Realty brokers adapt to digital savvy consumers

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Aden - Yasmine El Tohamy - Internet and mobile technologies are transforming the lives of real estate professionals.

Digital disruption in the UAE's realty sector is already a thing in past, what needs to be seen is how will the role of real estate agents or brokers evolve in this transition phase of seeking balanced ground between online and offline world.

The standard practice among most residents is to usually mark weekends to check on properties themselves to avoid paying huge brokerage fees. With digital disruption came property portals which started listing properties for buying, selling, leasing and so on... The disruption brought in technology advances like Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), which started grabbing real-time shots and property sales. Do all these trends make the job of real estate broker more challenging?

"These advances may have a great deal of pressure on our industry and brokers. We'll have to see what the times ahead will bring for us but we can foresee major changes. With the changes, clients may become more demanding considering we are in a service orientated industry. The service and the efficiency added by new technology will stand us apart," said Rakesh Mirchandani, director, KGR real estate.

With the property market contributing to 17 per cent of GDP per annum, the UAE government is actively driving digitally-based initiatives and which is affirmed with the launch of Real Estate Self Transaction (REST) platform among others.

Internet and mobile technologies are transforming the lives of real estate professionals by challenging long-held assumptions about the business. The role of the real estate agent is changing. Many believe the real estate sector will transform quicker in the next 10 years. Agents need to adapt to the modern consumer, or they face being left behind in a disrupted industry.

Rebecca Tyson, general manager at Terrapinn, said the role of real estate agents has changed dramatically in recent years. 

"The rise of real estate tech platforms such as Dubizzle, Property Finder and Bayut has forced traditional real estate firms to rethink their strategy, and that strategy must include digital channels. Customers expect real time engagement across multiple channels, and if agents aren't providing for customers in this manner, they are likely to lose the business," she said.

Today, technology is making it easier for real estate brokers to organise their clients, get them into property showings more quickly, while communicating effectively on property specifics; resulting in faster deal closures. The real estate broker is not just a facilitator anymore, but more of a tech savvy, connected and knowledgeable customer advocate.

Square Yards recently launched Square Connect, a mobile app for brokers that brings the best of social, research, listing and closing tools at the brokers' fingertips. The app has been well received with over 100,000 downloads and 30,000 monthly active users within just a few months from its launch.

"From breaking the real estate industry's information asymmetry barrier, to shortening the sales cycle to providing a top-notch home buying experience, waves of technological disruptions on real estate's time line will continue to transform the way we buy, sell, and search for real estate," said Tanuj Shori, founder and CEO, Square Yards.

"In today's competitive real estate markets, consumers are moving faster than ever, and agents, as a result are embracing new technologies for deep research, better comparative market analysis and accurate demand and supply match-making," he said.

Technology facilitates
While technology facilitates real time developments it will also call for digitally equipped staff and employees too. It may be noted that smartphone penetration in the UAE has already hit over 70 per cent which makes information easily accessible.

Mirchandani added: "The Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems are better and more advanced and the clients/ buyers or renters are able to see properties on the go or online at any time or any place. Nowadays, due to the technological advances a person can be easily multi tasked or can visit many places virtually at once. The visuals of properties are even better if we were to consider walk through or 360 degrees videos in which a client can simply see the whole property and at times even the surroundings, without having to visit it."

In the face of huge technology disruption and adoption in the real estate space, the role of the broker has evolved into that of a value player, opines Gallery Suites Vacation Rentals a subsidiary of the IBC Group Limited, which is backed by Khurram Shroff, chairman, IBC Group.

"Technology has given prospective real estate buyers and tenants access to dozens of channels from which to identify a property that interests them. The humble smartphone enables 24-hour, on-the-move browsing across apps, platforms and media with thousands of featured properties on offer. From showreels and drone tours, to augmented and virtual reality experiences it's now possible to get as close to a first-hand experience as possible, in an ins-tant and from a single location. While the presumption might be that this diminishes the role of the broker, it actually only redefines it. In fact, making sense of this sea of information and choices for the client, brings far more of the broker's expertise and industry knowledge to the fore, than was previously the case," said Shroff.

In the past few years there have been countless major deals in the Proptech startup space. At a conservative estimate $17 billion has been invested. Superficially technology seems to be the main story here. However, in the long run, it is empowered human capacities that will drive the real reinvention of possibilities.

A single real estate broker will be able to service a far greater volume of clients, far more efficiently and with much greater insight into their preferences, than ever before. Between data, connectivity, sophisticated pattern recognition and more, brokers will have such extensive support on tap, that they will be have more time to develop their market expertise and add value through their wealth of knowledge, experience and proficiency.

The change is inevitable for the real estate brokerage sector, the challenge is how to ensure that brokerage margins do not shrink, any suggestions? - [email protected]


Sandhya D'Mello

Journalist. Period. My interests are Economics, Finance and Information Technology. Prior to joining Al Khaleej Today, I have worked with some leading publications in India, including the Economic Times.

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