The Future of Real Estate Lies in Tech

A South African Perspective

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By Margot Gutteridge

With the world catapulting towards the fourth industrial age, the real estate industry is evolving rapidly too, with nimble, digital operational models rapidly gathering steam. People’s lives have moved online and their real estate demands have too.

Prop-tech companies like PropertyFox are at the forefront of this digital disruption in South Africa. The online-only property company is using technology to offer more efficient and cost effective ways to buy and sell real estate. PropertyFox has saved consumers close to R10 million in fees since its inception in April 2017 – and offers a very transparent process which keeps the client involved throughout.

It’s this future-focused, digitally-savvy approach that led SA Home Loans to acquire a 49% stake in PropertyFox – an investment that will fuel the expansion of the business across South Africa, whilst facilitating continuous innovation.

Kevin Penwarden, CEO of SA Home Loans says PropertyFox’s business model is compelling as its success has been proven elsewhere in the world, “PropertyFox resonated strongly with us. We believe the rise of tech and its integration into every aspect of the real estate process is good news for the future of the industry, with Big Data, Virtual Reality and other advances already bringing about substantive changes that benefit consumers.”

Crispin Inglis, CEO and co-founder of PropertyFox says the industry is changing at a rapid rate, “Following the global credit crisis and recession, the number of practising real estate agents registered with the Estate Agency Affairs Board has gone from 80 000 members in 2007, to 30 000 in 2017. In ten years, the landscape has completely changed, with people attracted by the cost- and time-efficiency of finding property online. Ultimately, an approach which combines tech with a consumer-centricity is what the modern consumer is used to in other industries, and what they have taken to rapidly in the property sector too.”

The difference

  • While real estate agents traditionally take 6-7% commission, PropertyFox takes 1.5% of the sale price.
  • Having everything online makes for a far smoother, admin-free experience.
  • Subscribing sellers get added to a personalised performance platform where their homes are instantly placed on local and international listings.
  • Instant scheduling allows pre-screened interested buyers to select preferred viewing times based on the seller’s availability – the seller conducts the viewing.
  • Feedback is collected from buyers after every viewing and relayed to the seller.

In a recent ShareNet article, Mark Mayer an investment specialist at Discovery Invest suggests that – if you want to gauge the extent to which the internet has organically changed the process of buying and selling a house – you could try asking a traditional estate agent to find buyers without using a portal such as Property24. “Just wait and see how all these serious buyers that were perfectly suited to your property miraculously evaporate into thin air.”

Mayer says that, in his personal experience around property research, it is almost entirely conducted over the internet, and it is his strong contention that it is by far the most productive channel for lead generation utilised by estate agents today.

Inglis says that, very soon, long-term behavioural data, social media interactions, browsing history and psycho- and demographic factors will inform individual psychographic profiles for buyers. This will replace the generic browsing filters used today. Profiles will become ever more specific and buyers will be able to receive an instant response of relevant properties suited to their psychographic profiles. They’ll then be able to explore ‘matched’ homes through virtual reality tours, with haptic gloves and olfactory VR providing a multi-sensory feel for the environment.”

On the other side of the equation, he says sellers will be able to use big data to input highly accurate specs for their home and neighbourhood and then target an increasingly select group of ‘ideal’ buyers with matching psychographic profiles – it’ll become clearer who to target and how to target them.  Appraisals will be automated, with factors like congestion, noise and the Internet of Things taken into account. The whole buying-selling process will become more transparent and focused.

Market trend predictions will also become extremely accurate through artificial intelligence and data, making it easy to identify the ‘next’ hot locations and prospective market fluctuations. This means investors will have a very clear idea of where to buy for guaranteed ROI.

Read this and many more valuable insights into the South African real estate investment market in our free, monthly digimag!

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