No more real estate agents? In the brave new world of real estate, agents, brokers and just about every other part of the traditional way of buying and selling property could be going the way of the dinosaur, thanks to innovations in virtual reality and artificial intelligence technologies.

Online access and social media have already brought big changes to the world of real estate. Most real estate agents and other professionals involved in real estate transactions do business online, and Internet listings bring buyers and sellers together from all over the world. Online listings can also feature photo galleries and virtual tours offering video walk throughs of properties up for sale.

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Add to that the reach of social media. Buyers and sellers can connect on Facebook, get real time updates from their agents vie Twitter, and mobile devices let all parties stay connected all the time.

Those tools have already marginalized whole groups of real estate professionals, as buyers and sellers are more and more able to conduct business themselves. But as a recent Forbes article notes, the next generation of these technologies have the power to affect how the world does business in many ways. And the widespread application of VR and related technologies on the real estate market could end up not just marginalizing, but also virtually eliminating, these “middlemen (and women)” altogether.

The notion of the virtual home tour isn’t particularly new. A number of companies have been offering that kind of experience for some time, using video to capture detailed views of property up for sale. Prospective buyers can then contact sellers or their agents to go further.

But the next generation of virtual reality technology takes that concept to new heights. Thanks to new applications developed by Sony, Microsoft and a number of other heavy hitters in digital innovation, it’s now possible to virtually be present in a particular place – even if you’re hundreds of miles away.

New imaging technology also makes it possible to “try on” new hairstyles, glasses and even faces prior to plastic surgery. And within the next few years, applying that kind of technology to real estate could produce the ultimate in virtual home touring.

Applying VR technology to the world of real estate has the potential for bringing buyers and sellers together in ways that essentially eliminate the need for a third party such as a real estate agent or a broker. As they can now, prospective buyers would be able to browse home listings anytime, from their own homes – but thanks to sophisticated VR applications, they’d be able to ”visit” the property and see any parts of it that interests them, rather than view a pre-recorded video tour.

What’s more, the new generation of VR tech would allow them to customize their experience. Just as it’s now possible to upload a photo of yourself and preview new glasses and new noses, prospective homebuyers could upload images of their furniture or wall hangings to virtually try them out in the home under consideration.

They’d also be able to virtually paint the house, preview landscaping options and add features like a pool. With unlimited time and options to choose, potential buyers would learn more about the house and its potential than a physical tour with an agent could ever offer.

Many of those options are made possible by advances in artificial intelligence. AI technology gives us “smart” devices and apps of many kinds, from options to remember our passwords to simple recommendation technology that offers new choices based on a user’s previous purchases or selections.

Applied to virtual reality driven online real estate listings, the platform could offer browsers more listings based on their previous searches and customize them with a user’s preferred features. If someone’s ready to buy, the interface could allow users to place a bid, contact a seller, and conduct most pieces of the transaction without ever leaving the site.

With some aspects of the new tech already in place for other applications, the new world of real estate could arrive within the next couple of years. It may be premature to count out agents, brokers and mortgage managers completely. But the new world of virtual reality and AI technology has the potential to put control over the transaction in the hands of buyers and sellers and eliminate dependence on “experts” who may be incompetent or downright criminal. And that, as Jason Hartman says, is the cornerstone of smart investing. (Featured image: Flickr/mikhailchuryakin)

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The Jason Hartman Team

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