Technology continues to reshape homebuying experience
Pick a recent weekend, and you’ve likely spotted Calgarians wandering in your neighbourhood with cellphones held up to their face.
Actually, they might be homebuyers following mapped directions to an open house in the area. Or texting where to meet a real estate professional to view a home for sale.
Technology is changing the way we shop for real estate, thanks to the growing popularity of mobile apps, listing websites and social media.
A recent Google survey of homebuyers found 69 per cent of respondents characterized shopping for real estate online and using their phone as “fun.” Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) continued to browse real estate and local prices even after buying a house.
“We’ve seen a shift from desktop to mobile.”
Canadian Real Estate Association marketing and member services director Marc Lafrance said the proportion of people using the desktop version of realtor.ca versus the mobile app to browse real estate listings is changing dramatically.
“We’ve seen a shift from desktop to mobile, with 67 per cent of our traffic mobile-oriented,” he said.
Lafrance attributed increased mobile use to industry trends, as well as more robust app features such as the ability to view listings or open houses in nearby vicinity, as well as creating self-guided tours between several different properties.
“You can stop anywhere and park your vehicle and decide, ‘I want to see new properties that are listed in the next six kilometres or three kilometres or even one-kilometre radius,’” he said.
A CREA survey of realtor.ca users revealed Canadians have a love affair with window shopping for their next home, with 55 per cent users just browsing and another 16 per cent in the early stages of shopping for real estate. Only 29 per cent identified themselves as being serious home hunters.
CREA said realtor.ca and the app combined handle nearly eight million sessions each month
Lafrance noted a new feature of realtor.ca will allow people who sign up to receive auto notifications of new listings or open houses that meet their criteria. He said already more than 240,000 Canadians have already signed up.
Homebuyers’ use of social media is also leading many real estate professionals to embrace platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Husband-and-wife duo Doug and Kim Hayden, who have been in the real estate business for 17 and 15 years respectively, said they’ve seen the homebuying process change dramatically in recent years.
“I think the millennials want a totally different (real estate experience) than any generation before them. That’s what they do, they shop on their phones,” said Doug Hayden.
He noted many of their new clients are now referrals, with many coming through recommendations on social media.
“The reality is it’s got to be genuine content.”
“I don’t go running around and making phone calls (looking for new clients),” said Hayden. “We put information out there that we think people want to hear, and not just about housing.”
The couple’s real estate Facebook page has familiar content such as links to news stories on real estate along with information and photos of their new listings. But the couple also lets their personalities shine through by starring in video market updates and features on community events they find interesting.
“The reality is it’s got to be genuine content,” said Hayden. “If all we’re posting is, ‘Look at my new listings, look at my new listings,’ people will start to ignore it and it will come off their Facebook feed.”
And while Hayden acknowledges many real estate professionals have been quick to embrace social media in response to demand from the homebuying public, they still need to stay on their toes because the technology behind it is not static.
“Even the things you’ve found that worked two years ago may not work now. That’s the one thing, it’s constantly changing,” he said.