Due to lockdown and limited in person engagement the real estate industry has had to fast track the adoption of virtual and video tours, with some agencies already on the bandwagon and others having made no progress in this space.
That’s according to Antonie Goosen, principal and founder of Meridian Realty, who said many agents had to evolve and adapt the way they showcase properties to possible buyers as regulations during lockdown and people practising social distancing meant fewer on-site viewings.
And this is just one example of how technology can be used by estate agents to transform their business.
“The technology is available for estate agents who seek to do things differently. It is a matter of being willing to adapt, change and embracing new ways of doing things. For example, virtual tours are created using cameras that take 360-degree images of a space, creating near-perfect virtual representations of a space, to showcase it virtually.”
Goosen said Matterport is one of the major suppliers of these cameras and is one of the leading global spatial data platforms. “We have been working with Matterport over the past years and this evolved during lockdown to sharing virtual tours or property videos over video conference allowing for commentary and input from the agent during the tour with potential buyers.
“During hard lockdown between April and May 2021 we sold numerous properties using virtual viewings via Matterport or video tours that was facilitated with an agent.”
Goosen said the real estate industry needs to keep pace with the rest of corporate South Africa and to digitally transform the way they do business. “One way is to adopt technology to streamline businesses using property portals, social media… as well as other software and integrated applications to generate and nurture leads, reach potential buyers remotely, manage rentals and create brand affiliation.”
A good example, he said, would be to use customer relationship management (CRM) software to nurture relationships with potential buyers and sellers, connecting all data from sales leads and customers in one place.
“CRM systems contain contact information, purchase history, enquires, sales opportunities, and even marketing campaigns can be managed with a CRM. A CRM system can increase real estate sales with end-to-end sales execution introducing new efficiencies into the real estate industry. This is a far cry from paper notes, files and excel spreadsheets that many agents may be accustomed to.”
Another way of incorporating technology into a real estate business is by using property management software in the rental space.
“This can assist agents to attract, screen, and manage tenants, respond to maintenance requests, and account for all of the expenses and revenue that go hand in hand with rental properties. This sort of software is not designed to replace the agent, but rather assist in rental portfolio management to enable agents to provide superior service to their clients.”
He said during the hard lockdown phases of the pandemic, social media became a critical tool for estate agents, not just a nice to have. In an industry that relied heavily on face-to-face interactions, transitioning from traditional marketing methods like print advertising and face-to-face meetings was not easy for some. Many agents were forced to increasingly embracing social media to showcase their value, and their properties, virtually.
Another trend is the switch from searching for properties for sale via a newspaper or neighbourhood ‘For Sale’ to Property portals and websites.
“Property searches can be targeted and done in real time and the results and hits are measurable. Portals allow buyers to view and compare a multitude of properties, whittling them down quickly to the ones they are most interested in. This saves time for buyers and sellers. Some properties sell before they have their first show day,” he said.
“By being an early technology adopter, estate agencies can position themselves and their properties competitively to take advantage of the continued demand to buy property in South Africa at the moment.”