Digitalising the real estate industry

Digitalising the real estate industry

Tue 16 Mar 2021

While digital transformation has been disrupting all business sectors for many years, 2020 will be remembered for its particular impact on real estate administrators. A third of French respondents believe that artificial intelligence can be more efficient than a real estate agent. Moreover, 40% of those under 50 years old are convinced that the property sector could operate without humans. The real estate managers and administrators must take these results into account to ensure the survival of their services. What are the new expectations of owners today? How have administrators adapted to the crisis, and what strategies should they adopt to emerge stronger?

Technology and innovation at the service of real estate administration

Adopting a digital approach in a business where the physical good is the very essence may raise questions. However, its usefulness to the profession should not be underestimated.

Many management software applications allow real estate administrators to digitalise client-related documents and automate the monitoring of their activity. Customer accounting is another significant – and hence time-consuming – aspect of the real estate manager’s work. This is why management software companies have developed solutions incorporating automated accounting.

Other solutions directly facilitate the purchaser/manager relationship. 3D visits, remote inventories or automated rental files management are all valuable aids for professionals. Nor has co-ownership management has been left behind by these developments since platforms now exist for the straightforward connection of management and co-owners. Some even make it possible to respond to the owners seven days a week.

Better service quality, time savings, increased performance, and business-appropriate organisation are among the advantages that have convinced real estate administrators to turn to these digital tools. But what companies hide behind these new services?

A sector shaken up by the arrival of new players and the emergence of Prop Tech

Platforms that put professionals and private individuals in touch with each other are multiplying. The most widespread service is obviously the posting of online advertisements; customers have a vested interest in consulting these to facilitate their research. Professionals and private customers have been using them for several years, each to their own ends. But how can these new players now develop their activity and redesign the component stages of property acquisition so that they are no longer just tools for centralising information but real intermediaries between buyers and sellers?

Property and Technology (Prop Tech) is also playing a part in transforming the real estate industry, using innovative technologies and new models. It can support existing players by improving the customer experience or by introducing a service that replaces the existing offering. For example, iBuyers use Big Data to sell on private property online and in record time. In transactions of this type, there is no further place for traditional real estate administrators.  In contrast, start-ups offer services that support professionals: smartphone apps that put property managers and co-owners in touch with each other, 3D tools for visits, lease automation, etc.

Today’s real estate administrators can no longer rely on their network, their history or their physical agencies in order to survive. All the more so as customers expect them to provide much more than just a straightforward intermediation service.

Changing customer expectations

Not only has the digital transformation shaken up the services offered to individuals, but this diversity of new services has redefined the profession. The possibilities create new needs, and by definition change expectations: if further proof were needed, a third of French respondents in 2019 believed that a real estate transaction could be conducted online. In the Paris region, 45% of residents said they could imagine a real estate transaction 100% online.

The health crisis has only intensified this drive to digitalise the profession. Visits, prohibited during lockdown periods, have been redesigned; contracts have been digitalised; co-ownership general meetings are now held by video conferencing. Individuals can see some good practices in these services that should be maintained, and this is changing their selection criteria. 

To sustain their businesses, real estate administrators should speed up the introduction of digital solutions: operationally, but also in terms of the services they offer. In addition, the profession is reinventing itself and it is therefore necessary to learn to live with digital in order to be a force for innovation and to diversify “traditional” activities through the provision of related services. The health crisis has highlighted the importance of digitalisation to survival. Tomorrow, it will be vital to respond to customer expectations.

So to satisfy demand and deal with the competition, now is the time to incorporate the innovations on offer, collaborate with new market players, and keep a firm eye on technological advances. Digitalisation has been, is and will continue to be the aspect which will shake up the profession the most, leaving little room for stragglers.

This article was written by Claire Gueydan-O’Quin, Head of Real Estate Consulting Europe, and Marie Olivier, Real Estate Consultant at Mazars.

The data in the introduction are drawn from the survey “La Proptech vue par les Français” (OpinionWay x Hosman -in French)