The World Has Changed, And We Must Change With It
The world has changed. There’s no denying it. A month ago, none of us had heard of social distancing and we held out hope that the coronavirus would give Australia a miss.
Sadly, social distancing is now upon us and the coronavirus pandemic is rapidly grinding our economy to a halt. Political and medical leaders have come together to firmly state that we must “stay home” in order to “flatten the curve”.
Businesses of all types, including ours and probably yours, are seeing dwindling work and are fronting up to a series of difficult decisions about whether we can afford to keep staff and contractors employed.
These symptoms all point in the same direction: if we want the industry to continue to tick, we have no choice but to change the way we operate.
This was reiterated via instructions from the Real Estate Institute of Victoria earlier this week when it cited advice from the state government that “you must modify your work practices to ensure the safety of all involved”.
This presents a series of challenges to the real estate industry, which has traditionally operated in a distinctly face-to-face, person-to-person way – from property inspections to auctions, to the signing of contracts.
It’s fair to say that so far, the real estate industry has been slow to adapt to technological innovation, whether through indignance or fear, but the reality is that we’ve reached a flashpoint where the embrace of technology is a question of survival.
The good news is that through cooperation and consolidation, we believe that every step in the property sales and marketing process can be positively influenced by technology.
The marketing element has progressed in recent years, with more agencies utilising high quality video and social media to market properties, but newer tech now allows us to develop virtual reality walk-throughs of properties so that potential buyers can get a genuine feel for the property.
Real-world property inspections can also be conducted via video streaming, allowing digital attendees to ask questions of the person conducting the inspection and form an opinion of the property without ever having to set foot in it. If required, final in-person inspections can be arranged by appointment only to ensure social distancing is maintained.
The process of preparing a property and vendor for auction can also be digitised through utilising video conferencing, with the provision of service to the vendor being maintained to ensure they’re comfortable with how the campaign is unfolding and are prepared to make the decision to sell at auction.
In the past, a major sticking point has been the preparation and execution of legal documents, which has now been resolved through online auction platforms like Anywhere Auctions, who have developed the ability to sign authorities, contracts and pay deposits securely through their processes.
Of course, platforms like this also allow the auction itself to be conducted remotely, requiring nobody other than the auctioneer to be present, while agents can watch and advise vendors via live video streaming, and registered bidders can compete to purchase the property via a website or app.
2020 will forever be remembered as the year that we all faced the existential threat that is the coronavirus pandemic. But hopefully, it will also be remembered as the year that we all innovated to ensure the survival of our businesses and our industry.
The technology exists today to fully implement social distancing in the real estate industry. The question is, who will be the first to embrace it?
Paul Tzamalis is a specialist commercial and residential property auctioneer, and director of The Auction Company.