The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world and triggered changes in home shopping behaviours that are likely to have lasting effects
When people consider buying a home, they largely rely on the opinions of the real estate broker, friends or family post which a site visit would help them to seal the deal. However, post the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic, site visits were not feasible due to which agents and even marketing teams of big developers began to look beyond the ‘traditional means’ to reach out to buyers. Hence, technology came to the rescue of the real estate sector, and has not only led to a revival in sales, but also eased the home-buying process to a large extent.
An end-to-end experience
The lockdown experience has invariably improved the digital literacy of people across demographics and geographies. And this shift pushed real estate brands to transition to digital platforms and coordinate with potential buyers and sellers. While we did have active digital channels pre-pandemic, they contributed to a relatively smaller portion of our sales. Post-pandemic, however, we are seeing the share of digital sales increasing from six-eight per cent to over 35-40 per cent and we expect it to grow further as people get more comfortable with the digital medium.”
Benefits of digital transformation
Though developers have been increasing their digital presence to reach more buyers, many have tipped their hat towards the government who did its bit towards bringing tech into real estate.
Technological advancements in real estate were traditionally happening at a slow pace. However, the onset of the pandemic has steered an accelerated digital transformation. While the industry is identifying the potential of technology, the government is also coming up with various initiatives to drive technology adoption in the sector. The government’s flagship campaigns such as Digital India, Smart Cities Mission, etc are accelerating the holistic use of technology in real estate. The technological advancements adopted by PropTech players are predicted to create a digitally-driven sector and sustain its place in the longer run.”
Site visits reign supreme
The advantage of looking for a property via a virtual tour means that the buyer knows what is in store for them before the physical site visit. This is not only convenient (as one could simply drop the idea of visiting the site if the pictures did not appeal to them), but also helps them to be more prepared during the physical visit with pertinent questions.
We believe the future of home-buying will be hybrid and that buyers’ decision-making will depend on their online as well as offline sales experience. Home-buyers are using online platforms to shortlist their properties via listing websites, getting acquainted with the project via virtual tours, 3D floor plans, etc – but when it comes to finalising a purchase, most still want to visit the property physically.
A long road ahead
Even though India is a large market, it is still playing catch-up with the rest of the world. There is no doubt that the digital-first approach is becoming more mainstream for both, developers and home-buyers. AR sightseeing, online open houses, and virtual bookings have all become more prevalent. While only a few developers have used digital solutions so far, we expect to see digitalisation become more widespread in the business this year, with ‘smart’ contracts and unique virtual experiences for home-buyers becoming more commonplace. With Covid-19 restrictions getting eased now, there may be a slight shift for home-buyers and they would revert to the old-school form of home-hunting site visits, but in the long run, digitisation will play a significant role.”
For many buyers who benefitted from low interest rates, tech interventions have helped in making that decision faster. In early 2021, despite Covid-19 fears, I was still searching for a home because I didn’t want to lose out on the benefit of low-interest rates. So while working from home, I began following the social media handles of real estate developers and advisors. I conducted my due-diligence online and thereafter, physically inspected the flat. Luckily, the pictures uploaded online were not deceptive. Hence, we booked a new ready-to-move-in home and moved in after a few modifications three months later.