Access to real-time data and VR tech is a top concern for developers and brokers: TRD panel

Beth Butler, Diego Saavedra, Richard Sarkis and Hiten Samtani
Beth Butler, Diego Saavedra, Richard Sarkis and Hiten Samtani

South Florida developers, brokers and investors are slowly embracing virtual reality tours, immersive online presentations and data collection applications as tools to help them find and close deals, according to a panel of tech savvy real estate professionals.

“The best brokers and developers are using data applications as a complement to their Rolodex and local knowledge they have curated over their professional career,” said Richard Sarkis, CEO of Reonomy, a company that has developed a wide-ranging search application for commercial real estate markets. “I don’t see it as a replacement for that human connection, but the goal is to provide a tool that makes data collection easy to digest.”

Sarkis joined Compass Florida President Beth Butler and Diego Saavedra, vice president of sales for ArX Solutions, which develops virtual reality tours of residential projects, during the last panel of The Real Deal’s Broward County Real Estate Showcase & Forum on Thursday. Butler provided insights into a mobile application developed by Compass that gives real-time national data to potential home buyers and renters.

“We don’t just rely on the [Multiple Listing Service] for information.” Butler said. “We use other sources for the base of information. You can see an entire building and what every unit sold for — and not just the ones that sold in the last 24 months.”

Compass’ team of more than 50 software engineers then take that data and make it simple and easy for people to digest, Butler explained. “It’s like the Pinterest of real estate,” she said. “Instead of sending a link with a readout, it’s a nice, beautiful presentation of properties you want to look at.”

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Both Butler and Sarkis assured brokers attending the panel that the applications are not designed to replace them.

Saavedra said ArX is helping South Florida developers and brokers showcase their projects across the globe with a click of a button. He said the company is already working with companies such as the Related Group, Property Markets Group and ISG.

“A lot of developers are starting to think ahead,” Saavedra said. “Most realize that they have to change how [they] reach new clients. They are starting to test out the technology.”

Still, a slowdown in the real estate market could dampen developer interest in new technology tools. “When the sun is out and everyone is making hay, companies are more willing to spend on technology as a money generating tool,” Sarkis said. “But when there are headwinds, they start seeing tech as more of a cost center.”