Real estate agents and brokers saw their fair share of changes in 2017, including advancements with AI and Bitcoin, both of which are reshaping the way business is done.

Matthew Murphy, global vice president at Renren Inc., wrote in Forbes recently that there are five key technologies that are positioned to have a big impact on business in 2018.

Murphy notes that in real estate, a range of technologies are opening up the horizon and changing the rules, giving real estate professionals new opportunities to thrive. He offers five predictions about tech is leading the real estate industry in 2018.

First is artificial intelligence, particularly in real estate, in which success hinges on an agent’s ability to nurture existing and new client relationships.

“In buying or selling a home, people are making one of the biggest decisions of their lives and the process can be overwhelming, not to mention confusing,” Murphy wrote. “It’s important that real estate agents answer questions in a timely manner, but that’s extremely time-consuming.”

Between 2012 and 2017 alone, AI startups raised $18.74 billion in venture funding, according to research firm PitchBook.

“We’re not ready to take our hands off [our work],” said Ray Sturm, co-founder of the California-based company, explaining that humans still make the ultimate investment decision.

But, he noted, machine-driven algorithms are doing increasingly more.

Chatbots, powered by AI, represent a solution. Agents can utilize virtual customer service agents and chatbots to help field questions and automate discussions with clients, freeing up human time to address more complex issues.

Murphy’s second prediction is big data. He noted that, according to IMB, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day.

“This data holds vast troves of value for real estate agents who can use it to gain insight into customers, understand market trends and improve efficiency,” be wrote. “In 2018, big data will transform the real estate industry by making it more transparent. Home evaluation reports, sale prices and demographic data are now in the cloud and can be analyzed to provide more objective appraisals.”

Drones are positioned to be one of the most important new technologies to enter real estate marketing since the internet.

Agents could also leverage drone technology to show interested renters and buyers where a community is located, if it’s in proximity to the beach or other natural settings. This is a likely to be a more cost-effective strategy than paying to have a helicopter capture aerial photo and video. Not to mention helicopters can’t get as close to the properties as drones.

Murphy noted that drones enable agents to integrate dramatic camera photography and video tours into online listings.

The National Association of REALTORS® also noted that 90 percent of clients use the internet as a key research source.

Drones will also enable agents to conduct virtual open houses. Agents and brokers

are increasingly turning to droves to give virtual tours, saving buyers, sellers and agents time, as well as opening the door to buyers who don’t live in the area.

Mobile devices are another transformative technology that will only become more important as millennials and Gen Y take over as the largest group of homebuyers.

“In 2018, the real estate industry will continue to evolve to be more millennial-friendly, which means more mobile-friendly,” Murphy wrote. “Millennials spend more time on their phones than any other age group and rely on their mobile devices to do just about everything.”

According to Murphy, agents who succeed are going to be those who give clients access to key information on a mobile device.

Lastly, Murphy notes that Bitcoin, which captured headlines last year. And beyond Bitcoin, blockchain technology is driving the real estate industry forward in other ways.

“It could enable multiple listing service (MLS) companies, or even agents, to improve the way property data is shared between agents and consumers, leading to the creation of a national MLS that grants real-time access to updated property information,” he wrote. “Blockchain tech could also provide a central database for historical title records. “

Blockchain puts real estate on a new footing. If it has the potential to increase liquidity and reduce costs, some significant barriers for investors are removed.

Moreover, blockchain technology also could provide a new way to verify identities in real estate transactions, speeding up the process and minimizing the risk of fraud.

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