Online shopping and deals are putting face-to-face transactions out of style—report

Report looks at what the future possibly holds for the roles of mortgage professional and real estate agent

Online shopping and deals are putting face-to-face transactions out of style—report
A new report from HSBC Bank found that face-to-face transactions among mortgage brokers and real estate agents are gradually waning in popularity, amid more and deals being made via online channels and the applications that facilitate these.

Fully 74 per cent of Canadians surveyed in the study have searched for financing options online, and 77 per cent said that they used online tools to find mortgage products that they can afford. Meanwhile, 27 per cent of the respondents said that dealing with other people is their biggest pet peeve when buying a home, with price negotiations (22 per cent) and legal work (20 per cent) not far behind.

This is despite Canada somewhat lagging in terms of giving opportunities for consumers to complete transactions online, according to founder Rob McLister.

“The trend is starting to pick up steam but we are nowhere near the point where the average (person getting a mortgage) is going to close a mortgage online,” McLister told the Financial Post. “It is changing. You have banks promoting an end-to-end no-human-being mortgage process. You can apply online, upload your documents. You can do everything but sign the paperwork with a lawyer.”

The HSBC study further found that 29 per cent of Canadians deal with agents completely or mostly online, a proportion rapidly catching up with the 39 per cent of respondents dealing with agents completely or mostly offline. 32 per cent used a combination of face-to-face meetings and online transactions.

UK-based tech expert James Dearsley, who was quoted in the HSBC report, stated that physical visits are slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past.

“Virtual reality will allow home buyers to live in a virtual version of a home for several days to truly try before they buy,” Dearsley said, adding that “artificial agents” enabling smoother and easier transactions represent a very real possibility for the industry.

“The traditional role of the [agent] is ripe for reinvention, as we are already seeing through the rise of online do-it-yourself platforms that allow homeowners to market their own properties and negotiate directly with sellers,” he explained. “All houses may be sold this way in the future, with property websites offering end-to-end marketing, search, financing, negotiation, transaction and conveyancing services that significantly reduce the time and hassle for homebuyers.”

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