SetSchedule CEO Roy Dekel Discusses Technology Shift in Real Estate Market Due to COVID-19

Written by Posted On Thursday, 14 May 2020 09:58
SetSchedule CEO Roy Dekel SetSchedule CEO Roy Dekel

As an essential business, the real estate industry is continuing to operate amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Many local markets have seen double-digit plunges in listings and sales in March and April, though there are exceptions. Southern states on average saw coronavirus spread later, and markets such as Richmond, Raleigh-Durham, Atlanta, and Austin have continued to post year-over-year growth in 2020.

Even in slowed areas, real estate transactions are still happening. People are changing jobs, having other family or life changes, and needing to move. But one thing is for certain—these deals look a lot different in COVID-19 times. We caught up with SetSchedule CEO and co-founder Roy Dekel to get the latest scoop on technological shifts in the real estate market due to COVID-19.

“COVID-19 has accelerated a digital transformation of the real estate market. The industry was already primed for this transition; it’s just happening at a more rapid pace out of necessity,” according to Dekel.

Dekel saw an opportunity for real estate to benefit from digital tools back in 2014, when he founded his startup along with partner Udi Dorner. The two applied their backgrounds in business and technology to create a digital platform designed for real estate professionals. It uses machine learning, artificial intelligence, and a mobile app to connect clients with real estate professionals who can best serve them.

In turn, real estate professionals can access an agnostic lead marketplace to help them grow their business. The technology solution also includes tools for smart ad placement and for real estate professionals to be able to better manage their schedules and communication.

“With our product, we redefined a category that didn't exist previously in order to deliver improved business efficiency to real estate professionals," Dekel explained. Previous innovations like Zillow and Trulia had come on the consumer side of the market.

In a business that has lagged behind in terms of technology adoption, COVID-19 is shining a light on ways technology can bring efficiencies. Let’s dive into each step of a real estate transaction to see just how the digital transformation of the real estate market is taking place in times of COVID-19.

Interviews and Meetings

Real estate has long been a face-to-face affair. Clients are accustomed to meeting with real estate professionals in their home or office and getting in-person consultations.

Social distancing restrictions have put a damper on in-person meetings, but there are plenty of tools out there to stay connected. Real estate professionals are embracing virtual meeting technologies such as Zoom, Facetime, Skype, and others to still give clients the in-person feel without the health risks.

These tools offer some efficiencies for real estate professionals, who can now meet with clients at the push of a button and without spending time driving across town. They also don’t need to maintain expensive space in order to compete, which levels the playing field a bit.

Home Tours

Gone are the days when a realtor used their vehicle to drive clients to property showings. If in-person showings are permitted to occur by government COVID-19 restrictions, realtors must meet clients at the location to maintain social distance.

Once at a property, protections will include hand sanitizer and masks. It is recommended that individuals avoid touching any surfaces so interior doors should be opened and lights left on before showings. No more looking inside the kitchen cabinets.

Instead of taking the risk, many real estate professionals are opting to hold digital showings. They’re using tools such as Facebook Live, 3D cameras, and other technologies to give clients a look inside properties without having a hazardous revolving door of in-person visitors.

Open Houses

Open houses are a type of public gathering, which is a no-no during COVID-19 times. Yet they’re a popular tool for realtors across the country for their potential to generate quick sales at higher prices.

The National Association of Realtors is offering open house guidance under COVID-19, which includes the use of virtual open houses. Companies like SetSchedule and others offer virtual home tours, to showcase a property to many interested parties at a designated time. There are even virtual staging options.

Money Transfers

Who even writes a check nowadays? Surprisingly, real estate deals still relied on them. Professionals spent their precious time picking up checks from clients and ferrying them across town. COVID-19 is forcing the real estate market to explore ways of electronic funds transfer—a welcome change for many.

Document Signings and Closings

Real estate still relies on mountains of paperwork—that’s right, real paper. So closings are an area where a lot of creativity is happening right now. Stories are popping up of clients, lawyers, and realtors sitting in parking lots and having gloved and masked runners move documents from car to car for signing. In other instances, the parties have been in separate rooms of the titling agency.

Others are starting to explore which types of documents can be handled digitally, helping to move real estate into the 21st century. Many governments have issued orders relaxing rules on remote notary, which has been a holdup to the ability to shift digital. It’s an area ripe with opportunity.

Future Directions

Some wonder which changes in real estate practices will be maintained after COVID-19.

“Whether some or all of this will continue after [COVID-19], I don’t know, but the crisis has caused everyone to become more creative,” said Atlanta-based realtor Tanya Oursler in an interview with USA Today.

Dekel, for one, believes many of the digital advances will be here to stay. “A digital way of operating brings so many efficiencies. It’s hard to imagine real estate professionals and clients wanting to go completely back to the old way of business after COVID-19,” he said.

Other prominent innovators seem to agree. “There’s no going back to normal. Success, however you defined it in the past, was held to standards in a world that no longer exists. This is a time for reinvention, imagination, and innovation,” said Salesforce’s Brian Solis in a recent interview.

A lot of uncertainty remains under COVID-19. It might just be that the more digitized businesses are better able to withstand future challenges.

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