Proptech, and soon AI, to change house hunting

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From the traditional way of on-site ocular visits, property hunting in the country is now mostly done online. -- FREEPIK.COM

By Mark Louis F. Ferrolino
Special Features Writer

PROPERTY TECHNOLOGY is changing the face of the local real estate business today, offering boundless opportunities for both industry players and property seekers.

From the traditional way of on-site ocular visits, property hunting in the country is now mostly done online. Online property portal Lamudi Philippines, for instance, received 15 million user visits in 2017, clocking in a total of 2.7 million hours spent searching for properties online.

“More developers, brokers, and owners are now breaking the brick and mortar barrier to cross over to the click-and-discover business environment,” Lamudi Philippines Chief Executive Officer Bhavna Suresh said in a recent media briefing.

Lamudi has seen close to five times growth in its online traffic since 2014. This indicates that Filipinos are now accepting property technology as a tool in helping them make a major purchase decision.

In the years to come, property technology or proptech — which includes software, hardware and all kinds of innovation used to optimize the workflow processes of and address the market problems of the real estate industry — is anticipated to continuously fuel the local property sector.

Information from online-based portals will enable Filipino property seekers better understand the market and gather more consumer insights through big data. Ms. Suresh said data will become the most important source of knowledge in the real estate sector and it’s hard to question the value of it.

“These information — from unit types, sizes, and price ranges — can be used by developers and property owners to understand actual market insights and offer products that cater to the demands of the market,” Ms. Suresh said.

On the other hand, with the steady growth of digital native Filipino millennials getting into active economic participation and aggressive Internet penetration, Lamudi sees more property searches and transactions going online.

Ms. Suresh thinks that millennials — mostly composed of young workers — are more financially sensitive. “A lot of them want to invest, a lot of them want to make smart decisions, and a lot of them are very eager to educate themselves. That’s why a lot of information available online is catering to this segment,” she added.

In line with the government’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, Lamudi anticipates more demand for both residential and commercial properties. In this case, more properties will likely be advertised online, giving property seekers more reasons to utilize online-based portals.

Lamudi also says demand will likely get support from buoyant construction activity.

“It doesn’t need to be in certain markets anymore. People are not going to struggle to live closer to work but they will segment out. And that’s where technology will help… it helps you search better,” Ms. Suresh said.

In 2017, Quezon City properties account for the most number of listings online at 18% of the total.

Makati trails Quezon City in terms of share to total listings, at 12%; Parañaque and Pasig both at 8% each; and Taguig, Manila, and Davao at 7% each.

Quezon City also hosts most of the online property buyers in Lamudi, accounting for over 15% of the total views on the platform, followed by Makati at 10%. Property searchers from established cities outside Metro Manila have started to grow in the past three years.

To keep in touch with buyers who want to get immediate responses online, the real estate sector can tap the potential of artificial intelligence, Ms. Suresh said.

“Buyers want [developers and brokers] to get back to them in seconds, otherwise you lose them. That’s where AI (where there are bots talking and keeping the initial conversation going before the initial human interaction) comes when it comes to real estate,” Ms. Suresh said.

“I think AI is still far-off. It’s not going to completely change the way business is done but it will definitely become part of conversations,” she added.