Next Stage:  Integration + Ubiquity

I have a few words of encouragement for Realtors walking around shell-shocked by the (accelerating) pace of technological change in general, and in the housing market in particular: 

It’s going to get better from here.

And easier.

That’s because the next stage(s) of evolution likely won’t involve qualitatively new or different technology.

Rather, the next stage is going to be all about two things:  integration and ubiquity.

App Overload

Smart phones, Blue Tooth, instant messaging, search, texting, Skype, QR (QR??), tagging, augmented reality, virtual reality, blogs, YouTube, Twitter, Groupon, FourSquare, ChaCha, Layar — you name it, it’s for sale (or free, with bundled advertising!).

What happens now is that all these tools become better integrated.

Which means more bundled and easier to use.

And more ubiquitous.

To take just one example, I saw one application recently that turns a car windshield into a virtual reality screen — customized for you! — with superimposed icons showing local retail establishments, homes for sale, and even the dating status of nearby drivers!

Cause(s) for Hope (Relief?)

In the meantime, three observations that will be music to the ears of many Realtors, especially older ones.

One.  Speed is overrated in real estate sales.

Put it this way:  I’ve never had a house that my client wanted to buy get up and run away from them yet.

I remember arguing a case in Law School and being stopped dead in my tracks when the moot court judge interrupted, “Counselor, don’t you have any controlling legal authority more recent than 1879?”  (I didn’t).

Afterward, the judge came up to me and chastised me for not holding my ground better (bad pun, sorry).

“Counselor, in real estate, 150-year old law is considered recent.”

The legal mechanics of buying and selling property have been established for centuries (it’s the disclosures that keep multiplying).

Meanwhile, even at the height of the housing market five years ago, with a hot new listing headed for multiple offers, you still likely had at least 24 hours to draft and submit an offer — 23 1/2 hours more than my client and I need.

And what if that’s not fast enough?

No biggie:  I’d never counsel a Buyer to buy a house where they had to decide on the spot; ditto for waiving an inspection.

The chances of overpaying in such a situation typically swamp the virtues of the property in question.

Two.  At least outside LA and Manhattan, Millennials/Gen-Y’er’s don’t own $500k (or $2M) houses — Baby Boomers on the north side of 50 years old do.

In my experience, those folks are (still) more comfortable talking on the phone — or even better, meeting in person.

They also prefer to do business with people they’ve known and interacted with for years, and already trust.

That’s especially the case when it comes to the single, biggest financial decision most people make:  buying or selling their own home.

Three.  Just like Apple made the PC user-friendly, and Netscape, AOL, etc. made the Internet user-friendly, the vendors likely to emerge in the next stage are the simplifiers and integrators.

Putting It All Together

In fact, today’s technology state of affairs reminds me of two, earlier periods.

The first was the “pre-mouse” PC era in the late ’70’s/early ’80’s, when PC’s were out there, but, for practical purposes, the only people who could use them were nerds who knew computer programming and how to assemble computers from kits (“Altair” and “Osborne,” anyone?)

The second, similar period was the early, pre-Netscape ’90’s, when the same nerds were busy discovering computer bulletin boards and so-called “GUI’s” (graphical user interfaces, ala early Compu-Serve and later, AOL).

So, no, you won’t need to learn (much more) than you already do.

You just have to put it all together.

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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