PROPTECH Of virtual tours and DIY homebuying

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    Rather than just a complement to push sales and customer support, proptech services like virtual reality (VR) tours and automated communication platforms for tenants and property management providers have now become essential offerings of property companies, big and small, in the face of the day’s health and safety challenges.

    BY IRMA ISIP

    While property technology (proptech) platforms have long been in the Philippines, the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has highlighted the need for developers to adopt this in a bigger way .

    Rather than just a complement to push sales and customer support, proptech services like virtual reality (VR) tours and automated communication platforms for tenants and property management providers have now become essential offerings of property companies, big and small, in the face of the day’s health and safety challenges.

    Quite a number of property portals are out there, all serving as a marketplace for agents, developers and homeowners to sell properties.They have reported a surge in listings, page views, searches and inquiries during the pandemic. But it is the big leap taken by developers themselves that deserve a second look.

    Early movers

    Prior to the pandemic, the Aboitiz Group’s real estate arm, Aboitiz Land, Inc., had already begun to embrace the digital approach to selling residential properties. Already an important consideration before the industry was shaken by COVID-induced uncertainties, contactless home buying was deemed necessary to expand the company’s client reach.

    A strategy that has gained a foothold in the business, the digital approachis seen as a lasting part of the way properties pushed in the market, and is seen to even accelerate post-COVID-19, according to AboitizLand which at the height of the lockdown in May retained 50 percent of its pre-enhanced community quarantine reservation volume.

    When COVID struck, Aboitiz had a dedicated group on digital transformation at the parent level that AboitizLand was able to tap.

    As opposed to the traditional way of selling properties entailing face-to-face meetings, site trippings, open houses, and mini-events, contactless home buying leverages on online platforms such as the company website, social media, and email marketing for lead generation.

    With AboitizLand’s 360-degree virtual tours on its website, potential buyers can view amenities, features as well as property locations, or request for an actual video of the unit and book a dedicated property specialist or an agent to assist with all their queries and conduct a comprehensive online presentation.

    Reservations may be done online and clients may choose from a range of online modes of payment which include bank transfers, mobile banking apps, or through AboitizLand’s own payment portal.

    Like most developers, Greenfield Development Corp. (GDC) has also tweaked its operations so that it can safely conduct business in compliance with government rules.

    Seller-to-client face-to-face interactions were reduced when the company transitioned to virtual brochures via QR codes. They also migrated to digital marketing which allows them to keep the community in the loop with timely and relevant content.

    “Activities like move-ins, actual viewing of units, and appointments at the showroom are executed with utmost care. Our properties are also regularly maintained and sanitized for the safety and protection of its residents and guests. Health protocols and precautionary measures such as the wearing of face masks and observance of social distancing have also been put into practice,” said Duane Santos, GDC executive vice president and general manager.

    Century Properties Group recognized the need to meet clients on another platform and quickly amped up its digital efforts, letting clients know they can still find the home of their dreams in these times. Taking safety into consideration, CPG enhanced its websites to include virtual tours – allowing potential homeowners to view the properties without having to go to the location. Not only can they see the amenities, they can also look around the neighborhood and tour the available units, dressed or bare. They can chat with a property specialist to discuss payment terms – bring contactless selling to a whole new level.

    Going above and beyond these services, the company also introduced the Client Credit Assistance Program which guides clients on the requirements needed when applying for a home loan in any of its accredited banks. It also developed CORA, the Customer Online Records Assistant, where homeowners can receive updates about their Century home, track receipts and documents, and pay for monthly amortizations via credit card.

    New player

    Singapore’s leading property tech startup Ohmyhome rolled out its services in the Philippines at the height of the pandemic.

    Like other proptech companies aiming to help accelerate the process of selling real estate in the new normal, Ohmyhome hopes to make housing transactions in the Philippines hassle-free and efficient.

    What Ohmyhome brings to the table is a unique hybrid model of a DIY (do-it-yourself) platform and full-fledged agency services. Just as it did in Singapore and Malaysia, it promises to make buying, selling and renting properties simple, fast, and efficient.