Remember reading the real estate section in your local paper to see which houses were for sale? Or driving around on Sundays for open house signs to find homes for sale in your desired neighborhood?
Today buying and renting real estate has changed dramatically. The reason? Technology.
"The Internet has made real estate the great equalizer," says Michael Lisovetsky, CEO of HomeSwipe, an apartment rental platform, explaining that technology now allows small firms to access and present listings in ways they wouldn't have been to able to do before the Internet age.
According to a study by the National Association of Realtors and Google, 90 percent of homebuyers searched online during their home buying process.
These days, websites, email and apps now make it possible for prospective buyers and renters to access real estate information in real time.
"In the old days the MLS was a printed booklet that came out once a week," says Jim Esposito of Intercoastal Realty. "Now it's all online, instantly accessible."
Unlike the days of old, when contracts were filled out by hand and delivered in person, Esposito says now all forms are completed online and emailed between clients and agents.
"Technology is having a dramatic effect on the real estate industry and a very specific rift is starting to slowly form," says Ivan Ciraj with Cloud Realty, noting that tech is empowering for buyers, sellers and the general public, who are "much better educated and knowledgeable" about real estate.
Buyers and sellers definitely benefit from doing business in the digital age.
"Sellers can now have their properties placed on hundreds of sites and seen by millions," says Lisovetsky. "While buyers now have easy access to view listings from any number of agents and brokerages, helping them make the most informed decisions."
Buyers can review photos and videos of the property and the surrounding area. Listings also have detailed information at the click of a button, such as neighborhood statistics, local school districts, shopping and dining options in the area, and access to public transportation and major roadways.
All this info can help buyers "make the best decision," says Lisovetsky.
*Real Estate Professionals
The information age can be good or bad for agents, brokers and other real estate pros, depending on how they embrace the technology.
If they use the tech well, real estate agents can generate many leads to maximize their exposure. But Internet-inept agents might not have any online postings, or if they do, they may not update those listings often.
Many successful agents post listings and related info like photos and video walk-throughs on their websites, apps and social media sites.
Technology isn't slowing down, and agents who are resistant to the new era of information may be left behind.
"A strong online presence is of utmost importance in our modern era and agents who do not establish this in unique ways soon will be outranked and far behind the competition," says Ciraj.
Agents have to be more competitive in their industry nowadays since buyers and sellers can access real estate information on their own.
"Tech makes it harder for agents to retain their power over the market," says Lisovetsky. "Buyers can find most information about a property online, thereby limiting the magic effect the agent has on the transaction."
While the technology is mostly a benefit for the real estate industry, there's also a situation of information overload. Reviewing so many listings can be intimidating for buyers. They can be affected by what Lisovetsky calls "paralysis by analysis," meaning they may be hesitant to make a decision. And sellers may worry their home's listing will be lost in a sea of similar ads, or they rely on technology too much to sell the property.
While consumers now have volumes of real estate information to review online, it's still important to work with knowledgeable real estate professionals.
"Tech means that the quality of the agent is that much more important," says Lisovetsky, "Finding clients is now less dependent on an agent's network, and more on the agent's sales skills."