How Technology Helps with Social Distancing in Real Estate
In just the past 20 years, technology has helped change the face of real estate transactions. Until very recently, many of us felt that technology might’ve been making real estate less personal. The reduced face-to-face interaction as a result of smart tech meant that buying and selling a property felt robotic, automated, and generic. In the age of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), oh how things have changed. So it’s a good thing, now, that when it comes to social distancing: real estate has been going down that path for years.
Here are some of the primary ways technological developments have promoted social distancing in real estate.
According to data from the National Association of Realtors, upwards of 90 percent of home buyers now begin their search online. They can browse hundreds of listings online, from the comfort of their own home, before contacting a real estate agent.
The days of thumbing through the local newspaper’s Sunday home section, then hopping in a car to even do “drive-bys” are mostly over. Online listings often include dozens of photos, plus property information, literally at homebuyers’ fingertips.
The role of the agent
Online listing sites have also somewhat changed the role of the typical real estate agent. Because of the trove of information available online, agents are no longer gatekeepers of information as much as they are local experts these days.
Agents still subscribe to multiple listing services that are full of important facts. But it’s no longer information that’s entirely unavailable to buyers and sellers.
The agent’s role, therefore, more involves an analysis of local information rather than the distribution of it. And they can share their local expertise & knowledge of the real estate market online as well, making face-to-face interaction less a necessity.
Anyone with a smartphone can record high-definition videos and share them online, which has introduced virtual property tours to the industry in recent years. If online photos aren’t enough for them, a potential homebuyer can also watch digital walk-throughs of a property.
With even more recent advances in live streaming video, it’s also now possible to conduct virtual “open houses” of sorts, where multiple viewers can participate in property tours in real-time, all at once. This can reduce the number of instances when people gather in groups at a property.
Obviously, email and text messaging have made face-to-face meetings – and even phone calls – less necessary over the years. Now, with various platforms that provide virtual meeting capabilities, multiple people can “meet” face-to-face online without physically being near each other.
This capability not only allows virtual meetings between agents and their clients but also between clients and lenders and even agent-to-agent. Any virtual meeting promotes social distancing, reducing in-person interactions.
Two of the more recent technological developments in real estate are online loan applications and online document signing. Homebuyers don’t always have to meet with a loan officer to apply for a mortgage, and even the signing of important papers can be done electronically by home buyers and sellers.
Of course, PDFs and scanners have been around for years to aid in transferring documents electronically, but now, in some instances, you don’t even have to go to the mailbox to send back papers you’ve signed.
As long as social distancing is a thing, people will look for ways to achieve it. And while real estate over the past two decades has perhaps become less personal, the industry has been moving toward social distancing for years. In short, social distancing does not necessarily preclude anyone from buying or selling a property.