10/21/2013 07:29 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

As More Consumer Industries Shift Online, Real Estate Follows

Thanks to the Internet, we are reminded the future of real estate is actually the way property had been transacted for centuries prior to the 1900's -- For Sale By Owner (FSBO). A lot has changed over the last century since the advent of the realtor, most notably the creation of the Internet. Today, more than ninety percent of all home buyers initiate their home search without a traditional commissioned real estate agent by using sites like Zillow. It only makes sense that if consumers are starting the property transaction process over the Internet, they should see the entire process through online. There has always been an appetite for homeowners to sell FSBO, as evidenced by ten percent of all current home sales in that category, and now the Internet provides even greater resources to better assist the For Sale By Owner consumer.

Technology and the Internet are changing the way consumers and professionals -- especially Baby Boomers and Millennials -- achieve goals and success in nearly every industry imaginable. From tasks as simple as paying bills to more complex transactions like buying and selling stocks or securing a home mortgage, the Internet provides more efficient solutions and levels the playing field in terms of knowledge. The Internet empowers consumers to confidently make decisions and take greater action on their own behalf, including the transaction of real estate.

Along with increased resources and visibility, the Internet helps home buyers and sellers in three key ways:

  • Transparency -- Any number, fact or figure provided to a consumer can be double-checked as quickly as a thumb can move across a smart phone. Gone are the days when consumers would take expert advice without question -- now the Internet helps make everyone an expert as long as they know how to search. Buyers and sellers have easy access to neighborhood home sale information and other resources previously controlled exclusively by realtors. Accessible information places greater emphasis on transparency because every consumer today is a fact-checker.
  • Efficiency -- If there is a smarter way to accomplish a goal, today's consumer is finding and implementing it. Buying and selling a home is no exception. As noted, 9 out of 10 home buyers start their home search online. The Internet is connecting buyers and sellers in ways that were previously only possible working with a real estate broker. The Internet is not only saving time and money -- it's cutting the number of individuals needed to complete a real estate transaction.
  • Cost Savings -- A natural benefit of increased efficiency is additional cost savings. When technology is employed properly, it delivers a higher level of service and produces greater results at a lower cost for home buyers and home sellers. Of course, the greatest cost savings resulting from the marriage of the Internet and real estate is the 5 percent commission when selling FSBO instead of through a traditional broker.

In my dozen years as a licensed real estate professional, I have seen how the industry has evolved and consumer attitudes have changed. Consumers are better informed today than ever before and the expectation is set higher for providing services that are cost-effective and efficient. As implied in a recent CNN Money article, there is a paradigm shift happening in the real estate industry. Technology and the Internet are empowering all consumers to be more independent. As a consequence, real estate professionals need to adapt and embrace a contemporary business model. Technology increases knowledge, efficiency and savings, but it cannot replace the human touch -- which is why it's important for the real estate professional to blend their skills with technology to maximize the interest of all home buyers and sellers. Thanks to technology, the future of real estate is now, it is online and it is only going to move further in that direction.