5 Real Estate Tech Trends Transforming End-to-End Client Experiences
The pace of innovation in the real estate industry has accelerated, and the tools and products available to agents and buyers are evolving and improving rapidly. Mobile and remote capabilities, Augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) are all changing how clients buy and sell homes.
Buyers and agents communicate from anywhere at any time. Drones capture 360-degree property images and videos. Agents use AR to stage clients’ furniture in their potential new homes. ChatGPT writes Multiple Listing Service (MLS) listings.
The preferences and expectations of today’s home buyers and sellers are driving these changes. They’re looking for convenience and ease. They prefer texting their agent rather than emailing or calling. They expect efficient and digital transactions.
The way real estate agents have been doing things for the last several decades is no longer meeting these changing expectations. To stay competitive in this landscape, real estate agents must become more tech-forward to adapt and keep their clients happy.
Let’s walk through some top trends affecting the real estate industry today.
Five real estate trends to watch
1. Business intelligence (BI) tools and aggregated data
Almost half (44%) of new homeowners first look for information about property sales online, which explains why the global real estate software market is expected to grow at 12.8% CAGR over the next seven years.
Clients and agents are pushing for better BI tools and more aggregated data to support homebuying.
The impact of online real estate sites
While the MLS still has the most accurate and up-to-date data on real estate listings, it doesn’t offer the fast, convenient and informational experience modern consumers expect.
With intuitive search paths and customizable filters, sites like Redfin, Trulia and Zillow have changed how the public discovers and ultimately buys real estate. During the pandemic, buyers and sellers couldn’t stop looking at dazzling listings of multi-million dollar homes.
“One of the most important factors is the information that’s available and the access that homeowners have,” says Billy McNair, a California-based luxury real estate broker and founder of the McNair Group. “When I’m going to meet a prospective home seller for the first time, I always pull up the Zillow and Redfin estimate before I go to the meeting.”
Yet agents must proceed carefully with these sites, as there can be a discrepancy between their algorithms, and sometimes valuations aren’t accurate. McNair explains to clients that these estimations are simply ballpark references and shouldn’t be perceived as completely precise. It’s important to acknowledge this information and guide your clients with care and expertise.
The speed of information
In the time you spent reading this sentence, a new real estate listing popped up. Agents have to stay focused so they don’t miss out on the best opportunity for their clients.
“As an agent, we have to be on top of our game because our clients are getting the information instantly,” says Stephen Meade, member of the Board of Directors for the Pacific West Association of REALTORS® (PWR). That means being available via mobile or even in person to act quickly when buyers are ready to take the next step.
It can be challenging to serve multiple buyers when information is instantly available, and inventory disappears quickly. Technology increases the speed of every transaction, and agents need to embrace digital tools to keep up with expectations and demand.
The need for aggregated data
Buyers and sellers are looking for specific, nuanced information that can’t always be found through traditional searches. Many buyers take tours using Google Street View to get a virtual feel for the neighborhood.
Moving forward, customers will see public real estate records integrated with MLS data. “Consumers are going to see more and more of that data becoming accessible in the same place, and it’s being coordinated together,” says Meade.
Meade sees this play out with a product called Walk Score. Walk Score integrates its data into real estate listing websites like Zillow to share the neighborhood's walkability for any listing, with a score out of 100. Clients can look at data like nearby schools and features of the area.
“Clients will develop an emotional interest in the property through photos. Then they’ll go back and look at the rational things, like what school district is this in? Is this a new road? What is the area like? Are there grocery stores?” says Meade.
Whether it’s the MLS or a company like Zillow, aggregated data—easily found in one convenient place—will continue influencing today’s homebuyers.
2. Drones, AR and VR
CNBC reported that between 2020 and 2022, a staggering 47% of buyers purchased their homes sight unseen.
The pandemic affected how we live, work and, most definitely, how we purchase homes. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, about 60% of companies offer hybrid employment options, while 20% offer fully remote. These companies are shifting what’s possible for the housing market because people are choosing their residences less based on proximity to an office and more based on personal preference.
Buyers want to see potential properties online first, especially if they’re searching in a new city—and drones, AR and VR can help buyers visualize their future homes online.
Drones capture unique property value
“I think drones are here to stay,” says Meade. “There’s a decent percentage of properties where drone images are incredibly useful for customers.”
Showcasing 360-degree aerial views of homes can add extra context to the space’s unique property value. Instead of interior images, buyers can now get a sense of the yard, the garage, the pool and the views. Seeing where an oceanfront home is located in relation to the water can be a make-or-break decision for a buyer.
AR lets buyers visualize properties
Recent research shows that almost 97% of buyers consider AR experiences important for their property search. AR is powerful because it helps buyers visualize being in a space no matter where they are, including making decisions on new construction and virtually staging their furniture in a potential new home to bring the vision to life.
“There’s a tool where you can input photos from the MLS and take pictures of your furniture to virtually furnish a space,” says Meade. “I think consumers are going to start getting access to these high-level tools to help them make better decisions.”
Time is money, and if buyers and agents can determine which properties will and won’t work before physically visiting them, it’s a massive boost in a fast-moving market.
VR provides online 3D tours
Today’s newest generation of buyers prefers interactive tours over property photos. In addition to 360-degree videos and drone footage, a listing’s online presence needs to be fully immersive.
Matterport reports that after seeing a real estate listing with a 3D tour, buyers are 95% more likely to contact an agent. VR tours, already used by Zillow and Redfin, allow interested buyers to tour homes from their couch.
“20 years ago, when people were buying homes and an agent told them about a house, they would drive by on their way home from work,” says McNair. “Now, their first exposure to a property is going to be on the web. If that first interaction doesn’t grab their attention, then you’ve lost them.”
3. Sales and marketing platforms
Today’s real estate agents are thinking like top marketers and sales teams—and using the same tech platforms to be successful. They consider ease of use internally for brokers and agents and also which tools their target market will gravitate toward.
“It’s about understanding who your target market is and your target clientele. And then, what are the tools, technologies and marketing platforms that resonate with them?” says McNair.
Here’s what Billy McNair and Stephen Meade recommend:
CRM for lead and customer data management
The best real estate CRMs help agents increase their business through automated home valuation tools and lead generation metrics. Think tracking leads, handling contracts and nurturing customers.
CRMs with Zapier integrations are a good choice, as they seamlessly interact with other software in your tech stack. If engagement and email automation are your top priority, HubSpot can be a good choice. Real estate agents can leverage its AI features that create custom email cadences based on customer preferences.
Agents should also consider another significant benefit of CRMs: making signing contracts easier for buyers by centralizing client data.
Mortgage closing can take hours and require around 100 signatures and initials. Create a process to allow buyers to sign digitally on their preferred device, then house all agreements within your CRM. Use DocuSign eSignature to handle agreements from start to finish.
“You hear it pretty consistently throughout the real estate community—technology is a tool that helps us do our business better,” says McNair. “DocuSign is a game-changer for us because there are so many inefficiencies in the business still today.”
Social media to grow your audience
For real estate agents, social media is a must for networking with new clients and building on established relationships.
“I just had a listing in Menlo Park that wasn’t in the MLS yet. The agent discovered it through a ‘Coming Soon!’ Instagram post,” says McNair. “Being successful on social media is about trying to present that information in the channels where people already are.”
Social media is ideal for real estate listings: It can share information in an easily digestible way, showcase multiple property photos and immerse prospective clients in interactive videos for a more engaging experience. Some brokerages are even hiring video editors to create the content that today’s buyers and sellers want.
“Prospective clients want a brokerage that has a lot of experience with video, video production and shorts,” says Meade. “Having in-house access to that is a much better way to connect with people in your sphere, whether for TikTok, Reels or longer-form content.”
4. Artificial intelligence (AI)
Predicted to touch every aspect of the human experience, AI is giving real estate agents new capabilities in the process of buying and selling homes.
The real estate industry is chock-full of data, which AI can comb through to predict forecasts, recommend buyers and identify industry trends.
Here’s how AI is transforming the end-to-end process for agents today:
- Predictive buyer tools: These tools analyze property data and assign them a sell score to determine how likely the owners will move—helping agents narrow their sales funnel. Zillow uses these tools to create “Zestimates” for listings. Zestimates appraise properties and provide recommendations tailored to the buyer. Meanwhile, Zillow’s competitor, Redfin, built a search plugin with OpenAI that helps buyers find the best home.
- Chatbots: Many are now built into real estate CRMs to help agents vet and engage their leads. Qualified leads are sent over to the agent if the chatbot determines they’re a good fit. “Chatbots will begin to engage with leads. As soon as they get to a certain point in the conversation, it hands leads over to agents seamlessly,” says Meade.
- Listing descriptions: Real estate brokerages use predictive language models like ChatGPT to create listing descriptions. This content can take time to create, as the agent first needs to consider the top-selling features of a property. Then, they create up to 250 words per field to get their customers’ attention. By architecting prompts and instructions for ChatGPT, agents get comprehensive listing descriptions in far less time.
5. Virtual assistants (VA)
Real estate agents wear many hats at any given time—salesperson, customer success agent, coach, market analyst, broker. Many of today’s premium agents are choosing to hire VAs to handle some of their tasks so they can stay focused on creating great experiences for their clients.
“Agents get sidetracked on little things that end up taking a lot of time from their day,” says Meade. “One of the greatest technological shifts is the ease of hiring VAs to perform these repetitive tasks because agents would try to do it all themselves.”
Hiring tech is making it easier to hire VAs to handle:
- Transaction coordination
- Contract agreements
- Client questions
- Industry research
- CRM administration
- Photo and video editing
- Social media
An agent-first strategy still wins
Even with all the technological advancements, at its core, the real estate industry is still human-led and exists to help people make one of life’s most important decisions.
Sure, these innovations will continue to progress. But clients will always want to discuss real estate decisions with a real person. Agents can offer support and answer questions with personal expertise—things that AI just can’t do.
“Technology hasn’t changed people’s lives like they said it would in real estate,” says Meade. “I think agents need a brokerage that is technology-aware, keeps an eye on implementing best practices and doesn’t fall behind. But technology is not going to save you."
AI won’t replace agents, but developments like mobile accessibility, chatbots and virtual showings only make it easier for buyers and sellers to make decisions more efficiently.
But remember: the core of real estate is humans helping other humans make one of their most important decisions. That industry trend isn’t going anywhere.