Fourth industrial revolution technology is fast manifesting in every South African business sector, creating ever more seamless ways of living and working, but the property market is where it’s already becoming a living, breathing reality.
Security access to estates, property buying and selling methods, the way we communicate within residential communities or vote in an HOA or body corporate meeting … all these processes are changing rapidly in the digital era.
For property buyers and sellers, these advancements are nothing short of revolutionary. ‘What started as a trickle with the introduction of online search portals a decade ago has become a wave of disruptive solutions and cutting-edge technologies that have steadily been transforming the property sector. One of the greatest advancements for prospective buyers is the ability to house hunt without leaving home,’ says Yael Geffen, CEO of Lew Geffen Sotheby’s International Realty.
The latest kid on the block is a Nedbank MoneyApp feature called ‘Home-Buying Toolkit’, which equips prospective property buyers with everything they need to find, finance and purchase a property, including home loan pre-approval (in principle), which gives buyers a good idea of the amount they qualify for.
It also provides buyers with three free property reports, including information on estimated property valuation, average prices, demographics and amenities in the areas they are considering. And you can also search for properties listed by estate agents.
One of MoneyApp’s new features is a virtual assistant. A first for a banking app. HeyNed, a digital virtual personal assistant and concierge service, uses a vast network of more than 350,000 product and service providers, linking app users to virtually anything they need. In addition to the convenience of having a virtual personal assistant on call around the clock, HeyNed users benefit from the money saving potential of a digital service that literally negotiates better prices on their behalf. And once a MoneyApp user accepts the quote provided to them by HeyNed, payment can be made easily and automatically by a click of a button through the MoneyApp.
Certainly, mobile apps have already affected many spheres of estate living. For example, an access app can enable a resident to give a visitor access to their estate by creating a pin code that the visitor receives by SMS or WhatsApp. They can also receive notification of their visitors’ arriving and departing, including details of car registration and number of passengers, and keep track of them while they’re on the estate.
Apps also manage communication within estates. They not only control access, but also offer residents a list of approved service providers and local facilities, an estate news board, and customised communication channels so they can be in touch with each other as well as estate management.
Increasingly, these Apps are aided by Blockchain, a digital ‘journal’ that stores and updates information. In the real estate context, Blockchain can increase transparency and improve pre-purchase due diligence, and also speed up the transfer process, as no third-party verification is required. Thus Blockchain can remove the requirement to do title deed searches, for instance, or the need for an intermediary to secure the title transfer.
One of the primary friction points in global real estate markets is the complex and lengthy contractual procedures that property exchange entails. Agents are realising that blockchain systems are capable of streamlining all aspects of real estate sales, from listings and auctions to settlement and transfer. The Glovent app blockchain technology, for example, also enables secure remote voting, reducing issues around proxies and achieving a quorum.
Artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities on smartphones have become a reality. Machine learning, biometrics (e.g., facial recognition) and user behaviour will improve the ease of use, self-service and frictionless authentications. This will allow smartphones to be more trusted than other credentials such as credit cards, passports, IDs or keys.
Smartphones are already being used as a method of payment at a number of estates that have become cashless environments. Payment systems are linked to a centralised resident account, which enables you to use your smartphone to pay for everything from the gym to the doctor to retail outlets within the estate.
Add to this the Internet of Things (IoT), which is the interconnection via the internet of computing devices (sensors) embedded in everyday objects. Data can be collected to optimise the operations of a communal environment, e.g., smartphone connectivity to a building’s network to find free parking, or cutting down energy costs by learning occupancy behaviour. IoT also helps home owners control their homes remotely, e.g., switching off lights, activating the sprinkler system, or adjusting the room temperature.
Geffen says that within the next decade, 3D printing and modular construction will be applied to providing inexpensive houses. ‘Currently, a home can be printed and erected in 24 hours at a cost of around $4000 (about R60 000), and it’s likely to become even cheaper. As the challenge of affordability continues to grow with first-time buyers increasingly struggling to enter the market, we expect the modular home, including those made from shipping containers and those constructed using cutting-edge technology, to become increasingly appealing over the coming decade,’ he says.
Suffice to say, the property market and residential estates are on the coalface of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in many ways, transforming how people work, live and play in these communities. But it also means that property professionals and industry partners need to familiarise themselves with these concepts. As Geffen points out, ‘those who learn to adapt to the rapid changes will have a significant advantage over those who choose to stay in the dark.’