Real estate gets a tech makeover

29 October 2018
Property Technology

In a sector that’s been typically more bricks and mortar than bits and bytes, technology is rapidly finding application across the world’s largest asset class.

Technology is transforming every industry, and real estate is no exception. The world’s largest asset class, Savills Global Research valued global real estate at $228 trillion in 2017. Residential property accounts for about 75% of that and is growing at 5% per year. The picture across Southeast Asia is more mixed, with Vietnam and Indonesia flat or in a downcycle, Singapore and Malaysia growing modestly, and Thailand the most buoyant, according to data from the IMF.

Technology is playing a key role across both commercial and residential property sectors, from property listing portals, to big data and analytics, blockchain, cloud platforms, and virtual reality, there are start-ups solving industry problems from all angles. JLL research found that, in 2017, Asia-Pacific accounted for 65% of global proptech financing deals, which highlights the expectations that investors have for proptech to take off around the region.

Part of this is due to the rapid urbanisation happening in many Asian countries. Globally, 55% of the world’s population lives in cities, a figure that the UN expects to rise to 68% by 2050. China and India alone account for 27% of this projected growth, pointing to a high level of internal migration and demand for urban real estate.

Despite being a relatively nascent industry, residential proptech has already gone through several evolutions from the early versions of online marketplaces and collated property listings. While not necessarily at the cutting edge of technology, the listing sites have been key to creating transparency.

Real estate technology is “creating an environment of trust,” says GeorgChmiel, chairman of Juwai.com, China’s largest international property portal, and ex-CEO of Malaysia’s property portal iProperty. “In the past, someone who wanted to purchase a property had to go to an agent and look what they had on offer but could never be sure if they had covered the whole market.’’

The second wave of the residential proptech evolution has been providing value-added services. To increase the attractiveness of their platforms, websites introduced data and analytics and virtual viewings. For example, Chmiel says that Juwai can advise developers targeting the Chinese market before they have started building. Juwai is the largest source of global properties for the Chinese audience, with over 2.8 million property listings representing about $1 trillion, according to its website.

“We can provide information about what Chinese buyers really value,’’ says