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Real Estate Innovation to Watch in 2017


For those who like a quick summary, keep your eye on these technologies in 2017:

  • Virtual Reality Home Tours
  • “Uber for” Real Estate
  • A.I. Real Estate Search

Looking back on 2016, it was quite a big year. I got married, got a puppy and joined an exciting new company. Oh, and several technologies quietly caught the attention of our industry as potential ways to change the game.

I am thankful to have spent the better part of a decade connecting with some of the most innovative thinkers in real estate technology, including founders/CEOs, c-suite executives, thought leaders and influential technologists, all of whom have shaped my view on where real estate is headed.

Without further ado, here are my picks for technologies that will take real estate by storm in 2017:

Virtual Reality Home Tours

If seeing is believing, what is experiencing? They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so how valuable would it be to walk through a home without ever stepping inside it? This virtual reality technology is truly incredible and is being pioneered by great companies including Matterport and Floored.

Can you imagine an efficient world in which an agent uncovers a buyer’s nuanced preferences in one hour by providing 10 virtual tours, instead of spending an entire day driving from house to house? I can.  And when that agent eventually takes the buyer on a physical home visit, I would be willing to bet the likelihood of sale goes through the roof.

“Uber for” Real Estate

Uber, Uber, Uber. I think we are all sick of hearing that a given company is “Uber for x.” Perhaps the overuse of this phrase has to do with the critical nature of on-demand products and services, especially if the real estate industry plans on catering to the ever growing number of Millennials entering the housing market.

Here is how it will work in 2017: You are standing in front of an apartment building. You would like to see one of the units, so you click a button on your smartphone and within minutes, an agent arrives to escort you inside.

Is there any hotter of a lead than a person standing outside the property, asking to view it?

You might be thinking that on-demand property viewing is optimal for densely populated cities, and you would be right… for now. This technology will be an immediate game changer in large metropolitan areas.  I currently live in Manhattan, so it’s not hard for me to see how valuable “Uber for” real estate could be.

Companies like CurbCall and Redfin have already released their “see it now” technology, which I am closely watching.

A.I. for Real Estate

Alexa, Siri, Cortana. An ever-growing number of companies seek to interface with customers using artificial intelligence and natural language voice recognition. You may have found yourself frustrated with first-gen talking robots (admittedly, I disabled version 1 of Siri on my iPhone). But nowadays, with technological improvements, searching for real estate on Google or Zillow is old news.

Here is how 2017 could look: Take a seat on your couch and crack open a beer. Tell Amazon’s Alexa you are looking for a 4 bedroom house.  Ask her to (please!) make sure the home has an inground swimming pool. 

“Also, Alexa, it would be great if the home is near a good school for the kids. Can you also recommend the best agent in the neighborhood? Alexa, please book me an appointment to see this property tomorrow. On second thought, please cue up a virtual reality tour right now!”

If this sounds like science fiction to you, check out this Inman article. A father-son duo recently announced the launch of their Alexa “Real Estate” app, which allows users to chat with the bot’s virtual agent in order to find a perfect home.

Numerous other companies are hard at work perfecting platforms that will have highly intelligent conversations with consumers. Just ask Bobby Bryant from Ask Doss!

In short

Self-driving cars, drone deliveries, Hyperloop… Mars? The world as we know it is transforming rapidly, but real estate has been historically slow to innovate or embrace change.

Perhaps 2017 will be the year when a real estate company finds itself on the cutting edge of virtual reality, A.I. and Uberfication (here’s looking at you Zillow and Realogy). Cheers to what’s to come.

[Photo via:]

About Walter Baum

Walter leads business development for Graphiq's real estate group. He previously led sales and strategic partnerships for a real estate data provider, after trying his hand as an agent. A Manhattan native, Walter loves finding favorite hole in the wall food joints and rooting for his New York Rangers.

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  • Have you seen any interesting collaborative virtual reality products? ie an agent can talk/guide a buyer though a home? Not just the buyer looking at a house by themselves on their own time.

    • Walter Baum

      Not yet, but this is a great idea.

    • Brenden Rendo

      We will have this within our system this year, where it works similar to a goto meeting

  • For the “uber” opportunity — I guess I’m not convinced due to the massive challenge with needed distribution (both with agents on “call”, and buyers). Zillow or could maybe figure it out on the consumer side, but any solution needs to be connecting to listings to be used by buyers — and the challenges with getting data in this industry have been well documented. You should chat with Seth Siegler about his learnings from Curb Call.

    • Walter Baum

      I agree it will probably need to come from the larger companies like Zillow or actually just launched their version called “Talk Now.”

      • Seth Siegler

        Yeah Homes’ TalkNow implementation is powered by the CurbCall API and is a nice spin on the on-demand idea because it’s not only about showings – it’s for routing any agent-requests to the agents who are available to answer a question or call at that exact moment. It changes the experience for the buyer/renter and gives a better chance at having the lead answered.

        The alternative is email-based routing that doesn’t know if the agent receiving the lead is actually available to answer it or not.

        Good stuff Walter!

  • “Is there any hotter of a lead than a person standing outside the property, asking to view it?”

    How about one that is qualified? If the app/service doesn’t require people to be prequalified first, it won’t take too many wasted showings of lookie-loos before agents start opting out of the system. (Keep in mind Uber drivers are guaranteed to be paid before they even pick up the customer.)

    • I’ve long thought Redfin is the most likely to pull it off because their business model of having salaried agents and one strong, trusted brand. I think an “uber for real estate” app is more likely to work with existing clients than it is as a lead generation tool.

  • 偶然来访,受益良多!

  • Bobby Bryant

    Thanks Walter for the mention via DOSS. I agree, there are several hurdles for all of these technologies to become mainstream. A great idea is one thing! However, there are bigger issues like access, adoption, money, timing, and traction in my opinion. At DOSS, we are simply excited to be in the race with data, the partners, and we believe the timing is perfect. #cheersWALTER

    • How is the product coming?

      • Bobby Bryant

        Drew, everything is going great! Testing, Retesting, and Testing again right now… It’s a ton of data, classifiers, and training when it comes to A.I.

  • Brenden Rendo

    I agree that VR and 360 Degree tours will become the mainstream over the next couple of years. We feel here at @FeelEstate_USA, we will be one of the leading providers of these systems by bringing the initial investment down to under $400.00 for the camera and a per tour hosting cost as low as $5.00 per month EVERY LISTING now can be justified in providing this service. It will pay for itself immediately

    • Matterport competitor? Or something completely different?

      • Brenden Rendo

        Drew, I consider us an alternative and not really a competitor. The acquisition cost for the Matterport system is out of reach for 98% of the real estate market. Our system allows any realtor with or without computer of photographic skills or training to provide 360 Degree and Virtual tours at a cost that allows them to provide it for every client. It does not matter if the house cost $50,0000 or $5,000,000

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