Looking Forward: Data, Real Estate, & Technology

The May/June 2016 issue of the Austin REALTOR® is out now! Here's part of our cover story. Read the full version here.

How will real estate evolve over the next decade? No one truly knows the answer to that, but there are some trends occurring that will likely have some impact on the industry. Advancements in technology, including analyzing and learning from “big data,” could become an important part of the daily REALTOR® life. The City of Austin and the rest of Central Texas could also become more connected, which could impact clients’ real estate needs. And these evolved client needs would require an adjusted role of the REALTOR®. Only time will tell, but here are some technology trends that could be here sooner than we may think.

New Tools and the Role of the MLS

Russ Cofano, industry consultant and former Senior Vice-President of Industry Relations at realtor.com, calls the MLS, “the great equalizer.” For decades, its provided equitable access to listings that drive the market’s transactions. Today’s MLS systems provide a base-level of data provided in a straightforward platform, but what happens when other, potentially disruptive products enter this real estate scene? Upstream could be one of those products that changes how brokers and agents interact with the MLS.

Upstream would provide a broker with a “one-stop shop” to enter all brokerage data, including listings. Once entered, the data would propagate to all areas the broker would like it to. This platform is an MLS disrupter in that it relocates the database and dramatically changes the add/edit process and data compliance mechanisms. The development of Upstream’s concept is being closely followed by all major MLS systems. Ultimately, if the final product provides more value to brokers, agents, and the consumer, then the industry and the MLS will have to adjust.

A New Skill: Analyzing and Applying “Big Data”

Since even before the Internet, data has told the story that needed to be read. As more advanced systems are put into place in real estate, “big data,” will become even more prevalent in the industry. “Big data” involved anything that a consumer does while trying to buy or sell a home. Soon enough, there could be artificial intelligence (AI) systems that will be installed to read this data and make recommendations on how consumers may behave, based on the story the data is telling. It can potentially be a costly system to install, but Cofano believes it will be crucial for the best real estate professionals to know how to receive these AI recommendations and add their own expertise to give them an edge when working with clients.

“There’s going to be a newfound skill-set necessary for professionals to use,” says Cofano. “Technology orientation’ is going to be incredibly critical.”

Today, a successful agent is already able to connect a consumer to the most relevant information provided by a computer. And in the future, the successful agents will continue to do the same.

The Central Texas Factor

As the City of Austin and the surrounding Central Texas area continues to grow at an unprecedented pace, improvements to traffic and infrastructure will play an important role in the City’s future and quality of life. Fortunately, Austin Mayor Steve Adler has submitted a plan to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) “Smart City Challenge.” The Beyond Traffic: The Smart City Challenge proposal outlines five Smart City initiatives to combat the steep list of problems Central Texas faces. You can read the entire proposal at bit.ly/SmartCityProposal.

The Impact of These Changes

The shifting role of a REALTOR® isn’t a new concept. Just as when sites like Trulia and Zillow launched almost 10 years ago and gave listing information to the public, the successful REALTOR® will know how to use this consumer-centric change to his or her advantage.

“AI’s not going to remove the human professional from the equation,” says Cofano. “But what it will enhance the need for additional technology skills to interface with the various platforms, and to use those skills for the consumers’ best interests and benefit.”

Central Texas REALTORS® provide a service that no machine or amount of data or type of machine currently provides; they’re experts in one of the most stressful and emotional transactions a client will ever experience. Depending on an agent’s local area expertise, skill, or connections, an agent is irreplaceable for the home buying and selling process. But down the line, access to vast amounts of information combined with AI systems could begin to replace some duties previously executed by the human touch. Brokers and agents can, and should, begin to plan for the not-so-distant future by paying attention to the evolving aspects of the industry and how they affect the consumer. The ones that do so today could be the most successful down the line.



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