Internet changing model for buying a home

Are you ready to buy a house online, as you would a laptop or shoes? Rick Sharga sees it becoming co

Are you ready to buy a house online, as you would a laptop or shoes?

Rick Sharga sees it becoming commonplace within the next 10 years.

It’s what consumers want, says Sharga, chief marketing officer at Ten-X, a California firm that — no surprise here — offers a platform through which real estate can be bought and sold online.

But Sharga has other credentials, too, with stints in sales and marketing at technology firms Honeywell and Toshiba, and at consumer brands Pizza Hut and Acura.

Last week, he was a featured speaker on a webinar presented by the niche news site HousingWire on home sales in the digital age.

He apologized at the outset for using his own firm as the “best example” of where residential transactions are headed, but said Ten-X offers “a preview of what we’re going to be seeing in the future.”

The company was founded as in 2007 but changed its name earlier this year; its mission, as stated on the website, explains the new name: doing “everything traditional real estate does, only 10X better.”

Sharga sees residential sales following in the footsteps of other businesses transformed by the Internet, and called the evolution of the financial services industry “a good analogy.”

Before, if you wanted to do any investing, you hired a broker to do the work for you. Then companies like E-Trade and Scottrade changed the model by making web-based tools available so investors could decide how much they wanted to do themselves.

Sharga sees a similar a-la-carte or fee-for-service model developing in real estate, where data show that 92 percent of home purchases already involve some online activity.

Real estate agents, though, won’t go the way of the buggy whip maker, particularly among millennial homebuyers.

“They don’t want to do it themselves,” Sharga said. “They really want to work with a Realtor — they would like someone to hold their hands through their first transaction.”

Adam DeSanctis, a spokesman for the National Association of Realtors, said his group’s latest generational survey showed that too: that while most homebuyers begin their search online, they then turn to real estate agents for information and assistance.

Sharga predicted the new real estate model will entail working with a professional, “but only in certain aspects and in a very different payment model than we’ve seen in the past.”

And as consumers have used technology to disrupt other industries, they “are going to want to buy properties wherever they happen to be, whenever they want to be doing it, and on whatever computing device they feel like they want to use,” Sharga said.

Already, mortgage loans, title insurance and notary services – all part of the “real estate ecosystem” — can be arranged online.

So “it would not be at all unlikely that within the next 10 years, virtually all real estate transactions are conducted online,” Sharga said.

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected]

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