The Newest Real Estate Technology for Savvy Investors

Kathy Fettke

Kathy Fettke

We have a real estate tech roundup for you today with the latest about the use of drones for epic real estate photography, the merger of two big rental listing sites, and how something called “blockchain” could help simplify and safeguard real estate transactions.

When it comes to selling real estate, why not give it a big screen appeal with the help of a camera mounted on a drone flying high above your property? It’s something that’s about to sweep the real estate market off its feet.

Drone operators have been patiently or impatiently waiting for regulations that would allow them to operate legally. The FAA has been working on regulations, and, just last week, it finally announced that it has established a rule-making committee to recommend a new regulatory framework by April 1st. The agency is expected to release final regulations by late June.

That’s big news for many industries that would like to use drones, including real estate brokers and agents. Although some people have been skirting the current rules and dazzling buyers with high-flying photographs, the finalization of regulations will open the floodgates to a massive new tool for real estate marketing.

Right now, the FAA allows the limited use of drones for commercial purposes, but the registration process is complicated so there are few people legally allowed to do so. And those who violate the rules could face penalties and fines. But that hasn’t stopped some so-called “hobbyists” from going commercial, including some renegade real estate professionals.

And even though the FAA has made it clear that taking pictures or video of real estate listings from a drone is “not” a hobby, you’ve probably seen some of those cool images. Companies that provide drone photography services have also been playing cat and mouse with the rules. They may be trying to get around the rules by saying they are charging for the photos, and not for the drone flights.

It’s been sort of a “don’t ask don’t tell” arrangement. But that could backfire if the FAA decides to really crack down on the scofflaws.

Once drone industry takes off, the potential benefits for sky-high photography could be enormous. In the real estate field, it could be used to capture the elegance of a sprawling mansion, a large tract of undeveloped land, or a complex of buildings and structures that you just can’t capture with a ground-level shot.

It is possible to take aerial photographs or video from a helicopter, but helicopters must fly at a much higher altitude making it difficult to get that magnificent but more detailed view of the earth below. And, chopper shots cost a lot more than those from a drone. But even with that discount, drones may not be cost-effective for many lower-priced properties. It will be worth checking on however.

What are my thoughts on this?

Well, recently my husband and I bought property in the hills where it is very, very private. And I was thrilled about that because sometimes I like to tan without bathing suit lines, if you know what I mean! Well last week when I was sunbathing, I heard a sound that I figured was a leaf blower or motorcycle in the distance. And while it was disturbing, I just tried to block it out. But since it wasn’t stopping, I finally opened my eyes, and there before me was a drone.

I quickly covered up and ran inside, and told my husband there could be compromising photos of me on the internet soon! He replied, “Well honey, I think that will boost your ratings a lot!”

That was very kind of him, but that would depend on the angle and the lighting. 🙂

Anyway, we are accustomed to illegal drones filming us while we surf. And I don’t mind if that’s all over the internet, unless they catch me taking a nose dive intro rocks.

But drones in my own backyard? That’s frightening. The privacy we all enjoy at home could be threatened. Hopefully the FAA is taking this into consideration.

Alright, moving on!

Another high-tech headline is the acquisition of rental listing site PadMapper by rental listing site Zumper. It’s a 10-million dollar deal that turns the combined entity into the biggest apartment rental startup, and gives Zumper a competitive edge against the likes of Zillow, Trulia, and Craigslist.

The two sites will share the same back-end but remain separate entities. Changes are underway though. The Zumper team has reportedly overhauled PadMapper to run faster, and has incorporated some Zumper features into the PadMapper app.

The two sites are geared toward different audiences. Zumper told Digital Trends, while PadMapper attracts younger people who may be looking for their first apartment, Zumper tends to appeal to young professionals looking for apartments or houses. Both give users immediate information on availability and contact information, and allow users to apply right from the app.

Zumper is also trying to make it easy for landlords with Zumper Pro. The company says landlords can list properties and screen tenants all through the app, for free. I haven’t used this app yet myself, but it is supposed to be a one-stop shop for landlords by supplying the listing service, rental applications, background checks, and credit reports. Applicants are the ones who pay a $30 fee to apply.

Zumper claims it will be able to provide renters with the single best source for vacancies in the U.S. The company told Tech Crunch that is had 4 million visits in January and it expects that number to jump to 9 million monthly visits by this summer. So for all you landlords out there who don’t have a property manager, check out Zumper, and PadMapper, if you haven’t done so already.

There’s another wave of technology approaching the real estate market that’s supposed to make the process of buying real estate a little simpler, and safer. It’s called “blockchain technology”. It hasn’t caught on yet, but people in the tech field seem to think it could be a winner.

Blockchain technology is at the core of the digital currency known as Bitcoin. It’s the technology that contains public records for financial transactions. And if it sweeps through the real estate industry, Tech Crunch says it could provide some big benefits.

It could apparently speed up the purchase process, cut down on closing costs, make the transaction more transparent, and protect the parties involved, from fraud.

Wow! Who wouldn’t want those assurances and benefits during a big-money transaction? But what exactly is Blockchain and how does it work?

Okay, here’s a basic explanation. Blockchain is a database that could conceivably provide “digital ownership certificates” for individual homes and properties.

Those certificates would provide authenticity without the need for verification by an escrow company. That would speed up the process by eliminating the middle man, in this case the escrow company, and cut down on some of the closing costs.

It would also allegedly reduce fraud by providing an incorruptible source of information about the chain of ownership. Each property would have a permanent “digital ownership certificate” that’s supposed to be difficult or impossible to replicate. This would make it easier to trace ownership during any future transactions.

So the process would be faster, cheaper, more transparent, and safer. We’ll stay on top of this story as it evolves.

Kathy Fettke