by Jamie Smith Hopkins
Technology has revolutionized real estate — and not just because we can check out photos of homes for sale while sitting around in our pajamas. There are smart-phone apps for finding the nearest listings while you’re driving about. Programs that email or text you when new homes that fit your specifications hit the market. “Zestimates” of everyone’s home value. John L. Heithaus, chief marketing officer for the region’s multiple-listing service, Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, says this rush of technology — and tech-fueled information — is creating opportunities and challenges for buyers, sellers and agents alike. “The real estate business is now open seven days a week, 24 hours a day, because of technology,” he said. MRIS held a tech-oriented conference last week in Silver Spring that drew nearly 300 real estate professionals, who came to hear about social media, digital marketing and the like. So the subject is on Heithaus’s mind. He thinks the challenge for consumers these days is the overwhelming amount of information to sift through, not all of it useful or accurate.
The challenge for agents, he says, is to keep up with fast-changing expectations. They need to be in “the center of the conversation” via social media, figure out how to use a variety of tech tools and hop to it if a would-be buyer sends a text that she’s in the neighborhood and wants to check out their listing right now, he said.
“I’m a third-generation real estate kid,” Heithaus said. “I can remember my grandfather’s real estate business — all he needed was a car, the multiple-listing service and a telephone. … It’s a whole new world.”