Predicting the Future of Real Estate

By Erica Christoffer, Multimedia Web Producer, REALTOR® Magazine

A few months ago, Dan Burrus was sitting in a café in Istanbul making a call to his wife in Barcelona using Apple’s iPhone-to-iPhone FaceTime video chat. He was able to see her in high definition and hear her as clearly as if she were sitting next to him, even though he was in the Middle East and she was in Europe.

This example of technology provides us a small glimpse into our future, says Burrus, a futurist and author of Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and do the Impossible (HarperCollins, 2011).

Are you interested in predicting the future? Try this:

How much do you know about the iPhone 6? No one’s talking about it because we don’t even have an iPhone 5 yet. So you might say, “I don’t know anything about it.” But in actuality, you know a lot, says Burrus. Will it have a faster processor than the iPhones that came before it? Of course it will. Will be have more memory? You already know. Will it offer more cloud computing  options? You bet. Might we be able to tap into a “Watson” computer in the cloud, giving us a supercomputer in the palm of our hand? The possibility is very likely.

There has never been more opportunity than there is today because technology is leveling the playing field, Burrus says. He predicts that in the next five years, you’re going to see a continued technological transforming in how we sell, market, communicate, train, innovate, and collaborate.

“One of the reasons I did not call the book ‘Flash Hindsight,’ is because we’re already good at saying we should have done this or that,” says Burrus. “The beautiful thing about foresight is you can take actions today to shape that future.”

The Flash Foresight methodology can also be used as a crystal ball to reveal what’s in store for the real estate industry. Start by looking at something you already know will happen, says Burrus. For instance, there are 78 million baby boomers in the U.S. (about a quarter of the population), the oldest of which are currently 66. As a whole, they enjoy an active lifestyle and have done well in their careers. Now make some predictions about their housing needs. They won’t need a big house with five bedrooms anymore, and at some point going up and down stairs will be difficult. Are you starting to form a picture of the type of homes they’ll require?

“With mass uncertainty, you have to ask yourself, what are you certain about? Are you certain about nothing? Or are there things you do know looking  ahead?” says Burrus.

Now, approach your business the same way. What do you know will happen?

“Today, our customers are changing faster than we are and learning faster than we are, which can get us into trouble,” Burrus says. “We have to spend some time being strategic and anticipatory.”

Burrus suggests taking one hour per week to brainstorm where you want to spend your life and career in the future. Use that time to list your future certainties and future problems. Then think about how to solve/avoid those future problems.

Curious about Burrus’s real estate predictions? Take a look:

  • Smart phones and tablets will replace laptops as the mobile professional’s primary computing sales tool.
  • eSignatures, such as those enabled by companies like DocuSign, will increasingly be used for paperless transactions.
  • Texting will become more prevalent as a way of communication.
  • Home buyers will have more information available to them.
  • More home data will be available to make decisions.
  • Clients will have a higher expectation for prompt responses.
  • More pictures and video will be used.
  • More consumers will gather their own information.
  • Fewer people will have land line telephones.
  • Printed promotional real estate materials will diminish.
  • Smaller homes will be of interest to many more buyers.
  • Top agents in predictable areas of the country will increasingly need to be able to communicate in more than one language.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients better understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. Over the past quarter century, he has established a worldwide reputation for his exceptional record of accurately predicting the future of technological change and its direct impact on the business world. He is the author of six books and is a strategic advisor to leaders from Fortune 500 companies helping them to see invisible opportunities and solve seemingly impossible problems.

Erica Christoffer

Erica Christoffer is a multimedia journalist and contributing writer and editor for REALTOR® Magazine. She can be reached at

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  1. Anne Meczywor

    I agree with the predictions almost entirely, with one exception. I find that some consumers are really impressed with more conventional communication, such as a had-written note, from time to time. It has gotten to the point already in our techno-world that what is old is new again, and something “old fashioned” can be just the personal touch that sets one agent apart from all the techno-harried rest!

  2. This is difficult, because when you’re predicting real estate there are more variable then a iphone. How rich will people be….how will the laws be on selling homes, how different will the homes be….it all factors in.