“Alexa, open real estate jokes,” says Doug Devitre, from the stage at the Real Estate REvive Conference & Expo at Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga. The licensed REALTOR® and Alexa developer made two things clear with his smart speaker interaction: One, that Alexa could use some practice with her comedic timing.
And two, that we already live in a voice-activated world, and anyone who ignores the technology, “will be at a severe disadvantage in a few years,” says Devitre.
“Ignoring voice first” – or #voicefirst as tech-savvy consumers put it – “is like ignoring social media or mobile apps. It only makes sense to embrace this new technology now.”
To help demonstrate the smart speaker capabilities, Alexa co-hosted last month’s conference—a first, Devitre says–with nationally-known speaker, author and top-selling REALTOR® Leigh Brown of North Carolina (Brown has better comic timing, she’s proud to say).
Real estate professionals learned that it’s in their best interest to embrace the smart home technology quickly. The demand for smart home technology is surging, with the National Association of REALTORS® reporting that 42% of homebuyers are already interested in smart home devices. And now builders are integrating the Amazon Alexa into new construction. “We’re at the frontier,” Devitre told more than 500 real estate professionals that came to the REvive conference from 11 real estate associations across the Southland. “We’re at the very start of this movement that will completely transfer the way we operate our lives, and our businesses.”
The sale of smart speakers has exploded, lead by Amazon Echo and Show models, with 71% of the market, followed by the Google Assistant and the Apple HomePod, just released in February of this year.
The Future Is Now
People are using voice-activated technology to turn on lights, lock doors, regulate the temperature and monitor their homes. That puts REALTORS® at the forefront of the movement.
“The future of technology is evolving so fast it’s important to arm our REALTORS® with the tools to help them guide their clients,” says Mark Epstein, CEO of Citrus Valley Association of REALTORS® and the person responsible for bringing Devitre from Missouri to speak on “A Voice-First World.”
“How do we control our own environment using the power of our own voice?,” Devitre asks, after demonstrating some of the smart speaker capabilities. “Should you have this and should you recommend it to customers?”
The answer from the audience was a loud “yes.” So Devitre recommends that real estate pros integrate their own homes first.
“If an agent recommends mortgage alternatives, electric safety tips, what appliances to buy, landscaping solutions, and decorating ideas, should they recommend smart home solutions, yes or no?,” he asks.
“Yes!,” the crowd responds enthusiastically.
Then he says it’s up to them to do the research, suggesting that they search the Amazon page for information on thermostats, locks, security cameras, home theater systems and more.
“One of my favorite technology tools for my home is the ring doorbell. It’s connected to WiFi, which will ring my mobile phone. So if I’m out and about, I can [still] answer my door.”
There’s already an Alexa “skill” for real estate created by the California Association of REALTORS®, adding to the thousands of skills that already exist, in the way that there are thousands of apps for your phone.
What Homeowners Need
So what’s needed for a homeowner to have a smart home environment?
“A consistently fast internet connection is required for a smart device system to work,” he says, and that depends upon the ISP provider. “The more smart home devices you have, the greater the need for faster Internet and/or a networking hub to strengthen the connection in larger homes.”
“It can be a little tricky the first time, just like setting up a computer, tablet, or mobile phone,” he says. “The key is to actually read the instructions, be patient, and when in doubt ask for help. Many people I’ve talked to give up too soon and blame the technology rather than assume responsibility for making it work.”
As with social media, some real estate professionals have been slow to utilize voice technology for business. Devitre suggest that they go into a store that sells the devices and ask a lot of questions.
“The faster you can get up to speed with what’s happening, the better you will be able to serve your clients.”