In an interaction with Industry Outlook, Ankit Kansal, Founder & MD, 360 Realtors, shares his views on the current evolution of real estate industry in India and how it is adopting new technologies to undergo a transformation.
With homes becoming affordable and interest rates going down, there is an increased demand in real estate industry. As it recovers from the impact of the pandemic, what has changed in the outlook of customers as well as the real estate developers?
In the last 6 months, a lot has changed in the industry. Major transformations are taking place across multiple levers - marketing, sales, operations, and technology.
Despite renewed economic pessimism, the real estate market in India continues to bounce back rapidly. The crisis has reinforced the need for households to own a home. With numerous attractive payment plans, buyers who were earlier sitting on the sidelines are now entering the market. Lowered interest rates, stable property, and reduced stamp duty (in Maharashtra) prices are furthering the cause.
Meanwhile, investment activities have also inched up in recent times. Due to staggering financial markets, many investors now consider real estate as a haven to invest.
However, cautious buying continues to dominate the general lexicon across real estate buying & selling. Buyers either prefer RTM properties or going after under-construction properties from reputed developers with a good track record. Developers are also focusing more on the completion of existing projects rather than coming up with a slew of new launches. Developers are also concentrating a lot on coming up with new innovative deferred payment plans and discounts that are tailor-made to the current economic situation, which is a little staggering at the moment.
What are the major drawbacks of the current system of property search and investment in India? How can they be addressed to make the process simpler?
The current property search process in India is highly linear. There are search & discovery platforms available, backed by a large repository of property database. However, they can’t offer last-mile support in terms of the actual transaction. One has to keep this in mind that real estate is high involvement and without actual ground support, the search & discovery-based model will be ineffective. Hence one needs to develop tech-enabled models with last mile and post-transaction support.
How can artificial intelligence be used to make the buying and selling process more efficient?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Machine Learning are going to play a much larger role in a post-COVID world, which will emphasize a very robust and strong property valuation process. Buyers, sellers, and banks will use AI-enabled data analysis for property valuation, portfolio valuation, and collateral calculation. Multivariate data analysis will be used to make a very robust valuation process. This will make the entire process of property transaction very smooth, robust, transparent, and risk-averse.
How are virtual tours powered by AR/VR going to help the real estate industry in its imminent transformation? How should realtors adapt to the changing dynamics?
Despite big board room discussions, real estate has mostly remained an offline business in India. However, the recent COVID crisis is going to reverse this trend. Across the value chain, from the developers to the advisories to the homebuyers, everyone is actively embracing the new medium. Online launches of property, usage of video calls/ zooms/ webinars, and the enhanced interest towards virtual property show indicate that the times for digital makeover in the industry has finally come.
Amidst the ongoing digital transformation, home showcasing is also now becoming a blend of a rich experience and customer convenience. Potential homebuyers now realize there is no need to have iterations of home visits, as the same can be done virtually. In the foreseeable future, gamification, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, and animated home tours will play a big role.
It can be further customized based on the buyer’s requirements. For example, paint schemes can be changed, furniture can be added and alternate design patterns can be tried digitally. Similarly, layouts can be altered to give buyers multiple experiences and help them make informed decisions.
Already, numerous studios specialized in VR & AR-based technologies have started coming up in India. Developers and Realtors are also upgrading & embracing the new medium actively. For instance, at 360 Realtors we are also working on such technology-based products. Soon the market will see some exciting innovations.
How important has it become to engage with potential home buyers through an omnichannel approach? How should realtors strategize for this?
The traditional O2O (online to offline) model is now increasingly tilting towards online with offline coming into the picture only in the ultimate and penultimate stages of decision making. Realtors need to strategize accordingly. One needs to adopt an omni-channel approach comprising of digital, social media, virtual calls/ teleconferencing, virtual events, and of course final F2F meetings and site visits. The role of media and PR is also essential as it will play a significant role in information dissemination, addressing general pain areas, and building an overall positive sentiment. Likewise, analytics need to be leveraged to build a robust evaluation mechanism.
How do you see the future of the real estate industry in the post-pandemic era? How is the role of realtors going to evolve in the near future?
Real Estate in India is set for steady growth in the country. The Indian middle class is growing at a pace of 19.4% annually, outpacing its peers from the emerging world such as Brazil and China. An expansion in middle-income households with higher disposable income will continue to be a growth multiplier for the industry. At present, the total housing gap in the country is 30 million in the major metros and if not bridged, it will further widen. This additionally underscores the underlying strength of the industry.
The role of realtors will also evolve as their role would not just be limited to buying and selling but will extend to designing the entire customer lifecycle from search and discovery to the evaluation process to transaction and post-purchase cycle. In this regard, realtors would not just work as buying & selling agents but also as technology partners, knowledge consultants, & facilitator of CRM support functions.