Meg White is the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.
From virtual reality to online listings to drones, sometimes the most transformative moment in technology is not the moment of invention but the moment when the industry figures out how best to put new tools to work.
At a forum on the hottest new technologies poised to impact real estate at the 2015 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Diego this month, Senior Vice President and Chief Ambassador for realtor.com Max Pigman unveiled how to deploy technology that’s already on the market today in everyday business applications.
It may be that you’ve heard of most of these new-ish tools, but Pigman explained the day-two innovations and add-ons that might make a real difference in how they’re used in real life. He also shared some of his favorite products currently available to real estate pros who want to try it out for themselves.
The powerful but low-energy LED lightbulb has been on the market for years, but Pigman says they’ve finally come down in price enough that it’s a smart item to have in your staging arsenal. He says for somewhere around $150 to $200, a complete LED lighting kit can illuminate anything from kitchen countertops and shelves to landscaping around a home with the swipe of a smartphone app.
He also notes that it’s not just the smart-home aspect that impresses buyers; the systems address more practical concerns as well. “Halogen is a really big power sucker. Also, it’ll do negative things to the paint; it’ll do negative things to the plants,” he said. Instead, home owners can operate a whole system “at about the cost of two or three 60-watt light bulbs.”
Pigman recommended starting out by playing around with the Hue Starter Kit from Phillips, but also predicted new systems coming out soon that run on an “ad hoc network” will become the norm. This means they connect directly to a device, so home owners won’t have to rely on wireless networks or home connectivity systems to control their lighting apps. He also suggests paying the extra 20 percent or so to get the lights that can display any hue on the color wheel. “How cool is it at Christmas to change them to red, green, red, green, and then, hey I’m done?”
Pigman said one of his favorite tools on the new Apple watch is actually something you can find on many smart devices: voice-to-text technology. He’s often in a position where he wants to send a quick message but doesn’t have the available fingers (or thumbs) to type it out.
Voice-to-text usually solves this problem for him, but not always. He remembered one instance where he wanted to text a colleague, “I’ll call you in a sec,” but Apple’s Siri translated it as, “I’ll call you in a decade.” Pigman said misunderstandings such as this one can be avoided using Apple’s “send as audio” option, which sends the voice file instead of translating it into a text message.
He noted that real estate professionals who may be dealing with emotional situations or clients might want to choose this method of delivery as well. “There are some things in our business that work well with text, but there are other things where people need to hear our voice,” he said. “Having that option is really cool.”
Pigman said real estate professionals who use video in their business should brace for a new standard in quality known as 4K, which is around twice as clear as 1080p, the high-definition standard for video sites such as YouTube.
“You know when you’re browsing for something to watch and you see something that’s not high-definition? It looks blurry and you don’t even want to watch it,” Pigman said. “Well, the same thing is going to happen with this new technology called 4K.”
Cutting edge folks can make a relatively modest investment to get in on the ground floor of this type of video by purchasing GoPro’s new HERO4 (Pigman suggests mounting it on a Steadicam Curve to make for smoother-looking house tours). But Pigman also notes that editing this type of video requires a computer that can handle large files and hefty processing loads, such as the latest iMac with Retina 4K display.
Pigman suggests Brinno’s Time Lapse Camera as a tool that can, “for a couple hundred bucks and very little work,” inject a whole new look into your video marketing strategy.
Here’s how it works: Strap the waterproof housing to a tree or rooftop and set it to take a picture at even intervals for a specific period of time. The battery lasts for several weeks to well over a month, depending upon how often it takes a photo. And when you’re done, you don’t even have to edit it together; just turn it off and the camera automatically ties the images together into a video.
“This is super cool for construction projects,” Pigman said. “Think about places you have a really nice view … and using that as part of your video tour.”
Though Pigman noted that the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles is still an undecided matter in legal terms, he’s expecting them to become a staple in the industry in the coming years.
“You’re going to see them becoming a bigger and bigger part of real estate marketing in the future for sure,” he said, noting his current favorites are in the DJI Phantom family. One small but vital improvement to the user experience of these tools is the way smartphones and tablets can be used to make them easier to fly.
“In the old days, before they had this, you would fly this quadcopter away from you and then turn it around and then all the controls are now reversed,” Pigman said. “The reason this becomes so much easier to fly now is because all you have to do is pretend you’re a little tiny person inside here and look at your screen … That’s why this game has changed so much.”