You will all have heard about how necessity matters when it comes to invention. This couldn’t be truer in encapsulating the times we are living in and the changes we are witnessing in our interaction with the world and the way we conduct business.
In the face of the pandemic and a call for social distancing, most businesses are turning towards tech to evolve. Real estate brokerage firms too face this shift in the accepted way of going about their operations. One-on-one interaction has been the core principle on which brokerage is based on, but as the rise of digital channels has proven, there is more than one way for it to take place.
Keeping the current scenario in mind and the challenges it poses, brokerage firms in Dubai too need to step up and embrace technology — or else they will be gasping for breath. New technology can capture 3D walk-throughs of apartments, villas and communities, provide for multiple overhead map images, and 360-degree panoramas, giving the prospective buyer/tenant a good idea without them having to visit the property.
A broker has to quickly start adapting these tools to provide perspectives of both residential and commercial properties to clients from the comfort of their homes. Gradually, brokerages will have to streamline the purchase process where most of the paperwork and execution will require very little physical interaction.
US-based tech start-ups such as DocuSign and Dotloop are examples of innovators that have enabled the property transaction process to be done online by enabling e-signing of relevant documents.
A ratings system?
Being relatively less complicated and more process-driven, the rental and property management market is ripe for disruption with new and innovative online platforms surfacing as we speak. Not only will prospective renters be able to take virtual tours of each listing, use their smartphone to open digital locks, submit paperwork and pay rent online, they will be able to choose brokers/firms on the basis of online reviews.
This can even be extended to landlords, properties and tenants, with those doing the checking able to take decisions based on a plethora of reviews from over the years.
So much so that pricing will become more transparent as technology takes over.
Pay by the reviews
It isn’t far-fetched to say that brokers can be given ratings and will charge a fee accordingly. Likewise, even properties with good ratings can, perhaps, command a premium, and tenants with a good track record will be welcomed with discounts and incentives.
While brokers are being forced to accept this reality and embrace technology to carry on with their business, it should not be taken as the be all and end all. Primarily, real estate is about understanding the space where people live and work, and how their requirement changes with time.
Would it be possible for digital tools to gauge emotions and empathise with the aspirations of a person buying a home? A property consultant with the right amount of knowledge on market fundamentals and negotiations will be irreplaceable. Technology can only help with capturing data on broad trends ‑ but understanding them in regards to the supply-demand ratio and shift in priorities of a client will be the prerogative of a good broker.
For instance, location has always been the most important factor with property. With citizens being forced to spend more time at home and remote-working becoming a norm, office locations will soon be of secondary importance.
Proximity to restaurants and schools will also lose charm as a buyer or renter will scout for homes that are further in the burbs so that they get more space for their money to set up an office, an entertainment room, and a study for undisturbed sessions.
We are already seeing an upsurge in demand for villas or townhouses that are equipped with a backyard, a small garden, or even a terrace to create a safe haven. This is where technology cannot replace a broker.
The global health pandemic is forcing everyone to try and adapt to a reality that is evolving daily, wherein safety is the top priority. But we have to remember that these strange times too shall pass.
Meantime, brokerages should use this time to upskill their teams and adopt newer technologies available to them.
— Niraj Masand is CEO of Artha Realty,