Right now, we have iBuying algorithms providing sellers with fixed-price offers on their houses. Those algorithms read such things as property disclosures, assess proximate rental vacancies, evaluate market timing, etc., all such things that go into developing fixed-prices for houses.
What might happen if tomorrow or the day after that buyers could have access to even better tech than sellers such as 3D maps or something even more illuminating that would enable those buyers to purchase houses sight unseen in real time?
Karl W. Smith, a former assistant professor of economics at the University of South Carolina and founder of the Modeled Behavior blog, recently wrote about this very question in Bloomberg News.
Smith imagines that tech enabling buyers to buy houses sight unseen with the click of a button as sellers can now choose to sell with the click of a button would add liquidity to the housing market. “Together,” Smith wrote, “such two technologies could serve as market makers…” because the platforms would “…allow buyers and sellers to find each other…at known prices.”
Does such a market currently exist? Yes, such a market does currently exist and it’s called the stock market. And if tech existed that would make houses as easy to buy and sell or trade, if you will, as stocks, Smith believes that the ROI on stocks and houses “could start to look similar.”
Smith believes that the first thing that could well happen IF houses became as easy to trade as stocks would be that the prices of homes would soar just as they did in the last bubble when lending standards rendered housing liquid by making them easier to sell to less qualified buyers.
Housing market maker tech would, in one of Smith’s scenarios, be a huge incentive for builders to build and investors to invest. Supply would expand and then, according to Smith, “the price-to-rent ratio would remain high but rents and then prices would eventually come down to affordable levels.”
Or, in Smith’s other scenario, “if supply did not expand, prices would remain elevated and investors would crowd out owner-occupied housing and the US would become a nation of mostly renters.”
(Some think this second scenario is already happening.)
Whichever scenario might come to pass depending upon the emergence of housing market-making tech, technology, in Smith’s view, has the potential to “completely transform the economies of housing.” Tech could either lead to more supply thus making housing more affordable for more people. Or, tech could lead to, as Smith calls it, “the ‘financialization of housing’, ‘or the end to owner-occupied era and a new source of economic instability.”