Last week, I was fortunate enough to be selected to participate in the Future of Real Estate Search panel at the Inman News Real Estate Connect conference here in NYC. As someone who came out of the online advertising and search industry, I have always had a different perspective on real estate search than most real estate brokers and search vendors. With my insights uniquely positioned from a technology perspective, this is what I see for the future of search:
A maps based user interface is clearly the preferred way to search for real estate – look at the explosive growth of sites like Zillow, Trulia and Redfin – yet nearly all real estate brokerage web sites still have the same search user interface they had 10 years ago. I think we will see most brokerages switch to a maps based UI in the next few years.
While there is a lot of utility in being able to search online for real estate listings, it’s the data that will take it to the next level. Buyers with similar characteristics often follow a similar path and make similar compromises along the way. Real estate web sites will be able to not only provide exact matches to your search criteria, but also predictive suggestions for properties you’re likely to have an interest in, even though you may not know it yet.
While mobile will be an important part of real estate search, it will not be the only way people search. Researching properties often requires a “sit down” as it is one of the most important purchases one may make, and hard research is rarely done on the move. That said, having access to real estate data when looking at homes is crucial. So we will likely see apps that make “on-the-go” real estate search a better experience – open house listing info, property ratings, checklists for home visits, open house route finders and more.
Where you live is often about friends and family. Overlaying your home search with your social graph will be a key method of determining your compatibility with a given neighborhood. A buyer will soon be able to see where their friends and family live and play, and get real estate suggestions, recommendations and advice from the people they know and trust.
The good news for buyers (and sellers) is that the future is nearly here. I predict all of these features seeing the light of day in 2012. Good stuff!