The novel COVID-19 virus has lay waste to markets across the world. As unemployment skyrockets, revenue dwindles, transactions slow to a standstill, and consumers put their moving plans on hold, companies have turned to seeking funding, cutting costs, and innovation to break even.
We covered portals within the auto industry shifting to completely online transactions around the time of the very beginnings of the COVID-19 chaos. Companies like Shift, Cazoo, and AutoTrader were quick to jump on the innovation bandwagon, switching to a contactless business model to meet the problems that were just beginning to arise from the pandemic.
Carwow was another such auto marketplace, opting to spread the idea of contactless vehicle transactions by promoting retailers who had adopted the practice. The company went a step further and promised cleaned and disinfected cars to be delivered to a buyer’s home without any human contact necessary.
Experts have researched, analyzed, and reported their predictions for the future of the real estate industry as a whole. Some have said housing prices will stagnate while sellers take on a wait-and-see viewpoint of the market climate. Others have predicted a decline in housing prices as the market stabilizes. Portals are seeing spikes in traffic but no increase in transactions. Consumer behavior is important now more than ever as the unpredictability of the market towers over companies scrambling to get a hold of their businesses.
To answer these issues as they arise, companies have been churning out innovation as a way to continue to serve the consumer. As a result of the chaos surrounding the pandemic, property portals, specifically, have come up with new ways to continue business as usual. These measures emerge as strictly digital processes that support and condone social distancing.
Zillow’s Rental Manager has been updated with new digital signing tools to allow landlords to easily upload their leases and send them to tenants to review and sign electronically.
NoBroker.com’s answer is a partnership with HDFC, using its payment app to offer rewards for loyalty when it comes to paying rent. Housing.com launched a new service called ‘Pay Rent’ for its mobile app to allow tenants to pay rent by using credit and debit cards.
When it comes to business practices, even Zillow’s head redacted his original opinion of working from home, as it has shown to be a viable solution during a time of rampant quarantine.
Right now seems to be the perfect time for companies to boost technological advancements and test out features and services they would normally put off in fear of backlash and failure.
Now, it’s ‘do or die trying’. Airbnb has sped up what it has called a long-term plan, due to the pandemic and the amount of revenue lost through canceled bookings. What is a short-term bookings platform based around vacation and holiday travel, is now looking into longer rentals for those planning on staying for longer than a month.
Regardless, companies are seeing the positives of moving towards a completely online experience for their consumers.
Juwai IQI’s executive chairman, Georg Chmiel, said in a recent vodcast with our very own Simon Baker, that the infrastructure that has been put in place over the last 10 years is now being used to facilitate online transactions. This shows that companies have the ability to work exclusively online and the product is more efficient and cost-effective.
He explained that one of Juwai’s strengths has been the rate at which new work practices were implemented to answer the growing issues surrounding the Coronavirus. Chmiel has predicted that this crisis is likely to be the accelerant of change.
In another vodcast, this time starring Malcolm Myers, the Founder of European Internet Ventures, another point was brought to attention. Myers is certain that human contact when it comes to transactions, in general, is going to fizzle out.
“I think the role of human contact is designed to disappear.
“Looking into the medical field, with the ability to schedule an in-person appointment with a doctor outside of coronavirus testing diminished, it’s been shown that conducting these appointments through mobile apps and online services is a viable option.
“If something as personal as going to a doctor can be turned into a virtual experience, why does the aspect of buying a home, still needs a face-to-face physical intermediate. It might be harder for those intermediates to substantiate their value.”
Meyers believes that virtual tours are here to stay after the pandemic passes as it is more convenient and economic for all parties involved.
Still, there are a number of platforms that have long since adopted a fully online process. Spotahome, a mid-to-long-term rental booking site has marketed itself as being 100% online since its inception. Through the Spotahome portal, those looking for accommodation for longer than 30 days can do so without ever leaving their couch. The platform has had virtual tours in place since the beginning. These tours offer incredible attention to detail, including opening all doors, drawers, and showing every nook and cranny all at the same time. Users can revisit these tours as many times as they want. Prospective renters can then reserve and pay for a property immediately, and through the same platform as the virtual tours.
Spotahome is a paragon of the future of property portals, showing that not only is a completely online real estate transaction from search to purchase possible but more efficient and cost-effective.
Many portals have been slowly headed towards, what we’re calling a ‘contactless’ business model. The human touch is becoming obsolete in the world of buying, selling, and renting property. With the market in shambles and companies scrambling to answer the problems that have arisen from the COVID-19 virus, it seems that that forward-moving process is being rushed as many of these portals are developing new features to cut out the human touch. Experts like Meyers believe this was inevitable. With technologies now in place that not only save time and money but are more convenient for all parties involved, the signs are pointing to a contactless future when it comes to real estate transactions.