27 July 2017

The internet has changed house hunting dramatically in a few short years. But new technology is set to transform the experience further, easing stress and helping buyers make informed decisions.

Many people already go online to research locations or check out plans on estate agent websites, for example. In the future, virtual 3-D tours of properties could become standard as headsets grow in popularity, giving a more vivid impression of what a property is really like.

Prospective buyers today use online maps with photos to recreate the experience of walking down the high street. In the future, commercial drones could give them the option of “visiting” neighbourhoods in real time, letting them check out how the area changes over the course of the day – whether they are interested in the traffic on the streets during the school run, or the nightlife as the bars and clubs open.

These are just some of the findings from a new HSBC study, Beyond the Bricks The future of home buying , based on consumer opinion surveys and input from an industry commentator.

Technology could also bring changes when it comes to securing finance, with automated mortgage advice likely to become more common.

Home buyers ‘want a quicker process’

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The human touch still matters when it comes to mortgages. People today are far more likely to trust advice from a broker than from a machine. Computer programmes are already capable of analysing large amounts of data far more quickly than a human, however. Artificial intelligence is constantly improving, getting smarter at “listening” to people, understanding what they want from a mortgage, and helping them focus on a shortlist of the most suitable options.

And when it comes to technology, attitudes can shift quickly: social media as we know it barely existed a generation ago, for example – today billions of people share their personal lives through online networks.

The final stage of buying a house is sometimes the most complex, including negotiating final price adjustments, signing the paperwork and ensuring that the money is transferred safely and on time. Here too, where local regulations allow, technology has the potential to automate parts of the process.

Programmes using artificial intelligence are already capable of collating much of the data needed to transfer legal ownership and drawing it up in the correct format, for example, leaving it only to be checked and witnessed by a qualified professional.

The rise of technology has implications for the professionals involved in the buying and selling process, including estates agents, lawyers and banks. They should be prepared for their roles to change significantly over the next decade. However, there will also be new opportunities for individuals and businesses able to adapt as house hunting goes digital. Property technology, sometimes called “PropTech”, is a fast-growing sector in its own right.

Above all, technology promises change for buyers and sellers – giving them information, putting power in their hands and reducing delays. Buying a house will always be a big decision. It needn’t be a painful one.

Read more about Beyond the Bricks The future of home buying in our media release .