Multi-Touch Surface Technology for Real Estate

The technology playing field just expanded. A new multi-touch technology, incorporated into Microsoft’s Surface product, is due out before the end of the year. It’s being marketed as a corporate tool for restaurants, cell phone distributors, casinos and hotels on the Microsoft site.

As usual, when I see a great new tech tool, I begin to envision how (and if) it will be of benefit to the Real Estate Industry. In this particular case, I see a brave new world opening up for brokerages that lay down the $5,000 – $10,000 required to buy it. Rather than spell it all out, I’d like to create a scenario for you… on how YOUR office might function using this type of technology…

(Disclaimer: I’m NOT a Microsoft advocate. In fact, I’ve been decidedly ANTI-Microsoft for some time (since Vista) and blog about that fact regularly. Despite this, I’m truly impressed with this new product. It’s remarkable.)

Picture this, if you will…

You have a couple in the office to sign the listing papers. You were out taking preliminary photos earlier in the day, and now it’s time for them to sign on the dotted line.

While they are there, you place your digital camera on the surface of the conference room table. Immediately, all the photos you took of their house “spill” onto the surface of the table’s display. It looks like a physical stack of standard photos. Using your fingertips, and encouraging the clients to join your endeavor, you move the photos around to find the best front shot to use for the MLS.

You can resize, crop, move and organize all the photos in seconds — using only your fingers. Your clients are not only involved in the process, they are enjoying it. After all, it’s fun!

You take the opportunity when they are both smiling to snap a quick photo of the two of them and it spills out of the camera when you set it down on the table’s surface. You ask the wife to place their cell phone on the table. When she does, a circle surrounds the device and you drop a copy of the image of the happy couple on her cell phone — so she can use it later as wallpaper, you explain — with a one-second flip of your index finger.

You finish the selection of the photos for their old house, pull up the template to to make their home go live on the Internet. You transfer over the previous MLS listing on the property from the archives and you update it with new information quickly and easily. In a matter of moments you can show the clients how their listing will look online and they touch the “I approve” button and it goes live immediately.

Then, you begin showing them houses that are a bit larger and a bit more suited to their current needs:

  • You touch a menu to open a map of the city.
  • You select from the listed price range options.
  • You select the schools (elementary, middle and high) they are interested in their children attending.
  • Then you touch the neighborhood/subdivision option and all subdivisions in those districts with houses for sale in their price range light up.
  • Another touch and the school maps for each selected school overlays the subdivisions.
  • You press “show me” and a pile of photos materializes.

You say, “Here are the houses in your desired price range, served by the schools you want, in the neighborhoods highlighted here.”

As they are reviewing the home photos, you select the address on the map where the each of the adults work.

When they select several homes they like, you touch a corner of the photos to expand the information. They get all the MLS information on each home, the option to view additional photos as a slide show, and a calculated distance to each school and to each workplace — all with directions and an estimated drive time. The trip to each location is drawn in a different color on the underlying map.

You click a button to show amenities.

One tap brings up those in the subdivision and neighborhood. These are displayed on a zoomed in map and each appears named in bright, easy-to-read lettering. If your clients touch the park in Windemere subdivision where the first potential home is located, they get photos of the playground, ball fields, swimming pool and tennis courts. They also see hours of operation, can get scheduled events with a single finger tap and can visit the park’s website by tapping “Go to Our Website” on the table display.

When finished viewing information about this park, they hit “Close” and return to the zoom map with all the neighborhood amenities.

You also can show them amenities within walking distance, within biking distance and within a selected radial distance (5, 10, 25, 50, 100 miles). The map zooms out as needed.

You can show them public transportation options (bus routes/schedules, tram, train and airports) on the map, in relation to the home they are considering. Ditto for tourist attractions and natural wonders.

You then return them to the house itself.

They have the option to take video virtual tours or to view and/or download video podcasts about any of the homes onto their own portable device (by simply placing it on the surface and flicking the video image into the circle around the device). They can view and expand (or shrink) the floor plans and plats to see an overview or every single detail of the property — inside and out.

You invite them to virtually expand each of the houses that interest them for similar information and ask if they would like something to drink.

While you get their drinks, they review houses and play with your newest tech toy for a few moments in private. When you return, you set the drinks on the surface of the table and tiny virtual bubbles appear that react to touch. The clients both giggle as they chase a few around with a fingertip before getting back to the “work” of selecting a house.

Now, they are reviewing the homeowners association covenants on their top contenders.

They ask your advice on comparing a few of the properties. You offer information on the current market, on the potential for each property to hold, lose or increase in value over the next 5-10 years, based on historical market performance in that neighborhood. You explain this using graphs that you call up with a couple taps and can change from a bar graph to a line graph to a pie graph, depending on which you (or they) prefer.

When they select three houses they would like to see. You push a couple buttons to upload the lock box keys to your smartphone and you check the digital printout of the potential showing times that have been pre-approved by the current owners.

You schedule the showings for two homes late this afternoon and the third in the early evening based on the couple’s availability and send the scheduling request off with a single tap. Seconds later, an automated email arrives approving the showings and blocking out that time so there are no surprise appearances by other agents to show the houses while you are onsite. You place your own cell phone on the table surface and flip the information into it so you will have driving directions, details and all the information you need.

You ask the clients if they would like to send the information on these houses to anyone else via email for review. They say it would be great to send them to a member of the family.

In a single finger-tap, you pull up an email and drag the three houses to it. The email is sent while the multimedia presentation is automatically uploaded to your website. The recipient can view all the screens, videos, photos on the houses your clients wanted to share by clicking a single button in a personalized email and viewing them on a special section of your website.

You take your clients out for a late lunch, show them all three houses and they sign a contract on their favorite the following day.


That’s my vision of where the technology could go. So, are you feeling like the way you do business now will soon be the “dark ages” of real estate? Yeah, me too!

This technology is going to redefine the way we all do business — and it’s going to hit the streets by the end of the year.

Are YOU ready?

Are you going to be?