Back in the Market: Navigating the New Tech-Centered World

In the first of three posts on the topic, Coldwell Banker Real Estate Market Specialist Les Christie shares advice for home buyers and sellers who are back in the market after a long hiatus.

What if someone awakened from a long slumber — and decided to sell their home and buy a new one?  That’s sort of what many empty nesters and other long-term homeowners face today. Many have paid little or no attention to the dramatically altered real estate market.

It’s not just that prices have changed: The entire buying and selling process has been transformed.

Both buyers and sellers have been affected by the changes, but so have real estate agents. They have had to adjust from being the commanders of the process — the gatekeepers of information — into a more collaborative role.

It’s a brave new tech-centered world

Perhaps the biggest change over the past 20 years is that technology has revolutionized the market. Now, consumers can effortlessly access all sorts of information that used to be mostly proprietary; it was hidden until revealed by industry insiders. Today, information is everywhere and the Internet is the first stop for most potential home buyers.

“They’re capable of knowing everything about the homes before they buy,” said Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage independent agent Doug Harwood, who has 40 years of experience in the San Diego area. “They come armed with all sorts of information about prices, taxes, the community.”

Take one of the thorniest questions that both buyers and sellers used to face: How much should they offer/ask for homes? Uncovering home value used to involve intricate, bespoke examinations of recent sales within a community. Today, buyers and sellers can get a rough estimate with a few keystrokes.

Corporate websites, including coldwellbanker.com, add to the wealth of information online about the properties. They also provide advice and explanations on all different aspects of buying and selling.

The best use of real estate sites is for buyers to get a good sense of the market before you begin to shop. Then, take all that knowledge and work with an agent who has an intimate understanding of the local market. Sellers can use real estate sites to come to a better idea of how much their homes are worth, what they’re likely to be worth in the future, and what they need to do to maximize their sale price.

Sellers also benefit. They can find reviews and ratings for agents, enabling them to make better choices when making these crucial hiring decisions.

Real estate websites have become increasingly content rich. Just a few recent developments include virtual staging that shows what empty rooms can look like once they’re furnished; videos shot from drones for aerial looks at how homes fit into the landscape and community; 3-D walk-throughs that enable users to take virtual home tours where they can poke around corners and see what’s behind the sofas; and apps that provide real-time access to pictures and social activity anywhere within a line drawn around a community.

Buyers can access price or tax history and inspection information, find out what the local schools are like, neighborhood crime rates, and the home’s proximity to parks, shops, restaurants, and cultural amenities.

Sellers can access their listing pages and update home facts and correct errors. They can go online to find out the best time to sell their property in their area. After it’s listed they can learn how many buyers have looked at their property and how that compares to other, similar homes.

All-told, consumers are much more empowered, much more in charge of the buying and selling experience. They have information at their fingertips that can make them much more prepared and discerning sellers and buyers.

Stay tuned for the next post in the series, in which we’ll explore how tech changed home financing.

Les is a Real Estate Market Specialist for Coldwell Banker Real Estate.

Born and raised in Whitestone, N.Y., and never having lived outside of NYC, Les is a graduate of City College of New York in Manhattan. Les switched careers in his late 30s, studying writing at New School and Brooklyn Polytechnic, now the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering. Les has written for several magazines and copyedited books on early childhood education prior to joining CNNMoney as a personal finance writer, where his main beat was real estate. His wife and partner of 42 years is a retired magazine editor who spent her career at the New York Zoological Society (Bronx Zoo). They are residents of the Upper West Side.

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