Over the past year, greater people than ever are turning to digital solutions for all of their needs, and real estate is not any exception. The industry is starting to see the impact of technology in every aspect of the home transaction, from selling, to financing, to buying a home. Our data shows that 75 percent of home buyers now want digital tools throughout the real estate process, and 71 percent of sellers said they were likely to consider selling their home using a product like an iBuyer.
With so much of the transaction going digital, we ask ourselves if the entire transaction can be automated and online. I believe consumers want digital, one-stop shopping for buying and selling homes. That's what we're working towards at Opendoor. That said, a home is about the people and experiences inside it. Some steps in the home buying and selling process can't be replicated in a digital environment. Here are three of them.
Moving is a real-world event that is triggered by real-life needs. Earlier this year, our data showed the pandemic had become the number one driving force for moving. But in normal times, it's usually a life event of some kind; for example, a new marriage, baby, job changes, aging parents, or growing children who take up more space.
We think about this a lot at Opendoor in designing around the customer experience. Yes, a digital experience is incredibly useful and makes things easier and faster for consumers. And yes, it needs to work in concert with the real-life customer needs requiring the move in the first place. However, digitization shouldn't distract from the overall home buying and selling experience; it should allow customers to feel like they can enjoy it more or do so with more ease. And humans should always be readily accessible to the customer should they need it or feel like they want that added touch.
As we look to the future and the continued transformation of the real estate industry, there’s so much potential to continue using technology to improve people’s lives
Home repairs are an inescapable part of the home transaction. But, unfortunately, when it comes down to it, you can't digitally hammer a nail or paint a wall. That said, there are a lot of opportunities to develop technology and software applications to streamline the process.
When we work with vendors on home repairs, there's a lot of project management that can be handled digitally. We've built software to streamline their management and workstreams, but ultimately, we need to physically oversee the work before returning the home to the market for resale. In this same vein, we've reduced the time it takes to assess homes were purchased by more than half using proprietary software we developed in-house. This software, combined with deep analytics, speeds up our decision-making and increases the accuracy of our assessments, in turn reducing costs and allowing us to centralize more operations.
"Location, location, location," that all-important home buying trope also can't be fully evaluated virtually. We've seen considerable changes in preferences about home location over the past year, as remote work has altered our thoughts about commuting and proximity to a workplace.
What is challenging to evaluate virtually is the local community and those personal factors that vary for every individual looking to buy a home. For example, one family may be concerned about their ability to see family for joint meals, celebrations, or childcare help. At the same time, another may be interested in the friendliness of their neighbors. In addition, street noise, available sunlight, and an infinite number of other factors that impact a person's satisfaction and happiness in their home can be challenging to assess without experiencing them in person.
As we look to the real estate industry's destiny and continued transformation, there's so much potential to continue using technology to improve people's lives. Digital tools can help people at their most important moments, from selling their first home to moving into their forever home. But ultimately, there are constantly going to be aspects that can't be automated, which will benefit from human guidance, interactions, and emotion.
Megan Meyer Toolson is the leader client Officer at Opendoor. She is accountable for go-to-market efforts, including marketing, sales and support, in-market operations, and market enlargement. Since 2015, Megan has served in multiple operational and leadership roles at Opendoor. She was the Head of Operations most recently, overseeing the day-to-day centralized and local activities required to buy and sell thousands of homes per month efficiently. She previously held positions at McKinsey & Company, Bain Capital, Hulu, and Vessel. She is an alumna of Stanford Graduate college of Business and Texas at Austin.
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