When you think of the rapid evolution of technology, the first thing that comes to mind is likely self-driving cars or artificial intelligence, not the real estate industry. But just because the real estate industry is not at the forefront of the technological revolution, it doesn’t mean there aren’t exciting new developments happening in the sector – and some of them can benefit you as a real estate investor.
Big Data. Nearly every industry has benefited from the advent of “big data,” but what does that really mean for real estate? From a practical standpoint, it’s a combination of two things:
- Real estate data sets have increasingly grown larger as we track more data over time, and;
- Improved computing power and access to cloud storage have sped up the processing of that information.
Together, these factors mean we’re now able to access and analyze higher volumes of data more quickly. As a result, real estate data companies can now deliver more insightful information to the investment community faster, allowing investors to make better decisions. We’re getting to a point where we have the ability to continually access and analyze an abundance of information that wasn’t even available before.
Now that we can analyze large data sets, the next step is to differentiate the signals from the noise — that is, figuring out what variables are truly important to help predict real estate investment outcomes. The driver behind all of this, of course, has to do with analyzing risk. This is especially true for investors who seek data-driven results that mitigate the risk of poor investment decisions.
Automation. One of the biggest time constraints on landlords is the day-to-day management of their investment properties. Whether it’s leasing vacant properties in the dead of winter or getting a call from a tenant at 3 a.m. to repair a broken water pipe, one of the most onerous parts of being a landlord can be the burden it imposes on schedules.
The good news is that there are a slew of new, automated solutions coming online that can make your life easier. One such example is a company called Cozy, an online property management portal that offers useful solutions like free automated rent payments and background checks for a nominal fee.
Another example is SMS Assist, a Chicago-based online platform that takes over complete control of repairs and maintenance on thousands of properties across the country, using an Uber-like functionality that leverages thousands of professional service providers through its network.
Virtual Reality. One of the biggest hindrances for investors purchasing outside of their local market area is not being able to walk a property or neighborhood in person. We have a biological need to trust what our eyes tell us, and the rapid evolution of virtual reality is making it easier to get to know somewhere that you’ve never actually been. Some investors are already using rudimentary virtual reality applications like Google Street View and PlanOmatic, which allow you to virtually wander neighborhoods and even see inside properties.
Drones. Most of us think of drones as a cool toy or a militarized weapon, but they’re quickly becoming an essential tool across many industries, including real estate. It may seem like Amazon is pioneering commercial drone use with package delivery, but, in fact, home inspection firms have been using them for several years to survey roof conditions.
Companies like United Aerobotics are looking to push drone technology to the next level as human inspections are often limited when it comes to heights or confined spaces. The next generation of drone inspections can provide a safe and efficient solution as they do not require the use of additional equipment, nor do they require an inspector to enter, climb on top of or go under a residence. A camera is attached to the drone (which can be aerial or ground-based) and captures high-resolution footage and full high-definition recordings and, can even include multispectral thermal imaging to detect leaks and mold issues.
The best part? Most experts agree that drone inspections can be completed faster and at a lower cost than traditional methods.
Building Materials. You may think that building materials and technology don’t necessarily go hand in hand, but scientists are making serious headway on more efficient, longer-lasting materials that ultimately reduce annual operating and maintenance costs, thus improving your bottom line. One recent advancement that stands out as a harbinger of things to come is self-healing concrete.
The concept sounds straight out of a science fiction movie, but Henk Jonkers, a microbiologist at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, has developed a self-healing solution for the world’s most popular building material.
Historically, all concrete eventually cracks, but Jonkers has blended the physical with the biological. By mixing regular concrete with a type of bacteria, he has figured out a way to extend the life of concrete. The bacteria, which serves as the healing agent and remains intact during mixing, only dissolves and becomes active if the concrete cracks and water gets in.
When cracks eventually begin to form in the concrete, water enters and activates the bacteria capsules, which feed on a compound to produce limestone, eventually filling in the cracks. Once Jonkers’ product comes to market, you can rest assured that it may be a long time before you have to patch up the driveway again.
These five technology advances are just the tip of the iceberg as the real estate industry continues to rapidly evolve, making the possibility of being a real estate investor less daunting (and more profitable) with each new application that comes to market.
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