The real estate industry has a complicated relationship with new technology.

On one hand, real estate agents are becoming increasingly tech-savvy to keep up with mobile consumers. Real estate firms, on the other hand, see tech adoption as a top challenge for 2018.

And all the while, real estate disruptors are helping buyers and sellers bypass agents almost entirely.

The vast majority of homebuyers already start the process online or with a real estate app. And reliance on digital services will only increase in the coming years. However, it’s important not to lose sight of what the real estate business is all about.

No matter what, the real estate business will always be about connecting buyers and sellers. For firms looking to withstand disruption, this means using new technology as a means to a customer-centric end.

The Future of Real Estate

There are so many moving pieces in the real estate market that you don’t have time to grow complacent. You always have to keep an eye on what’s coming down the road—not just to ward of disruptors, but also to meet homebuyer/seller expectations.

As we look to 2018 and beyond, here are some of the real estate trends that stand out to us most.

1. Younger Generations Are Already Here

Even in recent months and years, the sentiment in the real estate industry has been that younger generations are emerging as homebuyers. But the challenge is more imminent. A 2017 report from the NAR found that Gen Y and Millennials are already the biggest portions of the homebuying market.

And while Gen X came in a close second, you can’t rely on the older generations for much longer. When Gen Z enters the real estate market, you’ll see even more pressure to cater to digital demands.

But these digital demands aren’t for any specific piece of technology. Instead, you have to think about the overall experience. Are you delivering the on-demand access to agents that younger generations will expect? If you can maintain quality of service and make it available in the palms of homebuyer hands, you’ll have a competitive edge.

2. Dealing with Inventory Shortages

One study found that there were 12% fewer homes on the market in 2017 than in 2016. And worse yet, just over half of the available homes sat in the top-third of home values nationwide.

The result is a barrier to younger, first-time buyers. If the majority of your customers can’t afford most houses on the market, you have a problem. But you don’t have to just wait out the market until it turns.

The barrier to entry will be difficult to overcome for younger consumers who haven’t saved enough money. However, forming a deeper, more personal connection with buyers can help filter the available market to what’s within reach.

3. The Wide Availability of Real Estate Data

In the past, real estate agents were able to differentiate themselves based on proprietary data about individual properties.

Now, property listings, photo galleries, neighborhood school and security ratings, pricing history, and more are available at the consumer’s fingertips. In most cases, property data is no longer a competitive advantage.

However, 87% of homebuyers still work through a real estate agent. Because buying property is such a major decision, consumers still like to have an agent who can provide more granular, contextual insights than the high-level property data they can find on a website.

4. Specialization of Real Estate Agents

Real estate agents used to be able to sell the fact that they were generalists, able to sell any type of property to any type of buyer. The process was mostly the same regardless of vertical.

But because data and technology available to buyers and sellers are so commoditized, it’s important for agents to specialize in a particular type of property. Knowing the best ways to present a particular property to a particular home-buying segment can make all the difference in the age of on-demand real estate.

Connect Buyers and Sellers Better than Anyone

At Layer, we like to talk about how conversation is the future of business. But when you look at the real estate industry, you realize that conversation is also the past and present. Think about all of these tech trends and then look at this example scenario of how the Layer Customer Conversation Platform can help you adapt.

Just because there’s new technology involved doesn’t mean we should lose sight of the conversation. Whether that conversation is between an agent and buyer, agent and seller, the buyer and seller directly, or with anyone else in the real estate sales cycle.

The goal is always to facilitate the buyer/seller connection in the best way possible. And now, that means bringing all of your different communication channels under one conversational umbrella. Maintaining the value of the relationship between agents and buyers/sellers is all about delighting them at every stage of the home-buying/selling journey.

I’d love to connect with you and talk about how Layer can help make this vision a reality. Reach out today and see how you can redefine conversations for the next generation of home buyers and sellers.