Robot overlords enslaving humanity is a common theme in many sci-fi action movies like I, Robot, the Terminator series, and my personal fav, Maximum Overdrive. We’re familiar with the narrative of our innocent experiments to improve our lives ultimately leading to our downfall. And those fears do often seem to play out IRL (in real life). The most recent loss in the global stock markets, for instance, has been attributed to a combination of human emotional reactions to increasing interest rates and algorithms instructing investors to sell off stocks all at the same, turning a small dip into a tumble.
“I choose to believe that all (artificial intelligence) is an enhancement, not a displacement.” - Rich Barton, co-founder of Zillow
There’s a deep-seated fear in many people about the accelerated pace that technology is eclipsing human capabilities. Anxiety swirls around how automation will impact future jobs and wages. For those of us in the real estate and title industry, embracing these improvements could prove to put you ahead of your competition. Those who are resistant to adapt may be left in the dust along with other defunct gadgets like super 8 trax and laserdiscs.
As a real estate professional, these are the major technological trends you should be aware of to recalibrate your operations and hone in on critical and valuable new skills, tools, and opportunities for growth.
According to McKinsey & Co., a global management consulting firm, title companies should prioritize retraining and redeploying the talent they currently have as competition will certainly increase as the digital transformation takes hold.
Blockchain and digital currencies
We’ve mentioned blockchain’s impact on the title industry and real estate transactions before. Despite the value of bitcoin and ethereum continuing to experience huge gains and then losses, the platform on which the cryptocurrencies are traded are becoming more popular. Sweden is moving forward with integrating the technology’s secure ledgers with their land records. Lenders, underwriters, and title companies could adopt versions of the platform to screen applicants and utilize “smart contracts”. For real estate transactions, blockchain ultimately could increase transparency and limit fraud, making it easier to close deals faster and more efficiently.
Startups like Rex are tokenized property trading. Imagine owning a piece of the Chrysler building in the form of a digital token you can buy and sell. Another startup called Propy offers unique property listings from around the world that can be bought with bitcoin.
Machine learning algorithms are becoming more and more sophisticated every day. Their ability to understand human intentions, qualify leads, and respond with natural language will prove to be a valuable asset for real estate and title agents. Chatbots enable agents to convert more customer inquiries to appointments, reduce daily workload, and focus on exceptional client service. They can be utilized across multiple platforms like your website, facebook messenger, and text.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The internet of things is the interconnectivity between computing devices. The idea is that we will rely less and less on desktop computers and phones over the next decade as technological interfaces with everyday objects. IoT is already at play in the home with devices like the Amazon Echo and its software, Alexa. Homeowners can control lighting, heating and cooling, security, and even your morning coffee with voice commands.
In addition to making homes smarter, IoT can help make homebuying smarter too. With the help of beacon technology, house hunting becomes easier. Using the Realty Beacon app, buyers can receive more information on homes in their favorite neighborhoods. Apple’s iBeacon devices are mounted on homes’ front porch and when an interested home buyer is nearby they can adjust their phone setting to receive push notifications on homes that are for sale.
Safe data storage is a huge concern for every industry, but especially in real estate, where title and real estate agents are dealing with sensitive personal information in their transactions. While security concerns are still the largest impediment to faster adoption, cloud adoption rates among businesses have grown considerably over the last few years and they’re expected to keep growing in 2018.
From a customer perspective, investing in cloud means more agility and offers a way to gain new capabilities on demand without investing in new hardware or software. Instead, customers pay their cloud provider a subscription fee or pay only for the resources they use. Cloud systems also mean faster transactions thanks to e-signatures and e-recording and the ease of accessing information on different devices anytime and anywhere.
When planning for disaster recovery, cloud computing is a cost-effective tool to help restore your most valuable data required for your business to function.
Automation is an inevitable part of every industry. Technology makes our lives easier, including our jobs, meaning more opportunities, boosted efficiencies, and less human errors. Yet, with this ease comes reshaping of current job roles while others become obsolete for humans to execute. Many of these professionals will be reabsorbed into other roles in their current industry or make lateral moves into a similar industry.
In terms of the impact of automation in real estate, Zillow co-founder, Rich Barton doesn’t seem to think that robots will eliminate real estate agents anytime soon. While at the Inman Connect real estate conference in New York last month he said, “I choose to believe that all (artificial intelligence) is an enhancement, not a displacement. Just pick your industry. We do like to see the end of the world in every new technology that emerges, but, in fact, the truth is every new technology that has emerged has enhanced humanity and created new kinds of jobs that are much better and safer than the factory jobs or whatever jobs were being displaced.”
At the end of the day, while many people begin their home buying journey on their phones or laptops, they end up doing business with other people, not machines. Robots won’t overrun our society or the real estate and title industry just yet. Learning how to utilize these advancements and consistently employing them in a way that works for you and your clients will lead to success.