What Pokémon Go Means to Home Agents, Buyers and Sellers
You’ve probably seen them walking in circles and looking intensely into their iPhones. Maybe even running into one another. Yes, Pokémon Go has become insanely popular among Millennials and Generation Xers. Estimates suggest that the game has been downloaded over 15 million times and now has over 21 million actively daily users and growing.
Besides you or your clients spending even more time on smartphones, what are the implications for the real estate industry in general and for agents, home buyers, and home sellers in particular?
Let’s start with the actual smartphone itself.
1. Risks to Your Personal Information.
For many real estate agents, the smartphone is a critical communication tool. What would work life be without it? Your phone often contains all your contacts, information about your home listings and access to other listings, your calendar with all scheduled appointments, and much more. If you play Pokémon Go – or your kids use your phone to do so – you should be aware that tremendous amount of data is captured by the game app. This information can be sold to third parties.
Early Pokémon Go users were requested to grant the app full access to their Google accounts, including email, photos, calendars, and stored documents. The game developer, Niantic, has said the extensive requests were in error and is working on a fix to address it.
As a general rule of thumb, pay close attention to the permissions you grant to any app you download on your smartphone, especially if it is one that you rely on extensively for work. An app might look benign, but the fine print in terms of what data it accesses and what it might do with that data can be troubling.
2. Target for Malware.
Any game with the popularity of Pokémon Go is sure to attract hackers who will create harmless-looking-but-unauthorized versions of the app and include malicious malware in them that can render your smartphone useless. IT security experts at Proofpoint recently discovered malware on an Android version of the game that was available for download outside of the Google Play store.
To reduce risks of any virus of malware infecting your iPhone or Android phone, always download apps directly from the official app stores – either Apple’s App Store or Google Play.
3. Data and Battery Hog.
Is your smartphone on a fixed data plan? If so, watch out. As opposed to most mobile phone game apps to date, Pokémon Go is a location-based app, which encourages users to go outside and explore. This can be great fun and certainly healthier than sitting, but it also means you will often not have Wi-Fi when playing so your phone will be using your cellular data plan to communicate your location-based GPS coordinates with the app. It also means a much heavier use of the battery. When not playing the game, be sure the app is fully turned off so as to preserve both data and battery charge. You want to be sure to get those business calls and emails when you need them.
So the game may be on your phone or your client’s phone – or not. But it is on lots of other phones out there. What else should you know?
4. Unwanted Crowds.
What if the property you listed is a "gym" or "PokéStop" bringing dozens of users in front of the home each day to play? This has been reported already by one homeowner in Holyoke, MA. According to the Washington Post, "Niantic has surprisingly few procedures in place for reporting issues with the locations picked for the game. Their site has a form for reporting issues with gyms or PokéStops and advises players who feel that a situation poses an urgent safety threat to contact law enforcement — and then reach out to the company."
Fortunately, the vast majority of gyms in the game are of public buildings and sites, so it is unlikely one of your home listings will become a significant destination for game users.
5. Rise in Private Property Trespassing.
There have been numerous complaints of users of the game trespassing on private property to “catch Pokémon.” The game does not give users the right to trespass. Home sellers should know their rights and not be reluctant to have them enforced.
6. Distracted Driving.
With users racing around to catch Pikachu, there have been numerous reports of distracted driving. In fact, in Baltimore a driver playing Pokémon Go while driving an SUV hit a police patrol car.
When driving to showings or taking clients to prospective homes, be safe and keep any smartphone use to strictly hands-free.
So what do you do if your clients – prospective buyers or sellers – are big fans and users of the game?
7. Game as Marketing Opportunity?
While at some point in future the game could be a marketing tool, during this initial craze we would advise agents to be cautious. Sellers should avoid using the game in such a way that encourages other Pokémon Go users to congregate at the house. Some entrepreneur businesses have already begun to take advantage of the game’s features to bring in prospective customers. For example, users can purchase “Lure Modules” – which can be seen by other users of the game – to attract Pokémon to that site’s PokéStop. This has proven popular with bars and restaurants. However, depending on your goals, this may not be a great marketing strategy for a real estate agency or an individual home listing.
8. Watch Where You’re Walking!
The game can be addictive. So much so, users have been known to run into each other or other pedestrians.
When with clients, encourage them to leave the game off – there have already been numerous trips and falls as players navigate the virtual game in the real world.
And let’s face it: your clients are looking to you to guide them in the real world of homeownership. Let’s keep it that way!