How the Internet Changed Real Estate
For many years, real estate agents were the single most important gatekeepers of information regarding local real estate. If you wanted to know which homes were available, which prices were fair and comparable, and when all the local open houses were raging, you had to either take a walk or drive around town, check your local classifieds, or check with your local realtor. Fast forward to 2015: now, all the information about your potential dream home is at your fingertips, complete with a virtual tour, homeowner history, and Google Earth images of the local neighborhood! Research done by the National Association of Realtors shows that 90% of consumers now start their real estate journey on the Internet. Technology has completely changed the way we buy, sell, and tour homes for sale. Here’s a quick highlight reel of the events that changed real estate for good.
1980s: Automated Listings
For the first time, classifieds weren’t the preferred method of choice for listing and searching for real estate. Instead, realtors could go on their computers to search through various databases information regarding local listings.
1994: Public Real Estate Listings
The internet soon changed everything…listings weren’t only able to be easily accessed by realtors, but by the public! Property listings begin to become publicly available on the internet. The realtor was no longer the sole holder of listing information. Third-party sites began to pop up everywhere, creating a real estate information free-for-all.
The real estate industry banded together to beat third party sites to the punch…Realtor.com became the largest, most preferred site to find listings, tax information, etc.
2010-Present: The Mobile Era
Not only did the Internet revolutionize the way we view and search for real estate…now we can do it on our mobile devices. In the last 6 years, real estate apps have begun to come on the scene as the preferred, easiest way to find potential homes.
Real Estate Sites
Over the years, a flood of real estate websites have competed for the top spot…but there can only be a few true winners. According to eBizMBA’s recently released list of the top 15 most popular real estate websites (which take into account global and US internet traffic reports), these sites have anywhere from 1.7 Million (HotPads.com) to 36 Million (Zillow.com) unique monthly visitors! Here are the top ten sites:
A discussion of technology, the internet, and real estate would not be close to complete without mentioning the impact of social media. Besides websites specifically devoted to real estate, seemingly unrelated sites like Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter have come on the scene as major contributors to today’s ever-evolving real estate market! According to the National Association of Realtors, some 91% of REALTORS® use social media to some extent. The social media revolution has made marketing and advertising easier and more personal…many users trust companies their friends have used or “liked” on Facebook. If you can collect a large fan base on Twitter, you’ll be able to communicate listings to a large audience in a very short amount of time…with just a few clicks! Youtube is commonly used to host virtual video tours; LinkedIn allows REALTOR®s to connect with other professionals and possible clients; and Pinterest can help you expose someone the right buyer to their new dream home! Obviously, while nothing beats an actual walk-through of a home, buyers are now able to better preview and discover potential homes through social media.
In the early 2000s, it didn’t seem like accessing information could be any easier or faster. However, enter the widespread use of mobile devices (especially smartphones and tablets) in the later part of the decade, and suddenly information wasn’t just easily accessible…it became easily accessible anywhere and everywhere. In a survey of home buyers by the California Association of Realtors, 85% of buyers used a mobile device to help the buying process.
But mobile apps aren’t only for buyers and sellers looking for information on a home! Agents have found several apps to be incredibly helpful while navigating the selling/buying process. Forbes recently put out a list of the top 10 most helpful apps for agents and brokers, including Zillow, Google Maps, Mortgage Calculator, Sitegeist, PDF Escape, and more. These sites can help make the administrative and/or negotiating process easier and more effective.
With the extreme increase in available information on the web, you might think that the role of the real estate agent has been downgraded in recent years. However, just the opposite has occurred. Because buyers and sellers these days are now being flooded with an overwhelming amount of information, REALTOR®s have become more essential than ever to navigating the process. You will find a professional vastly helpful in processing, organizing, and prioritizing the various areas of interest.
The main change has simply come in the role real estate agents play in the process. Instead of being mainly researchers and bearers of unavailable information, your REALTOR® is able to focus on what he or she does best: facilitating the real estate transaction. Instead of sifting through piles and piles of listings, he or she can help you filter all the pre-existing research through a lens of local expertise and professional knowledge of the industry. It doesn’t hurt that your San Antonio Keller Williams REALTOR has access to real estate information at least two days before you do…this is vital when buying or selling in a competitive market!
As you can see, the Internet has changed the way real estate is bought, sold, advertised, and more. While all this information can seem overwhelming, there are plenty of tools, professionals, and sites out there to help make the real estate market a user-friendly place. And, though it’s easy to get lost in all the websites, apps, and information, remember that at the end of the day, the buyer and seller are still interacting with a real, physical home! Though the way the real estate market operates is constantly changing, the ultimate goal is still the same: helping people find the right home.