Covid-19 has affected markets all over the globe and the Dubai real estate industry has been no different. The sector has taken a hit over the last few weeks due to the lockdown enforced by the UAE Government restricting the movements of the public and therefore no viewings are taking place, property transfers have been delayed and moving to a new home has become more difficult. This has encouraged real estate companies and governing bodies to change the way in which they operate by using means of technology to connect with clients which, in my opinion, will have a positive effect on how the Dubai real estate industry will operate in the future.
Allsopp & Allsopp is no stranger to innovative technology, we created The Platform by Allsopp & Allsopp in 2019 to ease the real estate process and make communicating simple, concise and convenient. During the current lockdown we have turned our attention to quick, tech based solutions, to help both our clients and our agents and the results of this are new business practices that we predict will stay with us and have an increasing presence in the property market as a whole.
Firstly, we had to think about viewings - How can we show our clients properties that they might be interested in, without being able to take them to go and view? We have the pictures of the property and for a lot of these we also have 360 degree tours which have been taken of each room inside the property by our agents.
However, is sending a link to the client of a property advert to look at themselves enough? We didn’t think so. The solution we are offering to our clients is a ‘virtual viewing’ with one of our agents. The agent will video call the client, share their screen and ‘walk through’ the 360 tour with the client, room by room with all the information and communication that a client would get on a traditional viewing appointment, as well as giving the client the opportunity to ask lots of questions as they go.
We’re not doing anything too groundbreaking, we’re simply joining the dots with existing technology. We have received a fantastic response from our clients which leads us to believe that this type of viewing will stick around as we move forward.
However, I think it’s important to note here that we don’t think the traditional viewing appointment will ever be replaced. On the purchasing side, buying a property is often a person’s biggest investment and it’s hard to imagine someone would take that jump without setting foot in the property. People want to touch and feel it, they want to open the cupboards, they want to stand in the garden and see how it feels, see what the noise is like. They want to walk around the building or the community and see the amenities, how close the park is, where the closest coffee shop is.
What we do think though, especially in a city that is always on the move, is that these tours will form part of the purchasing process. Virtual viewings could be a time saving tactic at the beginning of a client's property search, the client has more at their fingertips to be able to shortlist properties that they want to go and take a look at.
On the lettings side of the market, we believe we will see a bigger impact. Letting a property is a much smaller commitment - it’s often only a commitment for 1 year and it’s not an investment. You aren’t getting anything back at the end of the tenancy so there isn’t the same level of concern when compared to a purchase. It’s not hard to imagine some clients letting a property without actually seeing it in person, it’s something we’ve already seen a lot of over the past couple of weeks and once a behavioral pattern starts in a market, things often tend to stick.
As well as viewings, Allsopp & Allsopp have had to change the approach we take when bringing properties to the market.
Previously our agents would arrange a market appraisal with clients at the property they were bringing to the market. At this appointment, the agent would visit the property of the homeowner with information on the market in general, what else is on the market at the moment, what has recently been sold or let, what our marketing approach is as a company and be available to answer any and all questions the homeowner asks. From this open and honest discussion, we can hopefully agree a price to bring the property to the market and start the ball rolling.
We are now conducting all market appraisals over video calls using the same basis as virtual viewings using screen sharing technology to present all the information and data to the client that we would have previously shown them whilst we’re all sat around the dining room table. The client will have the opportunity to walk the agent through their home on the video call to show any property upgrades or new features.
This has been highly effective and our mortgage team are conducting their meetings in the same way, sharing their screen to go over mortgage illustrations, bank comparisons and explain how the mortgage process works. This form of technology is something that we can see staying to play a part in the market. With the busy lives that most people lead, it’s an easier way to arrange a time that suits everyone and will also help enormously if a client is out of town or if we’re trying to align the diaries of multiple parties.
Our Property Management team is also using technology to better client experience with apps and software in place to make managing properties easier for both landlords and tenants. With the software, landlords have all of their tenancy details, a breakdown of payments, and can directly contact their property manager and approve maintenance requests at the touch of a button. The software is extremely helpful for landlords who reside overseas. Likewise, tenants can benefit from the software immensely as they can record any maintenance issue, upload it to the app and the property manager can instantly share the video with the Landlord to keep them in the loop and with the maintenance company who will then have a clearer understanding of the problem before they arrive on the scene.
In terms of innovation from government bodies, the Ejari process can be completed online and the Dubai Land Department are currently initiating steps to provide the remote transferring of properties between a seller and buyer. As well as saving time, this will solve the issues of owners who now live in different parts of the world - they will no longer have to book visits back to Dubai or put Power of Attorneys in place.
With the direction the world is heading, and with Dubai’s own aim to become a paperless society, it’s hard to imagine that we won’t continue down this route. If anything, we can see even more linking into this - for example on the registering of a lease or a sale, it’s not too much of a stretch of thought to envisage people having the option, via their phone, to set up their utilities or home internet and entertainment at the same time.
The addition of any new practices and technology in the market will never replace the need for the human element, however, as in most areas of life, it’s clear to see that we can use technology to make processes easier and less stressful, we can save clients a huge amount of their time and we can tailor the home buying or home letting experience a lot more towards individual clients, rather than a one side fits all approach.