My father called me on my Ericson T10 and asked, “do you know how to use this computer thing with the numbers?” (a fair description of Excel by someone who refuses, even now, to have a mobile phone).
It was 1998, I had just started my army service, and my knowledge of computers was limited to some classes I had taken in high school in 1995 (programming in C). My response was, “not really”.
“Learn fast”, he said. “I met with this young guy at the bank. He was pressing some buttons on his computer and a bunch of numbers were coming out”.
I asked for guidance a friend who had rewired the sound system of his car using equipment that were far more expensive than what he was driving (he has since upgraded to using a robotic arm to plant lettuce on his veranda). “Buy a book and teach yourself”, he said.
Learning Excel by using a book whilst being on guard duty, resulted in a small problem when I went to university two years later: there was nothing in the book about turning on the computer itself. Which caused some moments of frustration on the first day after buying my first laptop. Yeap. True story. Total doofus.
After that, things became easier. I enrolled in computer programming classes that the university’s IT department offered and started playing around with some financial modelling programs which we could download for free. Dial-up internet became available at our dorms and by the end of my undergraduate you could even listen to a song if you had the patience to download it from Napster. Yeap. It was me, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs taking over the world.
Fast-forward 20 years later and WiRE is now collecting granular real estate data across Europe, aiming to be the infrastructure upon which others build and transact financial products and services. I am constantly amazed by the level of digitalisation and knowledge that is available: statistics from a range of government departments showing construction costs, unemployment, car registrations, etc, raw data from satellites mapping how fires are developing in real time, analytics showing the concentration of people by mapping their phone activity, etc. Scary. Amazing. Definitely Star Trek level stuff.
WiRE’s plan is based on a simple premise: products and services should be tailored to each property and shouldn’t be up to the client to do the tailoring on behalf of the seller or provider. Think about how you buy clothes in the real world versus the internet.
- In the real world, you go to the mall, visit your favourite two-three shops, try on some clothes that are at your size and colour of choice, pick the one you like, and pay. In the meantime, you need to find parking, walk around the shops, wait at the changing rooms, and (fake) smile to the bored (teenager) shop assistant.
- On the internet, you sit on your couch (being a good parent by watching Cartoon Network with your kids), go to a clothes aggregator, type the type of garment you want, the size, and the colour, pick the one you like, pay, and wait for it to arrive. You used some search parameters to narrow down the products, and the selection was tailored to you.
In the same way, if the real estate product or service provider knows the characteristics of the property you are looking for, then they can offer you appropriate products and services for that property, already priced for that location, level of risk, etc.
Give us time. We are getting close. And then we can unlock a whole new world of real estate related transactions.