the relationship between buyers and brokers. Buyers turn to the internet to collect information, but turn to their broker for service. I’ve always felt that the home buying process is less about the transaction and more about relationship. So, while the day-to-day of real estate might change, brokers who put relationships first will always come out ahead.