A changing industry
These are interesting times for Real Estate.
“Uncertainty” has become the mantra for industry analysts when asked what will happen in the coming months following the wake of a pandemic-fueled economic crisis. Nobody knows when or how the “new normal” is going to hit them. Yet, as tenants pause leasing decisions and implement work-from-home strategies, some CRE companies are preparing to fight back.
As this Avison Young report states, the return to normalcy will likely occur in stages for many real estate branches. While some firms are confident that a return to the office is certain, others are doubling down on efforts in their innovation programs to ensure the new home-based agents have the right tools to navigate their work. These efforts aren’t simply focused on the current crisis, but on what comes next in the digital future.
When it comes to the future, the words of a recent Forbes article seem to be carrying weight:
The time has come for CRE to be at the forefront of technology.
But how do you even begin to take up that challenge? “We’re a real estate company, not a tech company,” you might say. While it may seem contrary to your mission, I assure you it is not. Now more than ever I’m hearing companies refer to themselves as, “tech companies that specialize in [insert industry here].” This is the mindset that will help you adapt for the future while delivering the value and guidance your clients expect.
Building an application can be a first step in the right direction.
How can a software application help?
Whether you work on the commercial or residential side of things, there are common problems you’ll face when it comes to building an app for your users. Just like solutions for the financial or insurance industries, real estate apps have to be simple and intuitive for your user. Whether the users are internal or external, they must be able to quickly understand the app, connect with the trusted third-party databases your company uses, and provide bullet-proof security layers for handling sensitive data.
Facilitating the buying experience
Building with the customer in mind
In today’s crowded market, valuations and listings are not enough for your prospective buyers.
- Capital market investors need to have as much real time data as possible about the property they put their eyes on. Understanding which availabilities in the market fit their risk criteria, the building age, and ROI of the property are just a few key insights that are expected when making a decision. Not being able to physically visit and tour their locations adds further complexity to the current sale/lease process.
- Potential tenants want to have comprehensive info about current lease expiration dates, the history of the building, and the previous occupants. With the buying experience increasingly going virtual, in-person tours have become pretty limited. Clients are becoming more untrusting of face-to-face interactions and, in turn, they’re showing preference to companies that can bring the property touring experience into their phone & computer screens.
From touring to closing the deal, enabling the digital experience for tenants and investors has been proven to make a difference for many companies. It will continue to do so long after this pandemic is behind us.
Facilitating the selling experience
Building with the employee in mind
On the other side of the coin, you need to enable your workforce now more than ever. Brokers are struggling with the demands on them to rapidly provide insights to their tenants and landlords. Demonstrating that they can provide unparalleled guidance by leveraging tech will save both the brokers and the buyers time and energy. Both parties will be grateful for it. The office space is already seeing a decrease in demand for square footage as work-from-home tenants push to reduce their exposure and spaces are being reconfigured (and downsized). Being able to offer alternatives by rapidly filtering buildings by attributes like these is key:
- amount of available square feet
- property age
- neighborhood demographics
- previously viewed spaces that may not have worked before
Tools that enable your commercial sales force need to take into account this new reality. Realistic renderings of what the finished space may look like, virtual tours, 3D floor plans, space planning tools that are quickly customizable to the tenant’s needs, and easy access to a lawyer and notary if a deal is to be completed are all a few examples. These tools have progressed from just being ‘perks’ to becoming the business itself.
Part of this enablement is making sure both parties have the right building information at the right time. This means that you must have strong, seamless integrations with other partners in the ecosystem.
Choosing 3rd party listing integration
When choosing a third party for your listings, there are several options for multi listing services (MLS) available on the market.
Some of the outstanding names are:
Be aware that most of these listings can quickly become outdated which exposes you to the risk of offering inaccurate information to your users. These are also the same sources that your competitors are using to find the right space for their buyers. So how do you get the upper hand?
Here are some tips for building an app that outshines your competitors.
- Crowdsourcing data. Your own users can help you by enriching API data information from the properties that you’ll list. This ensures that you’re feeding them with top-notched market information while also differentiating yourself from every other player out there.
- Data abstraction. By leveraging machine learning, you can run through physical docs like leases, renewals, mortgages, liens, and regulatory actions to digitize the data gathering processes. Getting ahead in the game by eliminating a heavy paperwork process is key. 75% of CRE executives said automation will lead to the elimination of jobs, but also that this shift will cause an increase in new, higher value positions that hadn’t existed previously. We all know lease documents can be extremely lengthy and complex. By choosing a data abstraction partner, you can streamline your lease/compliance process by building a software that runs thousands of files in seconds, extracting key data points from physical documents, and saving hundreds of hours of manual work.
- GIS, analytics, data visualization. Having a GPS map view of your properties and areas for potential investment was a no brainer. After Covid-19 struck, many CTOs deprioritized this in lieu of mobile operability as most of the agents are doing their jobs online. For web apps, intuitive visualization tools are still fundamental.
Security and ease of integration
Having your own API development assures fundamental security layers, while providing digital interoperability with your preferred CRM, ERP and billing systems. Developing a robust API is the best way of making sure your proprietary data is safe and being used effectively.
As in any other realm of digital business, if your users can’t figure out how to use your product, you won’t be able to survive. Usability is the deciding factor. In real estate, the stakes are high. Buying or selling a property can be the decision of a lifetime for many investors, which is why you have to make sure that your platform is clear, intuitive, and built with all your users in mind. Users with little technical or financial knowledge should be able to find their way around your app easily. Your new apps projects need to take this into account.
Nobody knows what the future holds for CRE after the pandemic.
Some voices insist that major players are going to push for a “work from home indefinitely” strategy and the industry will suffer greatly from the effects of the “new normal”. Others are confident that we will resume the “work from office” and that the need for social distancing will renew the demand for commercial spaces that can handle these new safety measures.
Who’s right? Hard to tell. Regardless, companies that help innovate the buying experience and empower their now locked-down customers and workforce are best positioned for what will likely be a blend of both.
Are you looking to create an easy & intuitive app to help your clients or use in your workplace?
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