Speculation that Amazon might enter the real estate business began when a “Hire a Realtor” placeholder page appeared on the e-commerce company’s website earlier this week, according to GeekWire. The page has since been taken down.
Zillow, which offers a similar service, saw its stock price fall from $46.15 to $44.54 per share on July 12, when news of the Amazon page broke.
The suggested addition could be part of the company’s expansion into the service-provider arena. The company is already hiring in-house smart-home experts to provide free consultations and paid product installations, according to Recode.
Adding real-estate agent referrals would see the e-commerce titan join the push to digitize the home buying and selling process. A recent National Association of Realtors survey found that 95% of homebuyers turned to the Internet as part of their home search in 2016, and real estate agents are using technology more frequently to keep up with the trend.
For example, some New York City–based agents used the mobile image messaging app Snapchat to show available homes to rent or to own. Snapchat gives interested buyers and renters the opportunity to see inside available properties at a time and place convenient to them, and then serves as a platform for connecting directly with an agent for next steps.
Embracing technology has been especially important for real estate agents when it comes to working with younger homebuyers. This group is more likely to use online tools when searching for new properties than were generations before them, according to the NAR.
Meanwhile, an emerging group of technology companies is looking to make the homebuying process a more direct transaction between the owner and buyer. For example, OfferPad helps homeowners decide between selling their house to an investor or on the open market. Sellers can enter their address on the company’s website and can accept or decline offers that come through. Similarly, Zillow’s Instant Offers help sellers make a similar comparison by sharing investor offers along with a comparative market analysis from a real estate agent.
Don’t expect real estate agents to be removed from the equation any time soon however. Roughly nine in 10 home sales in 2016 included an agent’s help finding the property, the NAR reported. That could make real estate agent referrals a worthy bet for Amazon.