The role of personal service is set to change in property sales thanks to digitilisation, and there are many ways portals need to pivot in order to keep up, writes Laura Szabo, chief product officer for Hungarian market leading site Ingatlan.com.
Studies are emerging on what professions will probably be gone or replaced by robots or any other form of digitalisation in the future. Some services simply won’t be needed any more, others may stick around, but will no longer be done by human workforce. Property agents and loan offices rank high on these lists. These are rigorous statements, but without going too far we can agree that the industry is facing a change:
Digitalisation will speed up processes associated with property transactions, and within these processes, the roles of current providers is about to change.
What do we have now?
In general there are two ways of selling property: with or without an agent. In either case three things matter to people: getting it done as fast as possible, for a reasonable price (or efforts) and with a successful outcome. Within these values there is still plenty of room for improvement in both scenarios. For example when selling via an agent, there are multiple steps in the process that could be faster or more transparent. Calling the agent, signing the commission, receiving offers, negotiating the deal all need the agent to be available which, depending on their schedule, can elongate the process. In case of for sale by owner, many tools are already out there helping people to buy/sell on their own, but they don’t cover the whole process yet. Some are still only available offline, and the online ones are often not easy to find.
The next logical step of innovation is providing a comprehensive set of online tools covering all the steps of the property transaction. Tasks such as composing the advertisement, taking good pictures, keeping contact with prospective buyers, negotiating the deal, preparing paperwork, getting a lawyer and arranging moving can all be done online. This enables a faster, more straightforward and more comfortable experience for buyers and sellers.
The role of property portals is increasing as they could become the single provider between buyer and seller, transforming the market of property sales. Many property portals already have the data and knowledge required for this.
Personal service stays in focus for premium clients
There will always be a customer segment that needs something different. In property sales, those sellers who don’t have time for all this will continue to hire an agent. Their workflow and the required skillset might change over time, but they will continue to play a very important role in property transactions. What could change? The focus on the personal branding of the agent and a transparent rating system that are needed to maintain credibility is likely to increase.
Some fields are already there
Nowadays people book their plane tickets and accommodation online, because in most cases it is easier and quicker than going to a travel agent. On the other hand, going to the travel agent makes sense when you want something extra, something more premium that you are also willing to pay for.
We started with our mortgage application process
In Hungary, most property transactions go hand in hand with borrowing mortgage. Most providers do mortgage brokerage via agents, who meet the client in person and help them choose the right mortgage.
Today Ingatlan.com’s mortgage comparison site offers a comprehensive service: we provide an online mortgage calculator where customers can start the application, and then we assist them through the rest of the process, using both digital and offline channels. The key to build the digital version of a process is to know very precisely how the offline version is happening in reality.
Based on this data a well automatized system can be built, where the steps of the process can be shifted to an automatic system, or a professional – a teleoperator or a mortgage consultant. The clients does not have to leave their home: everything is happening online or over the phone. This works for 90 percent of cases. And what about the remaining 10 percent? Partly these are the premium clients often needing personal assistance. The process is never done, it should be optimised continuously, but the jobs of our mortgage consultants have already changed: they can focus not on the routine, but on the complex or premium issues.