Real estate ranks as the largest asset class in the world. But it needs to become more efficient to ensure it fully benefits all parties involved. PropTech, short for “property technology,” is a collective term for startups and technology companies that offer technologically innovative products or business models to drive efficiencies in the real estate market. The goal of PropTech is to make everything about owning, buying, selling, leasing, renting, financing, investing, or managing property easier.  We live in the digital era, where technology touches nearly every aspect of our lives, and real estate is no exception. Here is a brief overview of how PropTech technology companies are transforming buying, selling, investing, and financing real estate.

  1. Virtual Reality

Millennials love to do everything online, be it shop for food, pay their bills, order a cab, or find love. If they could, they would probably do everything online, and house-hunting is one of the many things that can be done very easily from the comfort of home. Virtual reality is not just for gamers anymore. It can easily be used to show potential clients or investors the properties they are thinking of investing in, buying, or renting.

Forward-thinking realtors are not just showing photos and 360⁰ videos but are also using innovative 3D technology to give their clients immersive 3D virtual property tours. The potential for such tours is limitless. As a buyer, you can now virtually step into the properties you are considering and experience the scale of the rooms and how everything might fit into your intended vision. In some tours, realtors are including augmented reality, where you can personalize the property by adding furniture or change paint colors. This way, you can get an even better experience than if you are physically there in person.

Furthermore, virtual tours can be seen from any location, giving realtors access to an even wider market, as now they can even reach potential buyers from abroad. It also allows investors to look at properties from different locations with no stress.

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML)

AI and ML technologies enable computers to learn and improve how they perform tasks through experience and pattern recognition. These technologies are effectively used to analyze the large amounts of data available on real estate to assist clients and investors to secure a property. AI applications can assist buyers in answering some of the vital questions they may have about a property. Having the answers to these questions helps buyers narrow down their search, enabling them to easily and efficiently find suitable properties. Moreover, ML and AI algorithms assist clients and realtors in identifying the most important features of a property and establishing its value fairly and realistically.

AI helps realtors by giving them access to a form of Machine Learning that uses Natural Language Processing to establish high-value client touchpoints and select the clients that are ideal for a particular property. Thus, the real estate agent gains a reputation for finding clients their dream properties, leading to a win-win situation for both parties.

Real estate investors also use AI and ML to effectively manage risks and yield higher returns, by means of algorithms designed to predict real estate property trends and match them with desirable properties.

  1. The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is the technology that is behind smart homes and home automation. As the owner of a property, the Internet of Things automatically gives you the ability to control certain actions, such as turning the lights on or off, closing doors, setting the home security systems, and various other activities, using handheld devices or voice commands. That helps you manage and monitor your property better and efficiently. Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa are perfect examples of the Internet of Things being used in properties.

  1. Home Finance

Because real estate is a very high-ticket item, finance is a vital part of any real estate transaction. Here too, PropTech crosses over with FinTech (innovative financial technology startups and companies) to make a difference. From new technology-enabled finance models to technology-driven efficiencies in previously more manual processes, PropTech-FinTech companies are making a difference. Here are some examples.

Invown

Invown is an online marketplace for home finance. Homeowners list their homes to find investors for their home equity using crowdfunding. Invown’s mission is to level the playing field and offer everyday investors an opportunity to invest in real estate while allowing the homeowner to set their own terms and get the best financing terms possible.

Best Features

  • No debt.
  • No monthly payments.
  • No risk to your home and no forced sales.
  • The homeowner gets to set their terms.
  • A two-sided platform allows everyday investors to invest in real estate.

Be aware

  • We are a new company in the early user testing stages

Figure Lending

Figure Lending is a relatively new online lender that offers home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) online in 38 states and the District of Columbia. The company uses blockchain technology and AI to streamline the application and funding process of HELOCs. These two technologies make the process completely digital, allowing you to get a loan without having to keep track of pesky paperwork.

Best Features

  • Loans range from $15,000 to $1,500,000.
  • You get your loan in as little as 5 days.
  • There are no appraisal fees, annual fees, late fees, or prepayment penalties.

Be aware

  • You have to pay an origination fee of up to 4.99% of your initial draw.
  • You must have a minimum credit score of 640.
  • Not available countrywide.

Better Mortgage

Better Mortgage is an online direct mortgage lending company that aims to make the home buying process cheaper and more transparent. The company offers fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages, jumbo mortgages, FHA mortgages, and refinance loans in 44 states. The application process is easy to navigate and can be done entirely online. Furthermore, it doesn’t charge lender or commission fees.

Best Features

  • No commission, underwriting, or lender fees.
  • Mortgage pre-approval rates and closing time much faster than other lenders.
  • Smart technology automatically looks for and applies any discounts eligible to a borrower.
  • Can do the entire process online.
  • Low mortgage rates.

Be aware

  • Doesn’t offer VA, USDA, or HELOC loans.
  • Not available countrywide.

HomeTap

HomeTap is a smart alternative financial service that allows you to tap into your home’s value today without having to take out a loan. If you choose HomeTap, you allow them to invest in part of your house’s equity. They then give you the monetary value equivalent to the equity they have invested in, which you can use as you see fit. When you sell the house, a portion of your proceeds will go to HomeTap. However, you should note that HomeTap’s investment needs to be settled within 10 years, so if you haven’t sold the house by then, you can buy them out or refinance their original mortgage.

Best Features

  • No monthly payments or interest.
  • The application process is easy and straightforward.
  • Your credit does not take any hits.

Be aware

  • Getting your money takes about 2-3 weeks.
  • If you cannot settle the investment within 10 years, you run the risk of a forced sale.

Opendoor

Opendoor is an online real estate marketplace where individuals can buy, sell, or trade homes. It aims to streamline the home buying and selling process. The company offers three services:

  1. iBuying––offers cash on a qualifying home.
  2. Real estate marketplace––sells homes directly to buyers.
  3. Trade-ins––in specific markets, sellers can trade their current homes for another.

Best features

  • Easy and quick-selling––you receive an offer within 24 hours.
  • You do not have to complete repairs––Opendoor will take care of that for you.
  • You get to choose your closing date.

Be aware

  • You have to pay a 5% service fee.
  • Not available countrywide.
  • Not all homes qualify.

Conclusion

Technology has been changing our lives in an ever-accelerating manner for the last half decade.  One of the last few sectors that has not been entirely transformed by technology is real estate. This has now started to change. PropTech and their FinTech counterparts that are focused on real estate, such as Invown, are reimaging this sector. Expect big and revolutionary changes in this space in the next five to ten years.