Posted On: November 22nd, 2019 8:56PM
There was a time when a “smart” refrigerator was one that automatically made ice cubes. Today, smart fridges can let you know when you’re out of milk and place an order for you. Thermostats like Nest learn what temperature you like the house to be when you wake up in the morning and automatically deliver it. While smart light bulbs like Sengled connect directly to your Wi-Fi network so you can turn off the lights at home while sitting at your desk at work.
Smart home devices are allowing homeowners to enjoy a level of convenience unlike any generation before us. Statistica reports that in 2018, 24 million smart home devices were purchased in the United States – and predicts that number will easily surpass 29 million by the end of 2019. Being able to yell, “Alexa, can I substitute butter for oil in my brownie recipe” when your hands are full is something our grandparents only read about in sci-fi novels, but it’s commonplace today.
Most smart devices are connected via something called The Internet of Things or IoT. The IoT is essentially a network used by physical devices, like your smart appliances, that have the capacity to communicate because of embedded technology. Think of the IoT as an exclusive internet channel that your smart devices use to share information. You or I can’t hop on the IoT to send an email, but it’s what your refrigerator uses when they’re ordering the milk for you.
It’s important for homeowners to understand that their smart devices are communicating via the IoT because they aren’t just using it to order milk. For example, the IoT also sends data back to device manufacturers. This lets them know which features are most used and troubleshoot common mechanical failures.
Home insurance companies are also interested in utilizing the data that’s acquired from your smart home devices. At first read, this statement can sound unsettling and indeed there are always risks when you have interconnectivity – but it’s a risk that manufacturers are taking very seriously. It’s the reason IoT World reports that, “IoT security spending is currently estimated at $703 million for 2017 and the fast growing market is forecast to become almost a $4.4 billion (dollar) opportunity by 2022.”
Right now, the home insurance industry is experiencing what many refer to as a disruption because of the data smart devices can provide them. Disruption is just another way to say “big changes” and these changes have the potential to work for homeowners’ benefit. So how do we know that home insurers will use the data they acquire to help, rather than take advantage of homeowners?
The Forbes article, “Here’s How IOT Will Impact The Insurance Claims Process” gives us one reason that insurers are motivated to use the IoT to improve service. “The traditional insurance claims process has stayed the same for decades, and it doesn’t sit well with customers.” Insurance companies have been losing customers due to their frustration over the claims process – and every time a customer switches their insurer, it hurts brand reputation and bottom line. This means home insurance providers are taking a good look at how they can use the information IoT linked smart devices are providing to improve claims and regain customer loyalty.
Here’s a good example. The Insurance Information Institute’s (III) blog post, “Water Damage is Costing Homeowners Billions. Could IoT Help?” reports that water damage claims are the most common. “Maybe that’s not surprising – it rains a lot in many places. But what may surprise you is that things like pipe bursts and broken appliances are increasingly the main causes of water damage in homes.”
Water damage due to things like sump pump failures have doubled over the past three years and are costing insurance companies billions of dollars in losses. Because big claims usually mean bigger insurance premiums, homeowners are also taking a hit. Smart devices like Phyn Plus, a device that alerts you to leaks and shuts off your main water supply in the event of an emergency, dramatically reduce the potential for water damage.
Reducing the number one source of home damage claims saves insurers money, and fewer claims mean lower premiums for homeowners. Smart devices also allow insurers to offer better customer experience incentives, such as reduced policy costs to homeowners who own devices like Phyn. The claims process just got easier too, because smart devices like Phyn can provide data on the leak to your insurer – potentially eliminating the need for lengthy and frustrating claim investigations.
Homeowners can take a look at this list to see which insurance providers are currently offering incentives for smart appliances. If you don’t see your provider, proactively ask them which benefits they are currently offering and expect to see more as the popularity of IoT linked smart devices grows.
Posted On: November 1st, 2019 6:45PM
It doesn’t come as a surprise to most that technology has become a standard part of the home buying and selling process. It would be hard to imagine a house hunt that didn’t involve combing through online listings that contained virtual tours, or at least photographic slideshows.
But did you know that according to a Redfin survey 35% of homebuyers in 2017 purchased their house without even setting foot in it beforehand? That number jumped up to 45% when they looked exclusively at millennials, the most recent generation of homeowners.
In the Realtor.com article, I Bought My House ‘Sight Unseen,’ and Here’s What Happened, buyer Audrey Ference writes about her experience, “This is it,” I said, and turned the key in the lock, praying we hadn’t made a very expensive mistake. The door opened. We walked inside to find … exactly what we’d expected. Our new home was cavernous compared with our Brooklyn apartment. In fact, everything looked even better than in the few photos and video footage we’d seen.”
The advances in real estate technology are a big reason why homebuyers like Audrey are getting more comfortable making one of the largest and most expensive decisions of their lives from their laptops. REALTORS® are now able to do things like using drones to take aerial photographs – giving prospective homeowners a virtual birdseye view of potential properties and neighborhoods.
Below, are three innovations that are making virtual home shopping a reality for buyers and the process of putting a home on the market easier for sellers.
While you won’t have to give your real estate agent a Turing test anytime soon, AI actually has been used in real estate for a while now. Some of the websites you may have visited in your home research, or let’s be honest, just for fun, like Redfin and Trulia have automated their property recommendations using AI.
According to readwrite’s article, Where Will AI Take the Real Estate Market in 10 Years? Redfin’s matchmaking AI knows what you want more than you do since users “click on the matchmaker’s suggestions more often than on properties that fit their own search criteria.”
The company Zenplace is working to make it even easier to buy your home sight unseen. “The startup developed a bot that comes with a tablet attached to a pole on wheels. It streams a live feed of a real estate agent who conducts the tour and steers the robot.”
Up until recently, an online real estate listing would typically have either a photographic slide show or a 360 degree virtual tour. If you aren’t familiar with what a 360 degree tour would look like, imagine standing in the center of the room and turning in a circle to get the full scope.
Listings that use VR allow you to leave the center of the room and actually “walk” around rooms, providing a more immersive experience. Opendoor’s article, 5 technology trends that make buying and selling a home easier states that VR tours “can feel almost as real as being physically present in the space. Users can virtually look up and down, zoom in and out, spin around, climb stairs or walk from one room to the next.”
The article mentions that the San Francisco based Matterport is one of the leaders in the VR real estate field. If you own a pair of VR glasses, or want to DIY a cardboard pair for yourself, you can take a tour on Matterport’s website of a luxury home in southern California or a loft in Chicago’s west loop.
Trying to sell an unfurnished home can be tricky as you are completely dependent upon the potential buyer’s imagination. Some prospects will be able to mentally fill the space up with their furniture, while others are more likely to buy if the house is staged with furniture and accessories.
But staging does not come cheap. According to Realtor.com homeowners can expect to spend $300 to $600 just to meet with a professional home stager – and then an additional $500 to $600 per room for staging. The budget for staging a room using AR is much less expensive, averaging $40 to $50 per photograph.
There are quite a few virtual staging companies out there, some will only work with your REALTOR® and others like Virtual Staging Solutions will work directly with homeowners. The type of services that companies like Virtual Staging Solutions provide can also be useful for buyers who want to visualize what a house for sale would look like with renovations before deciding to extend an offer. They can virtually knock down a wall or switch out the kitchen cabinets to glimpse at future possibilities.
There is no “right way” to buy or sell a home. If you’re not comfortable using technology in your home search or sale, your REALTOR® will work with you in whichever manner you prefer. But if you’re too busy to physically view every home you’re considering, or need to decorate an empty house without a furniture budget, the options to do so virtually are there for you.
BY TANYA SVOBODA
National Associations of Realtors
Posted On: September 23rd, 2019 10:00PM
If you are visited by someone from the Census Bureau, here are some ways to verify the individual is a Census Bureau employee:
The field representative will present an ID badge that includes:
A field representative will be carrying an official bag with the Census Bureau logo or a laptop for conducting the survey.
The field representative will provide you with a letter from the Census Bureau on official letterhead stating why they are visiting your residence.
Field representatives conduct their work between the hours of 9am and 9pm, local time.
Upon request, the field representative will provide you with their supervisor’s contact information and/or the phone number for your Census Bureau Regional Office. The Regional Office supervises the activities of all field representatives in your area.
If you wish to independently confirm that the person at your door is a Census Bureau employee, you can enter their name in the Census Bureau’s staff search website, or contact the Denver Regional Office for verification at 1-800-852-6159. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 7:00 a.m.- 4:30 p.m., Mountain Daylight Time.