Could the Lockdown have Tipped the Scale Towards Online Home Sales for Good?

3 min read

The wise who have roamed the streets long enough believe that when market conditions are bad and a black swan event is well underway, no one makes money. Unless, they have been building a model for a future, which has happened well ahead of time, thanks to a global pandemic. While the very idea of fast forwarding to the future would have seemed outrageous just 90 days ago, the present-day world has mainstreamed many such wild thoughts.

The lockdown began to take effect in phases. The initial response was one of caution. A few days of staying home, cooking and being with family was welcome change for most. Real Estate Inc was gung-ho about work from home and maintaining office vibes on their home desks. A fortnight of that and a good part of the property sales funnel had dried up as the entire country was forced into house arrest.

Hey! Where are My Site Visits and Offers?

Agent-buyer meetings and site visits are the two most important milestones in the home ownership journey. In the post COVID world, these erstwhile iconic checkpoints in the sales funnel have been uprooted. This paradigm shift disoriented home seekers who had made up their minds towards owning a home and had initiated their home searches.

Here is how things worked before the pandemic.

A home seeker would start her residential search online and narrow down to a few choices based on factors she knew best. Few calls later, agents would be met, and their sales pitches absorbed. A quick check on the finances, her mortgage eligibility and the penultimate activity would be next. The site inspection. This was the deal maker finally.

Welcome COVID – 19

With site visits and in person offers from zealous agents becoming things of ancient folklore, the sales pipeline of the industry froze. On one hand, supply remains where it is and how it will be affected in the long term, no one knows. On the other, all estimates point to demand only reducing slightly in the coming future owing to market and social insecurities. However, just the demise of physical site inspections decoupled all the coaches of that long train.

Result? Zero sales months for many developers and micro markets wholly. Widespread panic paralysed the sector faster than you could speak the shortest cuss word, while large scale layoffs and a no-sugar-coating approach from the Indian Commerce Minister further worsened sentiments.

Relax! Home Sales are Now Fully Online.

Long before our freewheeling world mated with a concrete wall in the form of a seemingly unending lockdown, visionary real estate technology firms had been toiling away and deploying all available resources in building technology to change the way we sell and buy homes. Today, their investments are helping the entire industry pivot to a new era of online sales, and here are the key milestones that their tech has successfully transformed.

Search and Discovery

Traditionally, online property searches have always depended on basic parameters like location and size to display results for sale to a home seeker. Home sales tech today goes further and uses ML and AI enabled tools to recommend available properties based on preferences, personality traits, special demographic analytics, deep regional understanding, comparative analyses and real time property values.

Location choices made, home seekers are then treated to realistic 3D walkthroughs, bird’s eye views of projects and their neighbourhoods as well as simulated unit renditions in high definition, enabling real estate agents to conduct property showings remotely via a tablet or even a smartphone. (Yes! Site visits and buyer-agent meets are not the pipeline freezers anymore.) This also allows one agent to do more showings in a day, while home buyers can choose, shortlist, and complete the entire home buying process from the convenience of their own homes.

Online Real Estate Market Places

Technology has now fully automated a real estate transaction – starting from presales, with online virtual tours and 3D walkthrough capabilities, a real time inventory blocking engine integrated with multiple payment gateways and a robust post sales module for submission of online applications with digital signatures.

Top digital home sales platforms like Square Yards are also integrated with leading banks to enable instant and paperless sanction of home loans, completing the entire home buying cycle for home seekers, without them having to make any physical displacement.

All Round Transaction Security

With fully secure online payment gateways that make bookings and cyclic future instalment payments secure, plus with digital signatures enabled on all soft legal property ownership paperwork, proptech pioneer Square Yards has already digitized the entire home buying experience.

The result of a customer not having to physically organise, study and sign reams of paperwork to facilitate a transaction, has naturally won many hearts – translating into increased repeat customer rate of over 17% and rapidly increasing market share for this startup.

Players in the online home sales space have seen a market share jump of between 5X to 15X in many organised micro markets already, which brings us back to the main question? Will real estate sales go back to its beaten track or has the pandemic tipped the scale in favour of online home purchases for good? The answer to that is evident. Non-believers can take their time.

Sumit Mondal Content Analyst at Square Yards
Sumit Mondal Content Analyst at Square Yards