How Technology has Changed the Texas Home Shopping Process
To say that 2020-2021 has been a wild ride for real estate is an understatement. The pandemic exacerbated all the most difficult aspects of home buying, and in a seller’s market like San Antonio, the search can feel hopeless at times.
Luckily, the pandemic did contribute something positive to the chaos - it made it easier to use technology in order to change, accelerate, and improve the home shopping process. Whether we’re talking about online mortgage approval, searching for homes online, or virtual tours, a phone with an internet connection makes it possible to purchase your dream home with a little less hassle.
Search for homes online
Perhaps the easiest way to include technology in your search is to look for homes online. It’s a low-stakes, low-involvement, easy and - most importantly - free way to start your home buying process.
The advantages are numerous. First of all, searching online is accessible to anyone and everyone. All you need is a computer and an internet connection. In fact, anyone who has a smartphone can do it. And they did - 97% of buyers searched online for their home in 2020. Zillow and similar websites are a veritable godsend when it comes to the democratization of home searching and home buying.
This makes it easy to view what’s on the market, compare prices, and essentially “window shop” with absolutely zero commitment. It’s enough to give you an idea of what you like or don’t like, and what you should expect on your budget. It can save you a lot of time, money, and heartache.
It’s also a wonderful tool to wade through a wider selection of homes without needing to see everything in person. There will be lots of homes you can eliminate right off the bat for one reason or another, so it’s great to whittle it down to just the most serious contenders, that you can then see in person - or take a virtual tour.
View homes online
And speaking of virtual tours, they are certainly the main stand-out this year in terms of using technology for home buying. The pandemic has forced most home buyers to re-evaluate, re-prioritize, and rethink the way they go around buying a home.
With in-person tours being dangerous, difficult, and even completely restricted at times, everyone has had to adjust and come up with alternative solutions. Putting up pre-recorded virtual tours online has been some sellers and agents’ solution. While it’s not a perfect option, it does provide the potential buyer with a nice general view of the inside of the home. For more in-depth tours and viewing details of the home, having the owner or real estate agent stream a home tour has also been a good alternative.
More personalized than a standard virtual tour, having the opportunity to chat with someone directly via video chat and ask to see specific areas or details makes this experience more like a realistic home tour, even if it’s not possible to see it in person. Plenty of buyers have signed on the dotted line after only a Zoom tour, so clearly, they’re an acceptable solution, in a pinch.
Talk to owners online
The most annoying part about buying a home has to be having to work with bad real estate agents. The right one should make your life easier and help you find your dream home, not act as an obstacle. Unfortunately, you can’t choose the seller’s real estate agent.
Technology offers you the opportunity to take some of the process back into your own hands and talk to the owner directly. Plenty of home sellers have taken to listing their properties on social media or other similar platforms and you can easily reach out to ask all your questions directly.
Whether you want details about the property, to schedule a viewing, or to negotiate the price, you can easily just DM the seller - or even better, have your agent do it! - and close the deal in a few minutes.
One of the most stressful parts of purchasing a home is the process of getting approved for a mortgage, in the first place. It’s a lengthy, complicated, anxiety-ridden dance, so anything that can simplify the experience is welcomed by buyers.
Virtual lending allows the applicant to upload their documents online and also integrates credit checks and underwriting, so it cuts way down on the lengthy process that’s usually involved in getting approved for a mortgage.
This makes the process more efficient and expedient for both the lender and the applicant, it gives the buyer some control and ownership over the process, and removes some of the anxiety associated with borrowing money. There are currently a few platforms that are contributing to the digitalization of the process, with Blend and Roostify being the most note-worthy.
Thankfully, automation and integration is also coming to the home insurance sphere. There is simply no need to complicate things even further by looking for separate insurance, so certain platforms are actively working to combat this issue by integrating insurance in the process.
Platforms like Blend and Roostify are already on the ball and include the insurance in their virtual lending process, thus cutting on the time and effort required to complete the process successfully. We predict that the industry is moving in this direction of streamlining as much of the process as possible, so expect to see more and more companies including this in their services.
Technology has evolved so far that buyers can take full ownership over the buying process. Zillow recently debuted a self-guided iBuyer app for buyers where they can tour properties, no complicated scheduling necessary.
While it’s only got limited availability currently, Texas has proven to be a hot iBuyer market, with North Texas being especially interested in this hassle-free, quick and painless way to buy and sell homes, aided by technology.
Whether or not iBuying is the future of real estate is not entirely clear, but both sellers and buyers seem very interested and excited about the option, which eliminates a lot of the usual hassles of the home buying and selling process.
What’s the bottom line?
Shopping for a new home is stressful, complicated, and slow even at the best of times. But if we’re talking about buying a home in 2021 in Texas, it can be an uphill battle. In addition to being up against covid fears and possible restrictions, you’re also struggling in a seller’s market, so anything that can help is welcomed by buyers.
It turns out that while it may be unorthodox, buyers don’t mind purchasing homes online. The vast majority have taken to searching for homes online, and a lot are even ok with virtual tours and online mortgage pre-approvals. As long as it makes things easier, Texas buyers are ready to try anything.