While people all over the world speculate how we will return to normalcy, how life as we know it will change, how and which companies will survive, and how bad this is going to get – there is one thing we all know for sure, we are home for the foreseeable future. We are home, and whether alone or with loved ones, this is a new normal. As we sink into the reality of the pandemic, there is consistent looming anxiety mixed with opportunistic outlooks as well as a willingness for change and triumph.
For those of us who work in tech, it has become abundantly clear that the time for innovation is now. Incumbents such as Facebook/Instagram, Twitter, and Netflix have not only become more critical than ever but they also provide people with a sense of regularity and a connection to the outside world. Before the national stay at home orders, I wrote a post highlighting the importance of technology as it pertains to the “loneliness epidemic.” Pre COVID-19, Cigna found that 61% of adults reported that they sometimes or always feel lonely; it will be interesting to see how these numbers change during/post-COVID-19. In the past, some have suggested that the use of technology was a driving factor for loneliness and lack of interpersonal skills in younger generations, now we see it as more of a necessity.
As of yesterday, 95% percent of Americans were ordered to stay at home, totaling around 306 million people. Aside from the valuable goal of flattening the curve, it’s also essential to understand how this will affect us, now and long-term, as well as how technology and thoughtful industry leaders can lead the charge in adjusting to our current status.
During this time, people will continue to move, rent and buy, but the number of steps involved becomes slightly more complicated without the human interaction we are accustomed to. With this, we are learning the true value of virtual tours. Last month Redfin saw a 494% increase in requests for virtual tours. Their CEO Glenn Kelman stated: “The future of real estate has come earlier than any of us could have anticipated, the way things are during the pandemic won’t last forever, but at the end of all this, things won’t go back to the way they were either. We hope we’re well prepared.” Companies who have been first adopters of real estate technology have the resources to modify their routine, now is the time for them to take full advantage of the offerings.
Nine Four partner, multifamily owner, and operator, Laramar is also taking advantage of virtual tours via platforms such as Matterport, YouTube, Google, and Facebook. They’ve appropriately spun up a virtual leasing tour guide for their management teams which have proven to be essential and effective.
Nine Four portfolio company Bungalow is providing video chat tours where prospects can meet with their team online and take a virtual walkthrough of any home, with the ability to view multiple properties at once to increase the chances of finding the right home.
One company that has built valuable resources that meet the current needs of owners/operators is Nine Four portfolio company, SmartRent. Its platform enables self-guided tours to properties utilizing their software, creating much-needed savings for property managers during this time. Additionally, Smart Rent’s smart access control, lighting, thermostats, voice assistance, and tech-enabled work orders are all essential for owners/operators now and post-COVID-19, as renters will not only be looking for those options but also expecting them.
Taking the technology process a step further, fully digitized closings are more compelling than ever. The days of paperwork and the ‘wet signature’ may be dwindling as they’re replaced by more streamlined, automated mortgage platforms and e-signatures such as SimpleNexus, Blend and Roostify. Loan origination systems (LOS) can now hook into pleasant user interfaces that streamline the process, with human-powered assistance available along the way.
Through all of this, as we continue to see the shift across various stages of both the buying and renting process, technology will undeniably feel less external and far more vital. While we continue to stay at home, the lines tend to blur between adjacent tech sectors and PropTech and the need for technology solutions has accelerated, becoming more crucial than ever. With this, many companies are shifting their models to not only assist but also elevate as we ride the wave of our new reality. Human connection and even basic human needs administered through the use of technology is imperative to get through this challenging time.