The crisis has opened a new era of selling real estate which was being under-utilized till now. Builders and real estate broking firms across the globe now rely heavily on technology to market their properties and drive sales.
Property buying is a high-involvement decision, amounting to about 40% of an individual’s total net worth. It involves interactions with various influencers, over the internet, via social media, blogs, forums and through internet advertising. If the customer is convinced, he opts for a walkthrough of the property before sealing the deal.
With the lockdown and stringent social distancing norms in place despite relaxations in rules, builders and real estate agents have had to take the aid of technology to show their properties.
Some of them upload videos on their website or youtube channels, while others offer a tour using Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). VR helps create realistic architectural images and walkthroughs to help buyers understand and experience the property.
Tata Housing, for instance, has launched a new campaign “Happy Place Called Home” which extends across 17 Tata Housing projects with Ready-to-Move-in (RTMI) properties, and can be experienced via virtual tours.
Shapoorji Pallonji Real Estate is working towards creating a virtual platform that puts their sales representative in the “driver’s seat” and ensures he has all the ready information, including location USP, Google Maps view, Google Street View, sample flat photographs, project related information and master layout plans to help guide customers in property decision-making.
Some developers are also using drones to provide a tour of the area. For new buildings, a drone can capture how a new neighbourhood looks like, helping customers decide before they move to a new town or area. These drones provide easy and budget-friendly aerial photography, which would have been otherwise expensive a few years ago.
The data collected using drones is also used to compare original plans with the ongoing construction work to show potential buyers how a site is making progress.
Video conferencing technology is being used extensively by developers to coordinate with buyers these days. Godrej Properties has sold over 500 homes with the help of video conferencing and zoom calls in the last quarter when lockdown was announced. Puravankara Group has teams available on video conferencing to help in the quick resolution of queries. Besides, their call centre and customer service desks are also fully operational.
Once a customer likes a property in a virtual tour, he may even opt to make the booking online. Many developers are already offering online booking facility to home buyers either through their own websites or through real estate portals.
The Puravankara group is largely relying on its platforms such as BookMyHome and MyPinkHomes, where customers can select the project, check the available inventory and purchase a unit of their choice. In the last 40 days, 100 units have been sold online.
Tata Housing’s recent online campaign is offering prospective buyers to book their flats by paying 10 per cent now and rest in January next year.The customer needs to pay an amount of 1/2/3 lakhs depending upon the type of unit before May 31. In case of any uncertainty, the customer has the liberty to get a 100 per cent refund on the Expression of Interest.
Lodha Group too has introduced Lodha Pay to provide a safe and secure, online payment option to their customers.
There are some like the Mahagun Group that are offering lucrative deals like a cashback up to 5% of the property value to those who book during the lockdown period.
Housing.com has launched a relief package called Housing Cares, under which the company is offering discounts and extended validity on its products.
Noida-based Gaur Group has started a campaign, Ghar Baithe Ghar Kharido – Knockdown offer, through which a customer can book any residential or commercial unit by paying Rs 1 lakh. The balance booking can be paid over the next 100 days. Customers can make this payment online and the entire amount will be refunded if the booking is cancelled within 90 days.
Some other developers have already adopted disruptive marketing pre-covid to stay relevant in the business. Bengaluru-based Sobha launched its Sobha Connect program, where the developer is knocking on the doors of housing societies that were delivered 10-15 years ago. The benefit of this approach is that satisfied buyers act as brand ambassadors and send new referral clients to the developer.
Puravankara Group allowed the customers to purchase an apartment and then lease it back to them for a contracted term of seven years. Puravankara’s Managed Residences Plan is a three-way alliance between Puravankara, Snapdeal and JLL, to provide a unique leased asset management.
Going forward, developers are expected to be more focused on digital strategies and reach out to the millennial that will constitute the larger part of buyers.
Priorities of people have also changed and they now have realized the importance of owning a home, especially the ones that can guarantee safety and security. Post COVID-19, all indicators point out that the demand for real estate will go up tremendously.
(Edited by Anu Choudary)