“Back to the Future 2” got a lot right about the year 2015, but it’s now 2017, and we’re still waiting on hoverboards and self-lacing sneakers. What we do have, though, are some fascinating technological advances that are making it easier to buy and sell real estate.

From “Uber-ing” a home showing to staging a home without a single piece of furniture, here are the tech trends poised to drive home sales this year.


A.I. Assistance

 The idea of a robotic butler isn’t as far-fetched as it once was, but for prospective home buyers, artificial intelligence can be put to far better use. Instead of plugging criteria into search engine after search engine, buyers could simply command a Siri-like entity to “search for two-bedroom apartments in Henderson” or “find a property with a pool and a two-car garage.” Even better, machine-learning gives AI the ability to adapt to user preferences, so if someone keeps eliminating properties in a certain neighborhood or that are single-story, those parameters will be used to shape future searches.

For real estate agents who might be concerned that AI could put them out of a job, look at AI as more of an assistant than a competitor. We’re still many years away from artificial intelligence that can offer the same personal touch and customer service a flesh-and-blood real estate agent can, so your job is safe — at least for now — and having AI as part of your service package means there’s someone else to sift through data so you don’t have to.


Virtual Reality

 The U.S. economy and dollar are comparatively strong these days, leading a lot of foreign buyers to leave behind weak real estate deals in their home countries in favor of snapping up property stateside. Foreign buyers acquired a staggering $102.6 billion in U.S. residential real estate between April 2015 and March 2016 alone. Some of those buyers fly over to look at properties themselves, and some dispatch emissaries to do the home search by proxy, but what if you could show properties to investors thousands of miles away?

Static pictures and so-called virtual tours embedded on websites can only go so far, but virtual and augmented reality are opportunities to give out-of-state (or out-of-country) clients an immersive experience despite the distance. They can stand in their future backyard and gaze at the pool or walk around an expansive master bedroom and admire the crown molding.


Augmented Reality

 Augmented reality is similar to virtual reality but with enough differences to warrant its own mention. AR involves layering secondary data over an existing real-world environment to create an enhanced image. In real estate, this translates into the ability to show what a newly constructed property might look like on an empty lot or how renovations could restructure an outdated façade. You could even virtually stage a property, potentially saving thousands on rental costs and tailoring each virtual tour to a specific client’s taste.


On-Demand Home Tours

 Our society is busier than ever — hence the popularity of the technological advances mentioned above — and the traditional method of scheduling home tours in advance isn’t as efficient or productive as it used to be. An effective online listing inspires action, and buyers, fueled either by a desire to beat out the competition or excitement over the property, simply don’t want to wait.

Whatever the reason, buyers are clamoring for “see it now” services, especially in densely populated areas like NYC where an instant showing has particularly potent appeal. For agents, being called up for an immediate showing is like getting an early Christmas gift — the buyer is motivated, already showing a sense of urgency, and there’s no risk of scheduling an appointment only to be faced with a no-show.