Technology affords the public the ability to access and experience a wealth of ever evolving digital platforms. From social media to buying your weekly shopping there really has never been a better time to get connected, leaving more free time for enjoying life generally.

One area which has seen rapid expansion over the last few years is technology related to real estate and property. How many people spend time browsing the web looking for properties to buy and rent in their locale, or even to invest in further afield?

It now looks like the days of walking into a real estate office, then spending hours driving round to view properties, combined with then having to search for mortgage lender are on a downward spiral. The property sector in general is starting to move with the times and innovate, adapting new technology to improve how it engages with its target market.

How the property market has evolved

In real terms, the property market has operated using the same model since the turn of the last century, in the early 1900s. The only thing to make slight waves as to how the industry operated was the arrival of the internet, when the first classified property advertisements appeared online, but that was way back in the mid-1990s, well over twenty years ago. As a new century dawned it was obvious bigger steps needed to be made for the property market to stay afloat and compete in modern society.

The process of buying and selling houses has not really altered at all barring a few small alterations to how potential buyers can view online listings.

If we look at the process of buying a house, it’s estimated that there are up to sixteen different stages between the buyer and seller, each of which has the potential for things to go wrong, or miscommunication to occur.

It’s been suggested therefore, that there is the possibility of creating a technology-based platform in which buyers and sellers meet, where the information they need to share is kept in one place, streamlined and personalised. If this idea comes to fruition, it could provide a huge boost to a market which works well but needs to move with the times.

Could technology potentially aid buying decisions..?

What are the cornerstones when someone seeks to buy a property? Is there any way that technology could aid these? Here are some of the current innovations being used around the world.

Viewing the property you’re interested in

Virtual Reality Property ViewingPhysically viewing the property is one of the most important points in deciding to buy a home. After all, it’s how a place ‘feels’ when you see it that counts. There are ways forward with virtual reality technology and 360-degree photographs that can give you an all-round view of a house, and of course the chance to really look at the place in detail – and whenever you want to. Not forgetting the permanency of photos online. Technology such as this works best when it produces real and successful results for its customers. Often, inaccurate or simply very poor photos of properties taken by estate agents have inspired some companies to turn to virtual reality (VR) to enhance and improve viewings.

Over in the USA, a company called Matterport, described as an immersive media technology company, have created a camera that can successfully create digital 3D models and allows for virtual reality experiences, floorplans and ultra-high definition photography to be utilized by potential house buyers. This has been a revolution in home buying technology and it’s also enhanced the way houses are marketed, as well as having a significant impact on the speed of sales too.

Co-founder of the company Matt Bell comments: “Potential buyers can view properties in true-to-life definition through VR or online tours – virtually walking through 50 properties in the time that it would take to visit one,”.  Adding that this kind of technology will also save buyers a lot of time and money, driving round to properties that might be totally unsuitable, as well as speeding up the actual viewing time and hopefully gaining quicker sales.

This is something that a UK based property company called Forty/8 has definitely found to be the case. They’ve reported the huge benefits of using virtual reality to aid in viewing and buying properties. The company’s head of sales, Richard Forman comments that “On traditional opening weekends, we expect to sell about 7pc of apartments on show, but using the VR headsets has seen sales increase to 15pc. VR headsets enable viewers to step inside the apartment and sense how it will look and feel. It gives them a better understanding of what’s on offer.”

Making sales quicker

Many people report that getting a mortgage can be one of the slowest, stress creating aspects of buying a property. This process has been evolving with the creation of digital mortgage brokers, which use robo-advice to help home buyers obtain a mortgage online, at any time and from a device of their choosing – even from a smartphone.

The technology works in a similar way to that of current price comparison websites, scanning the mortgage market, to look for what they buyer wants in roughly half the time of a normal mortgage broker. If it’s done correctly, using the right AI technology it can really aid home buyers and cost considerably less than engaging the services of a real-life mortgage broker.

Property purchase tracking apps

There have been leaps forward in how estate agents, conveyancers and property buyers can track the progress of how their house sale is coming along. Traditionally, this would usually involve lots of emails, phone calls or visits to offices to sort out the finer details of contracts. Now there are sites like TrackMyMove, which allow for everyone involved in the same of a property to view how it’s coming along, without the need for time consuming communication.

The main benefits of such technology are that, it speeds up the time required to complete a sale, it means that sales falling through are less likely and that communication between everyone involved usually improves, because it is completed remotely.

However, although it has proved beneficial and popular in some quarters, engaging buyers and estate agents to use the technology in the first place has been something of a challenge. It seems that for this, better promotion and education is needed in order to make it a more viable solution to take the hassle out of buying a house.

Laser scanning devices

Laser technology is being used to great success in the property buy/sell market now, with the introduction of equipment that allows for easy and quick scanning of rooms and buildings to make accurate and detailed floor plans. This kind of technology also has the advantage of being eco-friendlier as it does away with the need to use copious amounts of paper and printing technology to make time consuming drawings.

This type of technology can collect up to 43,000 points of data per second while the user of the scanning device simply walks around the property being marketed. This data can then be used to create either 2D or 3D floor plans, which go on to enable estate agents and surveyors to gain the spatial data of the properties at any time they require. It also benefits from being totally unobtrusive to carry out and make disruption and disturbance to people who are perhaps still living in their homes when the work is carried out, minimal.

Being faster than traditional methods and less obtrusive to carry out, it has made previously difficult jobs easier, such as surveying occupied care homes, where the risk and disturbance to residents must be minimal.

What next…?

We’ve seen the ways in which technology is helping shape the future of the home buying process, now we’ll see how it might well advance it in the future.

Software to give you ‘instant staging’

What do you do instinctively when you see a property? You start to imagine where the armchairs might look best, where you could your bookshelves, the best spot for the dining table. It might be possible to develop software that could give people viewing properties online the ability to ‘stage’ their home, and make it look exactly as they want to, before they’ve bought and moved in.

The point here is to show how technology can improve and enhance the decisions we have to face as potential home buyers, and how we can make the process much easier, and perhaps less time consuming that it ultimately can be.

Buying a house entirely online…

Think about a time when someone sitting in a house in Melbourne, Sydney or Tasmania could view, stage and then go on to buy a property from their mobile phone. That small device in the palm of your hand could, one day, have the power to get you into the home of your dreams. There are many people who doubt that technology could do this, but there one day, could be a time when this happens – as many people want ways to make their lives as easy as possible.

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