Technology takes the real estate industry to the next level

Technology takes the real estate industry to the next level

Property technology has undergone unprecedented growth during the last year with record investments in the industry expected to top 2016 by more than $3 billion.

The global real estate online sector has seen dramatic transformation in recent years and new technology and innovations continue to change the way property is viewed and business is conducted.

This has resulted in fierce competition and estate agents are constantly searching for ways they can gain an edge in digital real estate marketing and, as potential consumers now have access to more information than ever before, agents are forced to find new ways to set themselves apart.

JP van der Bergh, founder of Propscan, one of the most technologically advanced new marketing tools now available in South Africa, says: “Key innovations that now give agents the necessary edge include the viewing capabilities of virtual and augmented reality technology and the increasing compatibility of smart phones with web platforms which has seen Google recently change its algorithm so that websites that are not mobile-friendly will face consequences.”

He adds that the SA property industry has been a bit slower on the uptake than its international counterparts, but abroad investment from venture capital investors into technology start-ups operating in the space has picked up exponentially in the last year.

“According to technology analyst company CB Insights In the US, by June 2017, investors had already invested $1.46 billion across 107 deals and, at the current run-rate, total dollars invested by the end of the year are expected to exceed 2016 by 25% to $3.4bn. Recent residential real estate start-up sites in the US have found considerable success, most notably Zillow, Trulia and StreetEasy.

“And recent research in the UK revealed that usage of property portals is now at a record high with 47% of the population having used a property search website in the last 12 months with the two main portals, Zoopla and Rightmove, increasingly being challenged by newer, proptech start-ups.

“One of the new kids on the block is OnTheMarket (OTM) which was launched in 2015 with the aim of breaking the so-called ‘duopoly’ in order to help reduce the cost of listing properties on online portals and ultimately taking back control of the homebuyer audience.”

Van der Bergh says that while digital solutions may have already made an impact on the property sector, property technology (proptech) which began to gain traction around 2013 has only just begun to reveal its potential.

“Virtually every part of the industry is set for change as proptech gains momentum, spurred by the fact that many of these technologies are converging to communicate with one another, working together to modernise and digitise the real estate market.”

Propscan utilises convergent property technologies to take online real estate marketing to the next level. Its virtual viewing technology allows buyers to inspect every detail of a property before setting foot in it.

The website and app are linked so each listing needs only be uploaded once and all properties listed can be viewed on both. The real time geo-location feature also enables users to see which properties are available in their area and to instantly ‘view’ them by pointing their viewing devices in the general direction of the listing that captured their attention.

  • Easy-to-navigate simplified lists of area-specific properties and real-time scanning of all the properties available in a desired area.
  • There is no longer any need to make a note of the listing number to include in an email to the agent – users can communicate directly and immediately via the direct calling/messaging function.
  • User-friendly search functionality has adjustable search parameters that allow buyers to eliminate all unsuitable options from the start.

Lew Geffen, chairman of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty says: “Until as recently as the millennium, estate agents relied largely on cold calling and telephonic inquiries to drum up business and showcase their wares, but the advent of online marketing and behemoth property search engines like Property 24 ushered in the digital era and forever changed the way we do business.

“Whether we like it or not, the industry will have to adapt to the changes as consumer habits have also been dramatically influenced by the technological advances and those who don’t keep abreast will soon be left way behind.”