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Covid-19 Economy Impact
REBrokers

COVID-19: Challenges and opportunities for real estate brokers

In our ongoing series on the challenges and opportunities for the real estate industry, we take a look at how real estate brokers are dealing with the impact of COVID-19.

Once again, the real estate industry finds itself at a crossroads when it comes to property transactions. As social restrictions are gradually lifted across the globe, the greater the pressure for real estate brokers to make those sales. But are people’s perceptions of what they want from a property changing beyond recognition, and how are real estate brokers adapting to the ‘new normal’ in the real estate market?

According to Sean McCauley, group CEO of UAE-based real estate consultancy and advisory firm Devmark, the way the world has changed in recent months due to the COVID-19 pandemic will undoubtedly have a long-lasting effect on many people’s future behavioral patterns.

“What we are seeing today is a shift in people’s perceptions of ‘home’ versus ‘house’. End-users are giving further thought to their living spaces and the amenities and facilities that their communities and projects offer,” says McCauley.

Brokers need to source properties that will meet these new demands and better understand the features, benefits, and value propositions of the properties which they are representing offer. As McCauley explains, brokers need to change their mindset away from being traditionally being analytical and quantitative (size, asking price, the price per sqft, etc.) to being more qualitative (lifestyle, community, wellbeing, etc.)

“We are already witnessing a trend in Dubai where many people are starting to migrate from apartments into villas,” he adds.

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From a real estate perspective, global lockdowns and travel bans have eliminated property viewings, resulting in real estate brokers and developers around the world suddenly scrambling to find alternate solutions. Many have recently opted for virtual tours as a substitute to physical viewings to entice buyers.

“Real estate companies that possess virtual imagery, 360-degree virtual tours, virtual reality, and immersive project apps, for example, have reported overwhelming customer interest during the COVID-19 lockdown, as buyers were attracted to them by the fact that they could still engage, albeit in a non-conventional form,” McCauley explains.

“The more a company embraces technology, the greater the competitive advantage they will have, and competitive advantage will be a critical element for survival in the ‘new normal’ real estate landscape.”

And while there will always be a need to buy and sell property, buyers, sellers, landlords, and tenants will gravitate to companies that have the best tools with which to deliver the best immersive customer journey, and thereby yield the best customer experience.

Technology aside, real estate agents have further cemented their position in the value chain by providing essential transaction activities and the technical knowledge that is embedded in their social networks. McCauley believes that it is through their socially embedded interactions with lawyers, mortgage brokers, financial institutions, transfer offices, home inspectors etc. where real estate brokers play a vital role in facilitating a complex transaction that involves a web of stakeholders.

“This is why technology hasn’t replaced real estate brokers, and the basics of real estate sales will never change - in terms of the social interaction and relationship that is built between the parties. However, how we engage each other and how properties are presented will most certainly change. One of the main challenges will be losing the ‘personal effect’ with clients due to the increased adoption of technology. In an industry that has always been a people’s business, this is a huge fundamental shift,” McCauley concludes.

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