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Residential Real Estate in the Digital Age

Category General News

It's generally agreed that the dawn of the information age was some time in the early- to mid-70s, and with each passing year the influence and effect of technology grow stronger and deeper. In the last two decades particularly there has been an exponential increase in the technological integration and digitisation of all industries, and the residential real estate market is far from exempt. But, how far will and should it go? Are we ready to go all in on the digital age, or is the human touch something that'll always be necessary?

Every day there are more and more menial jobs and mundane tasks being taken over by technology, and at a glance, it would seem that the real estate industry is prime for such intervention. Many of the day-to-day tasks of a real estate agent are monotonous and labour-intensive - think of data-entry, trawling through countless properties to find the few that meet a set of criteria, drawing up contracts (and filling them out), even responding to emails, and the list goes on. But there's something very important that they do that no machine, system, or A.I. can even come close to matching - adding the human touch. As Dr Andrew Golding, chief executive of the Pam Golding Property group recently wrote: "the role of estate agents as the trusted advisor, utilising technology as it evolves, continues to be extremely important and is, in fact, an imperative part of the real estate transaction."

He doesn't see technology as a threat, but as a tool to be utilised and turned into an advantage, "the issue of digital disruption has actually refined the service offering of a professional property consultant even further." But, it requires those in the industry to take note and step up. "The modern agent is no longer able to simply provide a functional service if they are to provide justifiable value for their commission. Today's professional property consultant needs to, among a range of other skills, provide insight, wisdom and personal value way beyond the basic contractual needs of a transaction."

Furthermore, he argues that "almost all property transactions are emotionally charged in nature", and that is an entire field with technology is still far from mastering. And even if that day comes, he is not concerned, "there is a very important role for an expert property intermediary in a property transaction, and I think that that is something that is going to stand the test of time."

All that considered, a recent offering from FNB is pointing in the other direction. As of 31 October, FNB clients "are able to list and sell their homes to other FNB clients" via the mobile app. The new feature eliminates the need for a real estate agent by making properties listed by clients accessible to "all potential buyers who already qualify for a home loan and have been credit checked". If there's a potential match, prospective sellers and buyers can communicate via the chat function of the app.

"With over eight million properties registered in the deeds office, we see a significant opportunity to become a game-changer in the property industry," said FNB Retail CEO Raj Makanjee.

Is this the beginning of the end of the property professional as we know it? We hardly think so, but it's a development that can't be ignored and will force industry professionals to prove their value to potential buyers and sellers.

Author: Berman Brothers

Submitted 27 Nov 18 / Views 90