(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) 'Come on Omar, do you really believe people could eventually buy property online?'
If I had a dollar every time I heard that, I'd instantly close our series A round (and we're shooting for $10 million). The short answer is 'yes' and this article discusses, in simple terms, why.
Technology drives transparency
Anytime an industry develops many friction points and multiple layers between buyers and sellers it is bound to be disrupted by a technology driven marketplace.
The real estate market has operated with the same model well before the term 'realtor' was penned in the early 1900s. Slight modifications to the model have since taken place with the introduction of the internet but even classified ads first appeared online in 1994, that's nearly 24 years ago.
While the construction industry is constantly being disrupted by technology be it in material development or building technologies the buying and selling process - barring a few (cool I might add) tech features added to online listings along the way - at its core, has not. There are as many as 16 touch points between real estate buyers and sellers where, at each juncture, lies a potential for miscommunication, misinterpretation or simply lost data. Creating a platform where buyers and sellers meet, where information is streamlined and personalised and where market forces could take flight, is where we believe the next disruption lies.
Real time market coordination
Once information is transparent, risk is reduced and decisions could be made faster and, once that happens, a marketplace is created which inevitably attracts more buyers thereby increasing values. Imagine a world without the stock market. What would happen to companies' stock prices? The answer is simple, they remain low or suboptimal. Not having a marketplace where transactions happen seamlessly, transparently and quickly discourages new entrants (buyers) which in turn keeps prices low.
Creating real time market coordination where sellers can easily and seamlessly sell their property is no different, it attracts more buyers to the market which in turn drives prices up. Ensuring this happens on an impartial platform where the only focus is transparency and efficiency, delivers more trust in the process and in turn reduces risk and cost of ownership which of course increases value.
If emotions play a role in buying
'People need to feel connected to the home, technology strips that away.'
Put aside that I run a tech startup that is driving people to buy properties online, my fundamental issue with this statement is actually a lot less biased than you think, it's that this statement is simply not true. Of course, there is merit in perhaps viewing a property and we incorporate that into our processes as a company, but to think technology strips away emotions is equivalent to refusing to listen to music unless you're seeing the artist live in concert.
Back to property, one's knee jerk defence in this case would be to compare buying online to buying property off-plan, where you're literally in some cases buying an idea, a plan, a design - of course with the necessary regulatory structure in place to safeguard your investment etc - but I will elaborate beyond that point (buying property off-plan) to explain just how much technology could enhance our emotional experience rather than diminish it.
Let's look at the emotional touch points or signals that normal buyers look for to make a 'buy decision' and compare that to what technology can do to emulate and in many cases enhance those signals.
Seeing is believing: The first touchpoint and perhaps the strongest signal would be to actually physically see the property. Well that one is easy, camera technology has come a long way in just the past decade and I'm not only talking about 20 megapixel phones, I'm talking about virtual reality and 360 degree pictures that literally give you eyes on the back of your head and enable you to walk around your would-be property from the other side of the planet.
Hearing: Of course, basic and easy for technology to relay this information, but let's go a step further shall we? You're 55 years old sitting in your home in Cairo enjoying a nice virtual tour of a property you're interested in Dubai when, all of a sudden, Umm Kulthum starts setting the mood - while simultaneously, another viewer in NY, same age, starts listening to Sinatra; Technology can seamlessly, instantly and in a very relevant way enhance one's experience, even when making such an emotional decision as buying a home. But what about imagination? Easy.
Instant staging: How many of us have walked into our future property and tried to picture where the sofa goes? Well how about a software instantly staging your home while on your virtual tour? Wouldn't that not only enhance your experience but also enable you to literally see what our next home looks like - add some AI on there and you've got a Feng Shui design or a seamless real time Vastu check.
Smell: Fine, perhaps not entirely solved remotely. yet.
We can of course go on and on about technology that we could easily incorporate to other technology we could easily develop, the point is, we can harness the power of technology to positively impact the home buying experience.
Imagine a world where someone sitting not just in the UAE but in India, China or Saudi Arabia was able to browse, view and buy property from their mobile phone. The beauty of technology is that it simplifies our lives, enhances our experiences and while many will always doubt its role in one of the world's oldest and largest industries, technology is bound to change the way people buy and sell property simply because it makes it easier.
The writer is the co-founder and CEO of Sellanyhome.com. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.
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