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Warren: Home-buying in the techno-age

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Andy Warren is President of Maracay Homes, the Arizona subsidiary of the Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona and the Greater Phoenix Leadership, as well as the Board of Directors and as an Executive Committee member with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. He is also an active member of the Urban Land Institute.

Posted: Sunday, June 23, 2013 4:55 pm

Remember what home shopping was like before computers? A newspaper ad, a good real estate agent and a car to drive from open house to open house were just about all you needed. These days, those tools are still helpful, however, the Internet is where most home shoppers turn to get the lion’s share of their information prior to making a buying decision.

According to data from the 2012 National Association of Realtors (NAR) Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, nine of every 10 homebuyers last year searched online for homes, up from seven in 10 a decade earlier.

What’s more, 80 percent of home buyers who used the Internet in their search reported that online photos and detailed property information were very useful and 41 percent liked interactive maps and neighborhood information.

As the online world continues to unfold, the ways for buyers and sellers to enter the market have never been greater. Mobile technology designed for smartphones and tablets is changing the industry in previously unimaginable ways. “Mobile is helping change consumer expectations; smartphones are the backbone of our daily media use and should be the starting point for designing consumer experiences with clients,” says Curt Beardsley, vice president of marketing for realtor.com, NAR’s website.

Beardsley recently shared with industry colleagues his insights on technology’s role in transforming the real estate business. New products and trends on the horizon include the smart watch, a wearable wristwatch device with enhanced technology features; Facebook Home, software for mobile phones that offers a more seamless version of the popular social media site; and geo-fencing, a type of technology that alerts consumers when they are near a product or place they may have researched online.

“What this means for real estate is that it’s become vital to ensure that consumers can access information how and when they want it — and if they can’t, then their experience becomes frustrating,” Beardsley said. “You must design the experience to match what consumers are trying to do.”

Though the techno-age may produce a larger pool of better-informed buyers, there’s one thing it will never do: replace good, old-fashioned customer service and the personal touch of a caring sales agent at the point of sale. Here’s to striking a balance between new and old technologies.

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