by Jackie Edwards
House sales in the US are surpassing all expectations, reaching a high since last November and jumping 6.7% between April and May of this year. This is of course down to a number of factors, but one that is often overlooked is the role of technology. With rapid advances in computer science, the way we find and purchase a new house is changing. Some of the changes involve the boring, but important financial stuff, while others are a bit more exciting. All taken together though, technological progress could explain why home ownership is increasing across the country.
Back in the days when cash was all we had, buying a house was a difficult process. Even sending checks in the mail was a burden that slowed everything down. This made the purchase of a property extremely cumbersome. With the digitization of money, we are overcoming this obstacle. Bank transfers can now be made in an instant and monthly payments can be sent automatically.
The US is behind in the adoption of online payments, however. While just 3% of Americans have used contactless payment in the past month, this number rises to 54% among British consumers. Digital transactions are so popular across the pond that HM Land Registry (the government department which registers property ownership) aims to digitize and automate 95% of transactions by 2022. It’s all about efficiency, so homes can be bought and registered quickly and cheaply.
Cutting Paperwork and Middlemen
With a similar goal in mind, tech is helping to change property purchases by cutting out unnecessary stages in the buying process. The internet allows direct communication between landlords and tenants, as well as house sellers and buyers. The role of the estate agent is being replaced by a computer algorithm, meaning fewer people to deal with and, in turn, fewer people to pay. Buying a house online requires no paperwork or even a need to schedule a meeting. The terms and regulations of the transaction can be emailed as a PDF attachment and returned signed within minutes.
So that’s the boring (but important) stuff out the way, but how is technology making home buying fun again? One way is with the incorporation of virtual reality. One of the problems with purchasing a property is that it must be viewed multiple times by potential buyers, which means coordinating an appropriate time between house hunter, real estate agent and the current occupiers of the home. To do this several times, when people are busy with work and social commitments can cause difficulties. Airbnb is leading the way in solving this problem, by aiming to create virtual viewings of their homes, with the help of headsets to reduce the need to travel. This is especially useful for properties in a far away town or overseas.
Computers are affecting almost every area of society, but the housing market could be most impacted. It is now easier than ever to buy a home, with costs being cut to make it more affordable for those on low incomes. The ease at which payments can be made combined with the chance for virtual viewing increases convenience for everybody involved.