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'Agents must adapt to the on-demand environment'

16 Mar 2018

Estate agents and rental property managers who don't adopt technology in their businesses will be replaced.

This is the year in which the property industry will have to adapt to cater for the new "on-demand" environment.

This is the matter-of-fact view of Entregral Technologies' Adriaan Grove, who addressed the PayProp PropTech event in Cape Town last week.

"Consumers are accustomed to services-on-demand. Services like Netflix, Uber, Airbnb, Takealot and many others are offering instant gratification to South African consumers. The expectation is that all services should adapt, irrespective of the industry."

Grove says Airbnb has had a profound impact on the property industry in South Africa, and in most cases, estate agencies are using the ability to Airbnb a property as a selling point on marketing materials.

Quoting the online home selling platform OpenDoor - a platform that pioneered the new iBuyer model - as a good example of disruption in the US, Grove says: "OpenDoor is offering a platform that allows sellers to get an instant cash offer on their home, and choose their own closing date. It removes the uncertainty and stress around the price and selling time of your home."

Some areas in the property industry's scope of operation that are being drastically impacted by technology include listings, marketing, the changing face of clients, the nature of estate agencies and the requirements of agents.

Listings: In this new on-demand environment, listings are virtual, belonging to anyone who chooses to access the information.

"The new role of the agent is that of 'verifier', confirming facts and taking questions where necessary."

Marketing: Often the marketing of properties leads one to think of the local Saturday newspapers which list everything to rent or buy. Today, however, consumers demand that same information to be available online.

In addition, social media reviews are rising in rank in popularity, and are fast over-taking the traditional concept of word-of-mouth.

The changing face of clients: Previously a prospective buyer or tenant was willing to wait the required amount of time for a response, but the "always-on" consumer won't sit back and wait patiently, Grove states.

This consumer requires a response almost immediately, via email or whichever platform he or she has used to contact an agency.

In addition to the nature of work changing, the traditional brick-and-mortar agency is also being challenged by a new breed of virtual agencies operating online.

"Agents will require a good understanding of digital marketing and the online environment to be able to navigate this fast-paced and different landscape."

However, Grove says agents in South Africa have the opportunity now to revisit their business models and integrate technologies that will not only help their business evolve, but also satisfy their current consumer base and attract a more techsavvy audience in the future.

While many of these guidelines may seem overwhelming, Louw Liebenberg, chief executive of PayProp, says professionals in the property environment should not be intimidated.

"You don't have to look into the development of a 'bot' for your website immediately. Rather approach the 'low hanging fruit' first: look at how you could move your listings and marketing online."

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