Ahead Of The Curve: Tech-Savvy Customers Are Transforming The Property Market Today's tech-savvy millennials, who have information at their fingertips, have underlined the need for a new business model that the property sector cannot ignore.

By Cecilia Reinaldo

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Today, we are witnessing an amazing convergence of digital technology in the real estate sector. The property market is indeed at the intersection of several tech forces that together will define the future of how the industry evolves.

These forces of digital change, such as fintech powered by financial startups, smart cities and smart contracts drive by blockchain technology, contech (construction startups), and proptech (property startups) are driving fast-paced change that has underpinned the need for not just developers, but every stakeholder in the real estate industry to adapt, change, and evolve.

The most profound influence that has driven this transformation comes from none other than the customer. Today's tech-savvy millennials, who have information at their fingertips, have underlined the need for a new business model that the property sector cannot ignore.

It is a two-way street: digital-savvy customers are driving the property sector to be digital-first in their strategy, and in doing so, customers are more tech-empowered to make the right decisions in real estate investment.

The digitization of the real estate market has its roots in the evolution of big data and advanced data analytics, which enable property companies to gain unprecedented insights on customer behavior and aspirations. Companies that have chosen to leverage this data and innovate are the ones that are making headway in property sales, irrespective of market challenges.

Simultaneously, the practical application of blockchain technology, reflected in the Dubai Blockchain Strategy that is embraced by Dubai Land Department as it moves to implement "smart contracts," which reduces the time for completing transactions, as well as advances driven by artificial intelligence, such as real estate robots, have opened up new opportunities for property sector stakeholders to enhance their engagement with customers.

The tech-savvy digital natives -our new customers- are increasingly going online for anything from property search to purchase. According to the National Association of Realtors Research Group's Real Estate in a Digital Age Report, 99% of millennials search on online websites for property purchases, with only 56% visiting an open house, and nearly as many found their house on a mobile device. Photos and online information about properties were more important to millennials, and nearly half of them reported that virtual tours are important in decision-making.

Millennials are also exploring new ways to invest, such as through crowdfunding, and seeking ways to avoid interactions through middlemen. Further, new fintech platforms are offering options to invest in funds that enable investors to make a single investment and immediately own a diverse portfolio of real estate assets.

Property companies, too, are responding to the shift through digital tools such as chatbots and the adoption of virtual reality and augmented reality to take potential customers through 3D tours. Such tools for informed decision-making are crucial to engaging customers who are increasingly conducting every process in the real-estate purchase journey with the click of a button on their smartphones.

The digital model of doing property business has transformed traditional norms of advertising and marketing, too. With mobile-friendly websites and other online-driven initiatives, they are making the process of property research and purchase simpler and easier.

In this changing market dynamics, it is important for real estate agencies to adapt to the new models. They will need to focus on creating real value for customers, especially as peer-to-peer marketing takes the upper hand with only the buyer/seller or tenant/ landlord transacting money,
as technology increasingly eliminates any third-party in the transaction.

With the internet changing how real estate is delivered to customers, it is important to be more social, and leverage real estate reporting software to manage business more effectively. An active presence on social networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram, and the use of blogs and vlogs are all imperatives to succeed in engaging with the customers.

Technology will continue to evolve, and customer expectations will keep changing as tools and resources get smarter. The real challenge for the real estate industry is how quickly businesses can adapt and change with time, and leverage applications for the benefit of the consumer experience.

It's a challenge to stay ahead of the curve, but the key is not to fall behind.

Related: Five Reasons It's The Right Time To Tap Into The Middle East Fintech Industry

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Cecilia Reinaldo

CEO, Home Owners Direct

Cecilia Reinaldo is the CEO of Home Owners Direct, an e-commerce property portal that has marked a regional first in the property sector with its comprehensive technology-driven platform that connects property owners with buyers and tenants directly for free. On this UAE-based digital platform, they can meet directly to negotiate and reach private agreements on property sales and rentals. 

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