It really wasn’t too long ago that mobile technology for real estate agents was a “nice to have” technology. Visionary agents and teams rolled out their own mobile apps. They converted their websites to a mobile responsive design. The smartest ones set up mobile-centric lead generation systems that took full advantage of all the information a mobile home shopper would automatically provide. These early adopters reaped the rewards that mobile tech offered real estate sales professionals.
The major portals, including realtor.com and Zillow, focused development efforts on mobile apps. They rolled out features that better connected agents to their customers. In 2012, one-fifth of all Google related real estate searches were on mobile devices. Today, Google reports over 60 percent of all searches are performed on mobile devices. In the last four years, real estate related searches have grown by a whopping 235 percent.
Today, mobile tech is now a “given” for every agent and broker. It is changing the face of the real estate transaction forever. Every tool we now use, from our websites, to all the tech tools that help us manage our business and close real estate transactions, must be mobile friendly. Going forward, all new software must be developed with a mobile-first approach. It’s vital to understand why.
The evolution of the mobile revolution
Thirty-five years ago, the local newspaper dominated the way most consumers found a home. Today, we look online using our smartphones, according to research by the National Association of REALTORS. That’s right, mobile devices have surpassed newspapers, desktop computers and laptops as the primary way consumers search for homes.
The growth of mobile in real estate has been explosive. Gen X and Millennial home shoppers are driving the growth, according to NAR’s 2017 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends study. That’s important because Millennials make up the largest group of first-time home buyers at 66 percent. Next is Generation X at 26 percent. Most importantly, Millennials are now the largest group of home buyers (34 percent) for the fourth consecutive year. By comparison, Baby Boomers are 30 percent of buyers.
Ninety percent of all home buyers are using the Internet to search for a home. Eighty-nine percent of all home shoppers use the Internet when searching for an agent. Fifty-eight percent of Millennials, 46 percent of Gen X and 33 percent of Younger Boomers all found their home on a mobile device, the NAR says. The trend toward continued mobile dominance is unquestionable.
When it’s mobile, it’s personal
One of the most important things agents and brokers need to understand is the power of mobile. We, as a society, have personalized and prioritized mobile tech. Our mobile devices have become more important, perhaps, than any other technology. Greater than radio, television, computers, and maybe even our cars.
Research bears this out: 87 percent of people always keep their smartphones at their sides. On average, smartphone users check their phones 150 times per day. We even sleep with our mobile devices next to us. And 67 percent of smartphone users say they check their phones within 15 minutes of waking up. We are often so obsessed with mobile devices that we have had to create laws to protect ourselves from misusing them. Distracted driving laws have been created in 46 states, banning text messaging while driving.
The key point here is that the power of mobile is not to be underestimated. How consumers use their mobile devices must be understood and appreciated by agents and brokers.
Realtors go mobile, but gaps remain
Realtors are also driving mobile growth in many ways. But real estate agent’s digital habits don’t always mirror their customers. For example, more than 90 percent of Realtors use social media, largely Facebook (81 percent) and LinkedIn (71 percent). Facebook has 1.74 billion active monthly mobile users, with nearly 1 billion who only access Facebook through a mobile device. That’s a big mobile plus for Realtors who understand how to use Facebook for their customers who are on Facebook.
Fortunately, while Facebook is more popular with non-Millennials than Millennials, Facebook is also the number one social media platform for Millennials as well. Thirty four percent of all Millennials use Facebook every day. However, Realtors still remain email centric, with 94 percent favoring email as their primary source of communications. Yet Millennials are almost fully text-centric. Moreover, 58 percent of agents still use a cell phone that has no email and no Internet. Here’s some advice to these agents: Millennials hate voicemail. Plus, 75 percent of Millennials would rather text than talk, according to a survey by Open Market.
When it comes to mobile or even desktop transaction management technology, real estate brokerages are lagging. Nearly 2 in 5 do not have document preparation or transaction management solutions, NAR reports. That must change because consumers are expecting it, and they will be demanding it. Modern brokerage firms know this; that’s why they are offering these solutions today. Consumers really do know how to sign documents on the go and even on their phones, despite what we may think. Agents and brokers must adapt to what consumers are telling us they want. Technology companies must provide consumers the tools they seek to remove friction from the transaction.
Our mobile future
Today, nearly one in five Americans already uses their smartphones for mobile payment. That number is expected to grow rapidly. In 2015, some 69 percent of mobile device users carried out at least one mobile banking activity through mobile globally. That’s according to a MEF Global Mobile Money Report, which also notes retail beacons that take mobile payments are starting to become ubiquitous. Fingerprint security and face recognition in smartphones is becoming commonplace. That added security is expected to help fuel the growth of mobile payments.
For real estate, this means customers paying their monthly mortgage from their smartphones. Or a customer making an earnest money deposit instantly and securely using a mobile app. Or even receiving your commission payout with a tap of your smartphone could quickly become commonplace. That’s not Jules Verne science fiction stuff; that’s the power of mobile – that little super computer we all hold in our hands today. It’s starting to change the way real estate transactions work forever.
Tricia Stamper is Director of Technology at Florida Realtors® and manages both Tech Helpline and Form Simplicity.