Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Digital Keys will disrupt Real Estate

Who will disrupt Real Estate? – This was a question asked in a recent Techcrunch article – see here 

The short answer is ‘Digital Keys will disrupt Real Estate’.

If you walk into any Real Estate Office anywhere in the world, you will see a wall (usually protected by giant lockers) containing hundreds or even thousands of metal keys hanging up.

A metal key cabinet 

The last time I arrived for an open house inspection, I had to wait 15 minutes for the Real Estate Agent to go back to their office, and get another key, because they had originally grabbed the wrong one. This did not surprise me. The RE Agents are always in a hurry, and as they grab for a key amongst thousands, they could easily grab the wrong one - I can see this happening often.

A RE Agent using a code to unlock a  metal key cabinet

Recently we had an inspection on our rental property. The RE Agent had arranged in advance to come out to do the inspection, and they said they would let themselves in with their key, as we were going to be out, and we didn’t have a problem with this. Then the night before the inspection, the RE Agent rang to say they had lost the key to our apartment and ‘could we please be home’, to let them in. Again, this did not surprise me.

Digital Keys can make the RE Agent’s job so much easier – but at the same time, it might make them obsolete.

So what is this Digital Keys?
A Digital Keys Tap device can be installed on the door frame of any home in minutes, by anyone. The existing lock hardware does not have to replaced or even touched. Only the strike on the door frame needs to be replaced. It’s as simple as installing a doorbell. And it can cost less than $200. Once a Digital Keys device has been installed, time-sensitive Digital Keys can be sent to anyone, anywhere at anytime. The Digital Keys can be in the form of an access code, in a sticker, in your phone, or as we saw in the last post ‘in a NFC ring’. The Digital Key can be sent to anyone via text, inside an app, or in an email. You can learn more about Digital Keys here.

The Digital Keys Device

How will this disruption work?
Anyone interested in buying or renting a house, can simply register online their interest to buy or rent a house, in a similar manner to how you register at Airbnb. That is - you can use your Facebook account, job/personal/social media references, Linkedin recommendations, Drivers licence/passport, credit card details etc. This way a company will know you really do exist, you are legit, and most importantly, you are trustworthy – that is you are not going to steal a TV, or trash a house when you have self-service access to a house for an inspection.
Sign up

Then it’s really simple from here-in – after you’ve registered, when you find a house advertised that you are interested in inspecting in person, you can send an email/text/message requesting your desire to inspect the house, and then receive your once off Digital Key immediately sent to your phone to inspect the house. It will only work for the time you have requested (or a window of say 30 minutes). It will no longer work after the inspection. The time of your inspection is automatically logged in a management database.
Here are some questions that you probably have about the “self service inspection model”

Can people be trusted to go out and look at a house by themselves when there is no RE Agent?

If you were really intent on stealing people’s possessions, you can steal small possessions now, even with a RE Agent present at an inspection. The RE Agent usually hangs out in the living area, and you are usually free to explore other parts of the house, without them looking over your shoulder. Sure you wouldn't be able to walk out with the Big Screen TV from the living area with an Agent present.

So therefore if the biggest concern or problem with having ‘self service’ inspections is stealing big TV’s, then why not install a CCTV in the living room. A CCTV can be bought these days for a under $50 (the one in the image below can be bought for $43 from here. Put a motion sensor under the TV, that triggers the CCTV, when someone attempts to move it, and wha la – problem solved. Better still why not lock up the big screen TV(or any other valuables) in a cabinet, cupboard etc, when you put your house on the market for sale or rent, and you are still living in it.

A CCTV and motion detector.

Are there examples of the trust/honesty system in houses now?

Airbnb has been enabling us to rent out people’s homes and houses now for a few years, and there seems to be only a couple of incidents of people’s houses being trashed or having items stolen in all that time. So perhaps the stolen goods/trashed house being a problem isn’t really a big problem after all. After someone registers themselves, and they are accessed as being decent folk, the details are stored and can be relied upon to chase you down if you do the wrong thing.

What about leaving the inspection, can the house be secured?
Well again it comes back to the Airbnb model here. If someone can’t be trusted to pull a door closed, or lock a back door, after they've done the inspection, then they shouldn't be responsible for buying or renting a house in the first place.  

What about people squatting in vacant houses on the market?
If someone lets themselves in with a time-sensitive Digital Key, then they won’t be able to open the door again. Sure they could open a window, and let themselves back in, and stay there as long as they want. But that’s where motion detectors and  CCTV and notifications come back into play. Install the motion detector activated CCTV in the living room or bedroom, have it set up so that it turns itself off for 30 minutes when people come over for the self-inspection, then its automatically switches itself back on again. If someone breaks into the house, alarms can be triggered, and police can instantly be notified with automatic text notifications.

What about signing the paperwork, and putting in offers, and contracts?
Easy – online forms. Any legal agreement can be entered into these days by filling out forms online, and clicking on accept Terms and Conditions buttons. What about the ebay model of bidding online for the house over a limited time period, rather than standing out in the street or in an office waving your arms around in the air?

What about a licensed conveyance – who will lodge the legal contracts?
There are plenty of companies with licensed conveyencers offering this service online or offline these days. E.g see this one here in Sydney offering the service for $690 http://www.sydneyconveyancingservices.com.au/

What about the sales pitch? – I like the RE Agent to tell me about the house and the area?
Get online – get an app. Like the Techcrunch article says – the Redfin app has the advantage of being able to give its users just about the same kind of information an agent would get from a local Multiple Listing Service. The techcrunch article goes on to say
‘We’re still working with agents and pay them fees (directly as least as sellers – and indirectly as buyers), even though we often know more about a house and neighborhood then they do. They do, however, have the key to the house we want to see and unless there’s an open house, there is basically no other way to get into a place that’s for sale.’
If you are still desperate to have a sale pitch done on you, go down to the local electronics store and ask them 'does this computer come with the Internet'. In this day and age with all the information at our fingertips, who needs the sales pitch?

What about Real Estate Agents and them advertising the property?
Anybody can put an advertisement anywhere these days. Anyone can market it through social media, or through marketing companies, or do it yourself - where-ever. In the past RE Agents had the advertising thing summed up. They had professional photographers to photograph the house, they had their own advertising networks, and their ‘winning spiels’ to put in the adds. This is easy to replicate.

Techcrunch is right to when it comes to private properties. They said ‘we’re still basically stuck with the same sales model today as somebody who bought a house in the 60s.
As  you’ve seen from this article, we attempted to explain that have all the tools and resources to self manage and to offer self service inspections, to save thousands of dollars in sales fees, marketing and advertising fee’s, and every other fee a Real Estate Agent charges you. Digital Keys are the key here, pardon the pun, to enable self service inspections and self management, and self sales. You can sell your own house, from anywhere in the world, for as  little as $200 for the Digital Keys device, and a few hundred for advertising, and the conveyencing fees for $600-$800

But here is the biggest problem we have found so far.

Who buys the Digital Keys device? A small device that costs less than $200 and can be plugged into other devices like CCTV, motion detectors, any existing software, or whatever, for another $100?

RE Agents, and Property Managers don’t want to pay $200 for the device – otherwise they will be out of a job. Renters can’t pay for the device because they can’t even put a nail in a wall to hang a painting without permission (even though the Digital Keys Device looks like a doorbell, and is as easy to install as a doorbell). So that leaves homeowners – homeowners are slowly warming to the idea of Digital Keys devices also known as smartlocks. Homeowners ordered 24,000 smartlocks in four weeks from August. They ordered 14,000 in four weeks from Lockitron. Homeowners are slowly starting to learn the convenience and security benefits in having Digital Keys – see our blog 40 reasons why you will want Digital Keys.

Our company LEAPIN Digital Keys has the tools, the resources, the tech, and know how for Digital Keys – see our website here. We’re just looking for someone brave enough to get behind us, and begin the RE Disruption. For more information contact us at steve@digitalkeys.org 

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