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Technology has literally changed the face of the real estate world in recent years.

Real estate has transitioned from an industrial society to a digital information society, and is in a state known as the “Perfect Storm.” There are several factors that contribute to this concept.

Consumers today have access to almost anything they need online. And as more and more information permanently transitions to the Web, so have real estate consumer expectations.

Technology has influenced this major shift in consumers’ overall expectations.

Think about it: When a prospective homebuyer began the house-hunting search more than five years ago, he or she would begin this often lengthy process by placing a call to an agent, sharing all of the relevant information about the desired place to live (i.e., how many bedrooms, home style, etc.). The agent would then utilize his or her tools at hand, the MLS primarily, and put together an in-person presentation highlighting various listings.

However, with today’s technologically savvy consumer, this is now the exception and no longer the rule. Thanks to the Internet, prospective homebuyers can Google or search a variety of real estate websites to find photo galleries, virtual tours and specific details about potential places. Consumers can estimate a property value or pull property comparison in minutes as opposed to days.

This digital approach not only streamlines the house-hunting process, but it also gives homebuyers a sense of empowerment. It can arm homebuyers with the confidence that they are able to do everything in the search process themselves, controlled, and at their own convenience.

In response to this new digital real estate experience, agents and brokers are forced to become more mobile and virtual. As a result, clients are reporting a better transaction experience consistent with their expectations.

Another contributing factor to the ‘Perfect Storm’ is apparent when looking at the current economic state of the real estate industry, and how it has placed more pressure on real estate business. Because of downward pressure in recent years, agents have been forced to evolve their business models to accommodate these changes, including scaling down staff sizes and eliminating large office spaces, posting ads on every street corner, large billboards and/or city benches, and other more ‘traditional’ ways of marketing realty services.

The result is an entirely new host of business models that are leaner, more cost-effective and much more streamlined. Agents are now selecting brokerages that align with the resources that meet and succeed consumer expectations. In addition, most everything in the agent-customer process is happening online or on mobile devices. In fact, the majority of interactions in today’s real estate transactions are not through physical meetings anymore, but through digital communications.

Another contributor to my idea of the ‘Perfect Storm’ is the overall changing demographics of both buyers and sellers in today’s marketplace. Real estate consumers today are much younger than they were in the past. This can be attributed to the downward force of home values, combined with lack of ability to sell. In addition, incentives, such as low interest rates to attract first-time homebuyers to the marketplace, as well as a rise in rental activity, support this idea.

Along with a willingness to adapt to the new digital world of opportunity, there are a variety of cutting-edge technological tools available that can help today’s real estate professionals adjust to this ‘Perfect Storm.’

Through the Internet and easy-to-use software solutions, agents and brokers can create a virtual transaction hub—connecting customers and documents in real-time. This streamlined approach eliminates a number of traditional barriers in the process (known as chokepoints), especially when people live in different locations.

These cost-effective, ‘add water and stir’ office solutions allow real estate professionals to do even more with less. Technology opportunities in today’s real estate world can help deliver a level of service to buyers and sellers that parallels everything we do online in today’s digital world— like buying books on Amazon, online banking, purchasing stocks, making appointments and more.

Without embracing today’s valuable digital solutions, agents and brokers would still be faxing documents back and forth to buyers, or even driving to clients’ homes delivering an experience that is not consistent with consumers’ expectations. This approach is incredibly antiquated, not to mention unnecessary.

With a simple, quick click of today’s user-friendly technology, real estate professionals can securely and efficiently send customers links to access important documents that need to be reviewed, negotiated or signed, day or night, from across town or across the nation, and from any device. We refer to it as negotiating online as if you were sitting at a round conference table with all parties.

Agents and brokers today can’t afford not to take advantage of the many comprehensive solutions available to help create a seamless, online working environment. Not only can digital tools help offer a comprehensive solution to the challenges of security, efficiency and overhead costs in today’s real estate world, but they can help create a 21st century solution for 21st century challenges.

Austin Allison is the CEO of DotLoop.
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