Control & Automation

Realtors Becoming Obsolete Without Smart Home Tech for On-Demand Home Buyers

NterNow, a platform that enables on-demand home buyers to check out homes for sale, is just the beginning of a revolution of home buying and selling in the digital age, which will change the business models of traditional Realtors.

Realtors Becoming Obsolete Without Smart Home Tech for On-Demand Home Buyers
Emerging platforms like NterNow will change the way on-demand buyers shop for homes, and sellers showcase their properties, disrupting the business models of traditional Realtors.

Julie Jacobson · April 27, 2017

NterNow (formerly Call-a-Key) is a start-up that provides smart-home technologies for on-demand home buyers. With a smart lock on homes for sale, and a back-end service for buyers and sellers, the solution helps home builders and consumers alike bypass traditional Realtors.

According to the company, 77% of property buyers shop online and then drive by the properties before calling an agent. My research reveals different data* but clearly an increasing number of on-demand buyers research homes online and then drive by properties of interest.

What happens then can make or break a deal. You research a house. You drive by the property. You fall in love. You call a Realtor and make an appointment to get inside the house. You really, really like it. You call again to make an appointment to see the property with your spouse … and yet again to take your kids through the place, and possibly an architect or contractor.

In an age where perfect strangers open their homes to unknown travelers, we’re still buying and selling homes like this?

No wonder Realtors charge so much for their services. They need to recoup expenses for time and gas, what with all the driving around they do just to unlock doors for clients.

I am what you would call an on-demand home buyer. If a for-sale home is unoccupied and I drive by, I want to see it right then and there. Imagine a dozen others just like me. We could create a bidding war that otherwise might not occur.

In an age where perfect strangers open their homes to unknown travelers, we’re still buying and selling homes like this?

Why aren’t we seeing self-entry services for people like us? All it would take is a back-end verification system for potential buyers and a few smart locks and cameras at the property. Why isn’t this a “thing”?

I asked this question to representatives of the National Association of Realtors during the Builders Show in January, and all I got was shoulder shrugs.

NAR should be leading the charge on this, but Realtors feel threatened, according to NterNow founder Lynne Parker Davis. They want to feel useful and to engage with the client to justify their commissions.

Parker Davis should know. She’s a long-time Realtor herself.

During the opening reception this week at the BDX Summit, a technology and marketing event for homebuilders, she told me how Realtors have avoided initiatives that might encourage DIY buyers and undercut Realtors.

Platforms like NterNow, however, can aid Realtors by tracking data on customers visiting properties and allowing  buyers to see more properties on their own time. They could also, as mentioned above, benefit from potential bidding wars by increasing the amount of traffic in any given home.

Even so, NterNow is targeting home builders in particular who want to generate heavy foot traffic … and fast. I met one of these builders at the BDX Summit. He was sold on the idea, especially given the rich data collected on prospective buyers.

Realtors may leave business cards at a home-for-sale, but that says nothing about the shopper. NterNow knows about the buyers themselves – who they are, where they live, which homes they visit, and more.

How NterNow Works

NterNow starts with a smart door lock at the premises.

Consumers who see an NterNow home can call the number at the front door or download the app to provide verifiable information about their identity. They receive a one-time-use access code to punch into the lock.

NterNow claims to have a unique process for customer verification, and users must request a new access code each time they visit a home.

NterNow can then track data on shopping behaviors, which would be invaluable to builders and sellers.

Property sellers or their agents pay a $100 set-up fee per property, plus $99 per month.

Parker Davis says the company has "hundreds of locks" in the field, with 25-30 builders using them in about 75 subdivisions.

Next Generation of Home Buying and Selling

NterNow’s platform is almost too silly to write about because the solution is so simple and so long in coming.

The next steps in my view would be to add sensors to the home to determine traffic patterns, which could inform builders and sellers in so many ways – how they should market, what they should fix, etc.

Security systems should be added to ensure all doors are closed and locked when the visitor leaves.

Obviously cameras on the property would be an important step (NterNow doesn’t use them) as sellers could gauge not just traffic patterns but also the response from buyers, their kids and their contractors.

Eventually, we will see platforms like this evolve to serve DIY home sellers as well. And the process will be extended way beyond just opening the doors to would-be buyers.

Eventually, DIY sellers and buyers will enjoy comprehensive online services for negotiating prices, arranging financing and closing the deal.

Realtors should think of ways to cannibalize themselves … before the sharing economy does it for them.

Useful Research on Realtors and Home Buying Habits in the Digital Age

Real Estate in a Digital Age, 2017 Report (NAR)

Consumer Housing Report, 2016 (Zillow)

The Digital House Hunt: Consumer and Market Trends in Real Estate, 2013 (NAR, Google)

NAR Research and Statistics


*According to a 2013 report by the National Association of Realtors and Google (pdf), 47% of first-time home buyers used the Internet to search for a home and 77% of first-time buyers drove by a home viewed online.



  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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  Article Topics


Control & Automation · Business · Research · News · Blogs · Homebuilders · Realtors · Sharing economy · All Topics
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Comments

Posted by Fins on May 1, 2017

First problem with getting the NAR to support this idea. Most states have strict agency laws that require the broker to identify who they represent (the buyer or seller) and have disclosures signed before showing property.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on April 30, 2017

Adroit, clearly the traditional Realtor isn’t going to disappear, just like traditional integrators won’t. But their roles will change as new technologies create better user experiences. We can expect in the new Realtor order that on-demand buyers will be properly vetted ... even to the extent that they can’t self-enter a home for which they’re not prequalified to buy. At the very least, in many cases Realtors are becoming transportation agents and babysitters, so perhaps we’ll move to a model where professional “escorts” are available to show buyers an empty property on-demand.

Posted by Adroit1 on April 30, 2017

In a perfect world, this would be the ultimate solution, but in our litigious society it is an invitation for the unscrupulous lawsuit. Without cameras to monitor every square foot of the property, the owner would be exposed to slip and fall lawsuits on a regular basis. Then there are the identity thieves who are able to give phony personal information and possibly either do damage, or, worse, find out where the electrical and alarm panels are for future robberies. A thief would get the layout of a home before the new owner even purchased it. Having a real estate agent there will be, mainly, as a guard for the property owner’s interests in the future. Then there are those homes for sale that are still occupied, which is still a very high percentage of them. On demand buyers are not going to be able to see those without a realtor present because the owners are not going to put up with just anyone showing up at their door and wanting to look at their home. Something of a cross between Nternow and the traditional real estate agent is going to be the future, but it is fraught with perils to leave out the licensed realtor on the property when it is shown.

Posted by Bruno Napoli on April 28, 2017

Looks like another industry that will be impacted by new technologies…

Posted by antoniohardeman on April 27, 2017

This sounds like a good idea to me.  It’s very convenient to have a smart lock on the door for potential buyers that want to see a house on the whim or after they’ve done their research without waiting for a real estate agent to setup an appointment.  Why not cannibalize yourself because Silicon Valley comes in and does it for you?  If you cannibalize yourself you get a head start like Dish & Directv are doing with their streaming products.

Posted by antoniohardeman on April 27, 2017

This sounds like a good idea to me.  It’s very convenient to have a smart lock on the door for potential buyers that want to see a house on the whim or after they’ve done their research without waiting for a real estate agent to setup an appointment.  Why not cannibalize yourself because Silicon Valley comes in and does it for you?  If you cannibalize yourself you get a head start like Dish & Directv are doing with their streaming products.

Posted by Bruno Napoli on April 28, 2017

Looks like another industry that will be impacted by new technologies…

Posted by Adroit1 on April 30, 2017

In a perfect world, this would be the ultimate solution, but in our litigious society it is an invitation for the unscrupulous lawsuit. Without cameras to monitor every square foot of the property, the owner would be exposed to slip and fall lawsuits on a regular basis. Then there are the identity thieves who are able to give phony personal information and possibly either do damage, or, worse, find out where the electrical and alarm panels are for future robberies. A thief would get the layout of a home before the new owner even purchased it. Having a real estate agent there will be, mainly, as a guard for the property owner’s interests in the future. Then there are those homes for sale that are still occupied, which is still a very high percentage of them. On demand buyers are not going to be able to see those without a realtor present because the owners are not going to put up with just anyone showing up at their door and wanting to look at their home. Something of a cross between Nternow and the traditional real estate agent is going to be the future, but it is fraught with perils to leave out the licensed realtor on the property when it is shown.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on April 30, 2017

Adroit, clearly the traditional Realtor isn’t going to disappear, just like traditional integrators won’t. But their roles will change as new technologies create better user experiences. We can expect in the new Realtor order that on-demand buyers will be properly vetted ... even to the extent that they can’t self-enter a home for which they’re not prequalified to buy. At the very least, in many cases Realtors are becoming transportation agents and babysitters, so perhaps we’ll move to a model where professional “escorts” are available to show buyers an empty property on-demand.

Posted by Fins on May 1, 2017

First problem with getting the NAR to support this idea. Most states have strict agency laws that require the broker to identify who they represent (the buyer or seller) and have disclosures signed before showing property.