How is digital tech disrupting real estate?

How is digital tech disrupting real estate?
Olivia RoundMarch 4, 2020


Real Estate isn’t an industry renowned for its propensity for embracing new technologies and innovation. In fact, the industry has evolved very little in Australia and internationally over the last half a decade.

Now, however, the rumblings of change are being felt in real estate offices around the world, and Australia is no exception. With investment in real estate technology in 2017 reaching $7.65 billion — 36 times higher than it was five years previously — we’re seeing a seismic shift in attitudes towards progression in the sector.

In any other field, companies are having to learn to swim in the sea of new tech available on the market, because without learning fast, drowning is inevitable for any organisation. This is finally becoming the case for real estate agencies.

Research from Unissu explains that since 2013 there has been a huge 428% growth in the number of PropTech companies in existence in Australia, illustrating just how vastly intense the progression of this national industry upswell has been. Although it may be easy to claim causation of such a spurt to be the direct result of successful research and an international drive towards tech-focussed business models, the rising implementation these initiatives could also be a result of Australia’s positive residential property market growth, which has witnessed a price inflation of around 47% since 2012.

There are, however, numerous reasons for the industry’s history of hiccups when it comes to the adoption of new technology. For one, agents can resist adapting to the evolution of change and innovation within the industry. Often the needs of the agency are poorly understood and assessed, so the technologies are inadequately matched. This consistently results in programmes that are single purpose, siloed and lacking in cohesion — ultimately challenging the value of the intended results.

There are a few misconceptions standing in the way of the implementation of new technologies in the sector. Agents and managerial staff often believe that much of it is too hard to learn and use, discounting the huge upside of the use of digital software and innovative tech before trying it. There is also a misconstruction of cost, which is hugely outweighed by ROI. Some agents — used to a more traditional approach to real estate — also struggle with moving on from hard copy documents and writing things down, claiming reliance on ‘tried and tested’ methods, which are ultimately outdated and destined to prove costly for the sector in the long run.

Although change has been slow, many factors have necessitated its catalysation. The ubiquity of smartphones in modern life has meant that ease of access and speed of interaction are paramount for keeping clients engaged. The expectation of ‘now’ means that people don’t want to wait to see the layout of their off-the-plan home, they don’t want to wait for the inspection date to have a tour inside an open home, and they don’t want to be told to wait to have a sneak peek at the carefully curated fixtures of their dream kitchen.

Technology has and will continue to revolutionise the way people buy homes; we need to invest, pressure test and apply innovative technologies consistently. Innovation is progression, and it’s the only way forward in the new world, we must adapt or get left behind.

Overall, most people are sceptical of change and innovation, like with anything new, it takes time. The old adage of ‘if it ain't broke, don’t fix it’ holds true with many agencies, but with the pace of technology catching up with us all, there’s just no avoiding the inevitable. There is, however, a lot of noise in the tech space, with ‘innovative tech solutions’ cropping up in every direction. It really pays to be smart with all this competition, be open-minded and do your research — to stand out from all this noise you’ve got to be the loudest and boldest voice in the room.

I have always found off-the-plan developments a tricky one, you’re quite literally buying airspace. However, with the recent shift in technology, you get a feel for the design elements of the internal spaces; the views, height, aspect and you really get a solid idea of what you are buying even before it’s built. Elements such as display suite technology, signage prototypes, virtual reality and custom projections allow for buyers to actually be placed in relevant rooms and spaces, which ultimately seals the deal for them.

Olivia Round

Olivia Round is the Features Editor of Olivia specialises in news reporting, in-depth editorial content and video + podcast interviews with industry experts.

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