Look Into the Future of Real Estate

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Imagine the shape of the housing and commercial property industries in the next five to 10 years.

There's no telling. It's the future, right?

Actually, a field known as predictive analysis contends that researchers can map out a sketch of what's in the works. Predictive analysis uses sophisticated computer-based tools, such as data mining, to plot a path down the road.

Figuring things out going forward seems to excite top real estate executives, much more than the present "hot" technologies such as virtual reality tours and even artificial intelligence.

Those are findings of Imprev real estate marketing company, which released its report at the Inman Connect real estate technology conference this summer in San Francisco.

Bellvue, Washington-based Imprev interviewed top real estate executives as part of a "thought leadership survey."

According to the company's promotional advisor, "industry leaders anticipate big opportunities coming from newer technology like predictive analytics, big data and marketing automation over the next five years, but show lukewarm confidence in artificial intelligence, augmented realty and 3-D tours."

"Real estate leaders looked into the future and became very pragmatic," says Renwick Congdon, chief executive of Imprev and architect of the biannual study germinated in 2012.

"They clearly anticipate investing only in tech that can provide a hard ROI (return on investment), which means avoiding the latest fads," he says. "They’re under more pressure to deliver results and need proven marketing infrastructure to make that happen."

Based on the Imprev study, 65 percent of real estate executives surveyed say they're more likely to invest in predictive analytics and marketing automation, which involves accessing ad pitches in seconds; and 64 percent would put money into big data – tracking trends through reams of quickly scanned information.

Conversely, less than a half of home and commercial chiefs are likely to invest in augmented reality – a technology that overlays a computer-generated image on a user's real worldview to provide a composite outlook – and 46 percent in virtual reality 3-D tours.

Just three in 10 real estate bosses are likely to invest in artificial intelligence by 2022, the Imprev report notes. In what Imprev calls "perhaps the biggest" surprise, one in five survey takers listed real estate portals such as Zillow and realtor.com as one of their “most important real estate marketing channels and technologies” five years from now. Instead, the execs predict that mobile apps at 48 percent, social media at 45 percent and video at 44 percent will be more important.

Less focused are real estate leaders' responses on the next big innovation in real estate marketing within five years. The most common answer, Imprev says, is “system integration,” mentioned by 20 of participants followed by automation at 17 percent and a “centralized Multiple Listing Service" at 15 percent.

A number of the real estate moguls singled out Upstream, a project to put all housing information on one broad-based system. A Pennsylvania RE/MAX broker-owner explained "it puts the control of listing data in the brokerage/brokers hands," Imprev says. But others at the Inman conference contended it's too ambitious, according to published accounts.

The study also found:

Predictive analytics will be the top emerging technology for real estate brokerages by 2022, according to three in four executive. "Targeted marketing using predictive analytics is crucial," says the chief executive of one of the largest real estate firms in the U.S.

Big data will be big but "the need for integrated systems is cooling" real estate companies use now. A RE/MAX broker-owner from Central Florida says, “We need a system that allows for a significant improvement in aggregating data from multiple sources to allow us to work with it.”

Marketing automation proves most thrilling for agents and brokers. It gives them "fully automated marketing on a click," a Keller Williams broker-owner from Pennsylvania says.

Don't expect the industry to back widespread adoption of artificial intelligence, augmented reality or virtual reality by 2022. AI was ranked highest among the emerging technology that executives were “least likely” to invest in, Imprev says.

Executives want to measure the effectiveness of their marketing in the next five years. A Bay Area independent broker in California would like to be able to effectively measure agent use of marketing materials and consumer response.

Six in 10 executives see mass print advertising as the least important marketing channel in the next five years, but classified print ads are still popular. A real estate boss in Massachusetts says the biggest marketing challenge would be "leaving classified print advertising in our rural areas."

Imprev conducted the Thought Leader study in June, polling nearly 200 real estate leaders who represent brokerages responsible for more than half of all U.S. residential real estate transactions last year and company sizes from 100 agents or fewer to more than 1,000 agents.

The company's marketing platform, launched in 2001 and updated every three weeks, powers the promotional centers for brokerages and franchises representing more than 20 percent of agents in North America including RE/MAX, Coldwell Banker, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Corcoran Group, NextHome and Realty World.

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