Technology and innovation are coming thick and fast to the property industry. Over the next decade, we should expect the way we buy homes to change dramatically. But it’s not just tech that’s going to change things, the rising consumer demand for bespoke services and customisation is also going to drive a long-overdue evolution of processes, and new estate agency business models will be implemented to better suit the needs of the modern buyer.
Virtual Reality (VR) is already making an impact on home buying and, over the next decade, its role is only going to increase.
The biggest job for VR in home buying is virtual viewings. Instead of having to physically visit a property in order to view it, we will simply don a VR headset from the comfort of our own homes.
The estate agent will be able to join us on the tour from anywhere in the world by donning their own VR headset and guiding us around.
VR tours can be created either with computer graphics used to build a virtual representation of the property, not unlike a video game, which you can then ‘walk’ around and explore, or by using advanced 360-degree photography where hundreds of hi-res photos are stitched together to create a seamless virtual experience which comes as close as possible to recreating reality.
The general consensus is that VR viewings will enable us to quickly and efficiently view lots of properties before narrowing them down to a handful we want to go and visit in real life, thus reducing any wasted time spent viewing homes which are clearly unsuitable.
VR also has a unique role to play when buying homes off-plan. Normally, you wouldn’t be able to see the home before you buy it because it hasn’t been built yet. With VR, that’s no longer a problem.
While VR creates entirely new worlds for us to explore inside our VR headsets, Augmented Reality (AR) uses the real world as its canvas and then enables us to add to, remove from, or completely alter, the environment around us. The most popular example of AR is PokemonGo!, the mobile video game which projects Pokemon characters onto the world around us.
This technology is going to play a huge role, especially in the new build sector. We will, for example, be able to explore a new build home in which all of the rooms are still completely empty and then use AR to project objects or changes onto the environment around us.
We will be able to place pieces of virtual furniture into the room, trying a dozen different sofas to see which looks best. We can change wall colours to see what we prefer. And we can experiment with different kitchen designs, from the material of the surfaces to the colour of the cabinets.
Rather than having to imagine what our home will look like, we can actually see it.
We are all familiar with the online auction sector thanks in no small part to eBay. But we’re less familiar with online property auctions. This is because, as of yet, online property auctions are a niche market populated mainly by property investors and those who like to deal with distressed properties.
However, this is all set to change. Online property auction technology is now making it easy and efficient for all sorts of buyers to take part, and the race to meet the Stamp Duty holiday deadline means more of us are turning to the speed and reliability of auctions when compared to the open market.
This increased demand means that more varied types of property are going under the hammer which is, in turn, further diversifying the types of buyers placing bids. As we all get more comfortable with buying homes via online auctions, there is a good chance it will become the most popular method of purchase.
Government-backed 95% mortgages
Over recent years, house prices in the UK have risen significantly and have done so completely out of line with average salaries. This has resulted in less people being able to afford to buy homes, especially young first-time buyers who the media likes to refer to as ‘Generation Rent’.
Mortgage lenders are also more strict than they used to be and demanding far larger upfront deposits. It all culminates to a position where more of us than ever before will be renting for our entire lives.
To try and combat this problem, Boris Johnson’s government has announced it will introduce government-backed 95% mortgages for first-time buyers, bringing a new level of accessibility to the housing ladder which hasn’t been seen since the 90s.
If the government keeps its word and these 95% mortgages become a mainstay of UK culture, it will change the face of home ownership forever.
Streamlined digital processes
Buying a home takes an awfully long time. There are so many convoluted processes to go through and so many variables involved that delays are commonplace and fall-throughs are rife.
This is all going to change, and about time it is, too. By replacing the current paper-based processes with digital, web-based alternatives, especially throughout the conveyancing period, timelines will be slashed. This includes title deeds, contracts, surveyor reports, and so on.
And much of this is far from rocket science. I.D checks, for example. At the moment, a buyer has to provide I.D checks three or four different times throughout the journey: once for the mortgage lender, once for the agent, once for the conveyancer, and so on. Each time requires a trip to the post office and a hefty amount of ‘admin’ time.
Soon, this will all be done online and you’ll only have to do it once. Your positive I.D check will be securely stored and instantly accessible by all of the parties who need it. Some pretty simple stuff, but long overdue and destined to make a massive difference.
Customer service remains key priority
A lot of changes are coming our way, but one thing will remain constant: customer service will always be at the centre of the home buying experience. All of the industry professionals involved in the process must think of the customer – the buyer or seller – first.
Many would argue that the elongated processes involved do the opposite of putting the customer first and so this digital transformation needs to change that. We should expect to see the industry adopt innovations which make the customer experience easier, faster, and altogether more successful. Ultimately, the customer will decide which innovations are successful and which are not, so now more than ever, the property industry needs to be listening and learning.