In the last six months, THREE of my listings sold to buyers who didn’t see the property before buying. Three! In each case, the buyers viewed my videos and photo galleries, mapped locations on Google, did Google street view tours and had Facetime chats with their agents who walked through on their behalf. This would never have been possible even five years ago.
This recent article about an American based, tech company called Voxel, claims that real estate agents will become obsolete in a few years thanks to advances in digital technology. The company offers VR property tours, AR floor plans and local data that they believe will change the way real estate is sold. They believe that the upcoming demographic of home buyers are comfortable enough with technology to make the biggest investments of their life without having to touch, feel or see what they are buying beyond what their screens provide.
There is no question that technology has been a great disruptor in the traditional ways real estate is sold and the three recent sales I mentioned are proof of that. But will they replace the real estate salesperson? I think not. In each case, the REALTOR® became an even more important part of the equation as they buyers relied fully on them to be their eyes and ears, to guide and advise them on what they saw, on the neighbourhood, the details not shown and on market conditions. They relied on their agents to negotiate on their behalf and protect their interests.
Video tours have become commonplace and VR and AR have been slow to adopt. As these trends become better stream-lined and accessible though, I do believe the days of buyers looking at 20 or 30 homes will end. They will do their research first, narrow their focus and then hone in on what appear to be their best options before engaging the services of an agent.
The value agents bring will become more in interpreting data, being trusted advisors, possessing strong local knowledge and negotiation skills and, in adding value to the transaction in new ways by being the buyer’s agent on the ground for home inspections and dealing with third parties to the transaction.
What do you think? Would you buy a house without seeing it “live” first?