// Insights

Innovation in residential real estate

Sean Johnson
Founding Partner

Chad Curry is currently the Director of Technology Partnerships for eXp Realty, and formerly the Managing Director of CRT Labs, the think tank for the National Association of REALTORS. And in this fascinating discussion we discuss:

  • How autonomous vehicles will dramatically alter the places people choose to live and work.
  • What will happen when consumers become net producers of energy.
  • How blockchain, augmented reality and other technologies will impact the home purchasing and living process.
  • How agents are taking advantage of all these technologies to reposition themselves in the marketplace.

Manifold: How do you describe your job?

Chad Curry: I'm the director for a group at NAR that looks at emerging technologies in real estate. Where is the industry going in the next five to ten years? How are these technologies outside our space going to impact us? The seed for that was big data. So things like IoT, predictive analytics, smart homes and smart cities, blockchain, blended reality. All these things that would generate copious amounts of data and could in theory tell us a ton about how we were living and what we could do to improve our quality of life. So my job is to look at the trends that are coming and how they will impact real estate and what we can do to improve quality of life using those data points.

How real estate agents use technology to sell differently.

Manifold: Are agents sort of Luddites with this stuff? Are they excited by the technology, nervous for their jobs?

Chad: Well we have 1.3 million members, so it depends. Our average age for a membership is around 56. But their main concern is helping people find homes. I would say that the smartphone has been very transformative to their business. A lot of members rely on their phones heavily––not just for calls and texts, but for organization, for their CRMs, for their analyses, their comps, and providing better service to their clients.

Manifold: It seems like for the most part the business model has been the same. Every five years or ten years, I reach out to you, and it's one big transaction. Then you don't hear from me again. At a business model level, is anybody proposing or thinking about alternative models where agents can provide more value on an ongoing basis, or develop a more regular relationship with buyers?

Chad: A lot of our members work on specializations. They'll work on differentiating themselves by being an expert in a specific area. There are realtors who will work specifically with teachers or in schools, and work with PTOs to become better acclimated to neighborhoods. There's a realtor in Nashville, and she's the "biking realtor". She rides bicycles everywhere to give people perspective on their communities. She'll have her clients ride bicycles with her around neighborhoods. If you've got over two million real estate agents and 1.3 being members of us, you have to figure out ways to specialize and differentiate yourself and offer better service. There are agents that specialize at international real estate and use FaceTime and video chat apps to show properties. Green is another big one too - thinking about sustainability. We have agents trying to specialize in smart home technology, and help people think about the savings they could get with thermostats, the safety they can have with smoke detectors or water leak detectors or smart cameras, and help people in that part of the process. As an agent, you can't think of a home as a one and done anymore. Those clients are lead generators. They refer. So the services you can offer post-sale can really help differentiate. If I can help them have a better quality of life, that helps me with my transactions later on.

How have convenience apps and platforms changed the way we live?

Manifold: You've obviously seen the rise of things like e-commerce, ordering online, coupled with platforms like Peloton and grocery delivery, all of these products and services oriented towards making my life more convenient. How is that changing our decisions about where and how to live?

Chad: I think walkability is becoming a huge thing for people. By walkability, I mean amenities like parks and green spaces are becoming more and more important. If I can order things on demand I have less of a need to be close to them, so things like proximity to grocery stores are less important. I'm sure we'll get into this later, but with the rise of autonomous vehicles, we could see impacts on values of homes close to transit. Maybe people who live in the suburbs will want to stay in the suburbs and not necessarily live in the dense urban areas. So home values could be impacted by these technologies. One other side effect with convenience has been the impact on retail. And with stores and malls closing, we'll have to figure out what to do with all those spaces. There are people now building luxury homes and low income homes in malls to make them more purposeful. People can really live where they want to live in the near future. They won't be tied down by jobs or proximity to things like grocery stores or malls or shopping. It's going to be really interesting to see what happens in the next five to ten years.

Smart Homes

Manifold: You mentioned smart homes. Obviously people are getting Alexa devices or Google Smart Assistant or whatever. Where do you sort of see that headed over the next few years - do they have any impact in terms of the types of places that we choose to live as those things start to become more and more embedded into our lives?

Chad: One of the things people need to be concerned about are the amounts of data coming off these devices and the ownership of that data. Privacy is definitely an issue. But the upsides I think outweigh the downsides. Three years ago we demonstrated for MLSs at our Real Estate Standards conference how this data could be used to show how somebody has owned a home over time. So CO2 levels can be controlled by the fans in the home and filters. Humidity levels can be monitored and managed to keep ahead of mold and bacteria growth. How these devices could help you get ahead of home problems. They can be used for security. Water leak detectors are a big interest to our members because if they have a property that's vacant they could monitor and make sure that there's no mold growing in the basement, or any water leaking in there while it's not being lived in.I think where it's going is your home will be able to get ahead of any maintenance issues. Your HVAC system will be able to monitor how long it takes a fan or cooling system to cool a home within a certain cycle and watch that grow longer over time. It can know when a piece is about to be end of life and send an order manifest and schedule an appointment before you actually have a problem. I think your home is going to service itself more than you'll need to service it, and remind you of things you need to do.

Manifold: It seems like there is an interoperability piece to really unlock some of that potential.

Listen to the podcast to hear the rest of this conversation.