By Michele Lerner
Whether you love to test the latest tech gadget or dread the thought of setting up a new device, your clients often expect you to know about the new trends in home technology and want you to be savvy enough to use tools to streamline their transactions. In a 2021 survey of homebuyers, the National Association of Home Builders found that the top five most wanted tech features are related to either energy efficiency or home security. Homebuyers rank a programmable thermostat, security cameras, a video doorbell, a wireless home security system and a multi-zone HVAC system at the top of their list of tech features.
More futuristic tech devices can be found at the annual CES convention that showcases the latest in all types of technology, not just those found at home. Angela Moscaritolo, PCMag’s smart home tech expert, found a variety of smart home devices at the 2022 convention, some of which are still in the prototype phase.
"While there’s lots of cool and expensive new technology devices, there’s also plenty of inexpensive technology out there that homeowners can use now"
“While there’s lots of cool and expensive new technology devices, there’s also plenty of inexpensive technology out there that homeowners can use now,” says Moscaritolo. “Generally, tech devices are a lot more user-friendly than you might expect.”
Moscaritolo suggests that highlighting smart tech devices in a home listing, such as app-controlled lighting, a Nest thermostat or a Ring doorbell, can add to the appeal of the listing and make it seem newer.
Among the devices that caught Moscaritolo’s eye at CES 2022 were the Echelon EX-8S Connect smart stationary bike, which has a curved screen and LED lights; the bathtub that connects voice control with the perfect temperature and level of bath water for each member of the household; and the LG FX washer and dryer that use AI to learn your washing and drying preferences as well as technology to analyze the right amount of detergent and correct water temperature.
Moscaritolo also took a deeper dive into smart home devices with an exploration of technology for every room.
“One of my favorite pieces of smart home tech is from Wyze,” says Moscaritolo. “It’s a motion-sensor nightlight system that you can easily charge with a USB and stick on any surface.”
One issue that many homeowners are concerned about is what happens if their Wi-Fi goes down and their home is operated with connected smart tech. At CES 2022, Moscaritolo saw examples of technology that addressed this concern, including the Masonite M-Pwr Smart Door with motion sensing LED lights that also includes a battery back-up system.
Smart home tech
While smart home tech has been available for more than a decade, in recent years more homeowners have begun to embrace the technology.
“I’m seeing the implementation of Lutron lighting systems and Savant whole house systems, often coupled with electronic blinds, entertainment and infrastructure in the home that can be controlled with the touch of an app,” says Laurie Mensing, a Realtor® with Long & Foster in McLean.
Some agents use smart home technology in their own homes.
“I’m all in on new technologies that help make my business life easier and at home I love smart home technologies,” says Jonathan Fox, a Realtor® with Compass in D.C. “Between my Bluetooth locks, smart thermostats, camera and security system, and wireless speakers I’m able to control and enjoy my space like never before. Perhaps one day I’ll get a coffeemaker that talks to my alarm clock, in which case I’ll be completely covered.”
Technology to communicate with friends and family became even more important in the last couple of years in the pandemic environment. Dianne Von Volkenburg, a Realtor® with Long & Foster in Great Falls, used Facebook Portal to stay in touch with her elderly parents in another state, particularly when visitors were not allowed in their adult living community.
For Shadia Nassar, a Realtor® with the Nassar Group with Compass in McLean, the ability to customize her home tech and sync everything with Alexa is essential.
“I love my Ring cameras and the security that it provides my family,” Nassar says. “I’m aware of anyone who comes and delivers packages, and I can keep my eyes on my children. My flood sensors are another amazing tool that has come in handy so many times. It’s connected to our Ring and eliminated any chances of water in our basement.”
Nassar also uses a Nest smart thermostat.
Chris Jameson, a Realtor® with the Catalyst Group with Compass in D.C., uses both Alexa and Apple devices at home.
“Having both allows me to support whatever other tech devices I want, whether it’s easy integration with my iPhone or Apple TV or smart electronics such as outlets and lights,” says Jameson. “I have an Ecobee smart thermostat which you can set up with individual smart sensors in different rooms for more precise control. It can learn your routine and anticipate your heating and cooling needs, plus you can adjust it verbally with your phone.”
Smart tech for real estate agents
In the office, Fox invested in hardware so he has the most powerful computer, phone and video setup to efficiently communicate with clients or work on new projects.
“It’s like going into battle with the sharpest sword,” he says.
An important element of new technology is ease of use. Many agents try new gadgets and apps but find integrating them may be too complicated or that the items lack value.
“If I cannot take a platform on the run, it’s of little use,” says Fox. “Mobile compatibility is critical given how much time I spend on the run with clients. Companies have made a ton of progress but there’s still a long way to go in this category.”
Lindsay Reishman, founding partner of Pareto and the Reishman Group in Chevy Chase, Md., relies on Tiny Scanner to scan documents while on the go.
“We also use Smartsheet to help our team collaborate and keep track of the hundreds of minor details that make or break a real estate experience for our clients,” says Reishman. “We also use Zenlist, which provides the fastest property alerts on the market today. We love collaborating with our clients on their search through this app.”
Synchronizing contacts and staying consistent is easier for Nassar, she says, because she always uses her iPad, iPhone and Macbook.
Alexandra Attiliis, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Realty in Alexandria, also likes the efficiency of her Apple devices.
“I also rely heavily on apps that support social media, such as Canva, WordPress, Instories, Lightroom and Retouch,” Attiliis says. “I use them daily in conjunction with my personal experiences to create marketing materials.”
Cliff Weeks, an associate broker with Century 21 New Millennium in Gainesville, also recommends Canva, along with Coffee and Contracts and VSCO for editing and content creation.
Week uses RealScout, which accesses MLS data for real time property status updates.
“RealScout allows our buyer clients total control of their search activities and parameters,” says Weeks. “It’s also the only search capability that tracks buyer side activity and quantifies demand to benefit sellers. We can see exactly how many RealScout buyer searches include our seller’s property address and price point. RealScout connects me to both buyers and sellers in a real time manner through the app.”
Photos, videos and virtual tours became a staple for many real estate agents during the pandemic and are increasingly important for buyers to narrow their choices before physically visiting properties. Many agents invest in new equipment to improve the quality of their visual presentations.
Matterport has been a great addition to listings, says Jameson.
“It provides prospective buyers with the ability to virtually stand in properties and walk through them to get a much better feel for the space and how it flows,” Jameson says.
Matterport has been especially valuable during the pandemic, Jameson says.
“I really like the Ricoh 3D camera that’s compatible with Zillow tours,” says Von Volkenburg. “It eliminates the added cost of hiring a professional photographer to create a 3D tour. It takes some training and has an annual cost but it’s definitely worth the investment.”
Uday Kammula, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Realty in Fairfax, says he loves his Insta360 X2, a camera that eliminates the need for a selfie stick and takes a 360-degree video of your surroundings.
“Post-production you can choose the focus points, which makes it really easy to create content for vloggers,” says Kammula. “I’ve also used it do to a live open house video.”
In addition, he points out that you can do a 3D scan of a room with an iPhone. He also uses Alexa and Siri for scheduling events.
Perhaps the most important tech tool is also the most ubiquitous: an iPhone.
“I’m on my iPhone as much or more than my laptop,” says Jameson. “Its usefulness is only limited by the apps I have on my phone, such as budgeting and financial management mileage tracking, video conferencing, daily reminders and more.”
Michele Lerner, a freelance writer based in the Washington, D.C. area, has been writing about real estate and personal finance for more than 20 years.