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Technology transforms real estate market

Technology is changing the way the real estate business is conducted.

Instead of trying to describe a property's location and look to a potential buyer, an agent simply has to log on to a computer or smartphone, to show them photographs and even get up a website like Google Earth to show them the outside, setting and location. Some agencies are even starting to use drones to get a closer - and perhaps more up to date - visual of the property.

Finding and acquiring locations for residential, commercial and industrial development may still require a street-level knowledge of places where growth is likely, however.

"We would not look at acquiring a piece of land without understanding where it is, and Google Earth is good for places that aren't close to headquarters," said Kira Sterling, chief marketing officer at luxury home builder Toll Bros.

"... The ability to use Google Earth to determine the location and proximity to transportation and amenities allows us more room to explore opportunities," Sterling said.

But tech tools can offer agencies an almost grounded view of properties from far away.

The tech cycle starts at the most basic level: Using a smartphone to take a few pictures, determining an address, and looking at it on a mapping system, such as Google Earth view, says Philadelphia-based Local Development marketing director George Polgar.

But "the problem with Google Earth is that what you are seeing in 2014 might have been taken in 2011," said Michael Duffy, an agent with the Philadelphia-area real estate firm owned by his father.

While drones - unmanned aerial vehicles with cameras attached - are being used by some real estate agents because they get up-to-date visuals, there are questions about privacy and the use of images taken with them.

Still, at Christmas, Duffy said, he and brother John Duffy Jr, also an agent, exchanged tech gifts: a drone, that cost $US600 ($A642) on the internet, and a GoPro camera (about $US200).

A drone, measuring 45cm by 45cm, is manoeuvred using a controller with joysticks and its mounted camera takes video which is downloaded into a laptop.

What results is an aerial view closer to a property than can be taken by plane or helicopter and one which enables views that otherwise might be hidden by trees.

But, a word of warning: With privacy an issue, "you need permission from the seller and (must) make sure that you don't infringe on the adjoining property," Duffy said.