Digitalisation is influencing the search for property and how realtors reach their target audience

With the advent of digitalisation – businesses, sectors and industries ranging from finance to tourism have experienced nothing short of a revolution. Key business practices and marketing tasks have been successfully digitalised, improving productivity while saving both time and money in the process.

Internet penetration in Sri Lanka stood at over 32 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. A similar transformation is taking place in realty where the latest data indicates that more than 90 percent of real estate companies maintain websites with property listings being the most common feature. However, the involvement of digital technologies in real estate goes much deeper and is fundamentally changing the face of the property sector.

DIGITAL INFLUENCE Before the rise of the internet, the majority of property hunters used newspaper advertisements as their main source to locate a suitable home. Word-of-mouth was the second most popular method used. By 2016 however, in excess of 44 percent turned to online platforms to find a new property.

This correlates with the fact that more than 60 percent of first time home buyers tend to be millennials (i.e. those born between 1980 and the early 2000s), which explains the sharp rise in tech use among property buyers.

ONLINE LISTINGS Of those who used the internet as their main source of finding a property to acquire, listings on real estate websites were by far the most popular. Nearly seven in 10 Sri Lankan property hunters in 2016 said they relied on online real estate portals to find the property of their choice.

PROPERTY ON THE GO Apart from sifting through real estate websites, some 58 percent of home buyers also used mobile devices to find a home in 2017. Among younger millennial property hunters, around 60 percent also used mobile devices to find their ideal property.

SOCIAL NETWORKS Property advertisements on social media – either targeted ads or posted property listings – were also a major source of information particularly for first time property buyers. Facebook was by far the leading social media platform in this regard. With more than 5.5 million users in Sri Lanka, Facebook users represented roughly 85 percent of all local social media users in the third quarter of this year.

RESEARCH METHODS Technology is also affecting the way property hunters conduct research to gather information about properties that are for sale. According to real estate statistics, 13 percent of all home buyers browsed online websites to find information about the home buying process as well as seek additional information about the legal aspects of acquiring a property. When it came to millennials, this proportion rose to 18 percent.

TARGET AUDIENCE The digitalisation of the real estate sector and its subsequent effects are nothing short of remarkable compared to how the segment operated in the pre-internet era. By the end of 2017, over 90 percent of real estate firms had their own website – and online activities had drastically changed how buyers, sellers and real estate brokers interacted with each other.

LEADS GENERATION One of the most visible ways digitalisation has helped the property sector is by dramatically increasing the number of potential leads for real estate brokers. The main goal of property advertising is to generate as many leads as possible in a relatively short period. Digitalisation has increased the number of leads, which in some cases can correspond to as much as 80 percent of new customers.

CLIENT COMMUNICATION Compared to the traditional method of using the postal service, realtors now predominantly opt for email with more than 94 percent of agents preferring this method
to communicate with their clients at an official level. However, phone and text messaging are popular for casual communications with some 90 percent of agents using one of these methods to contact their customers.

PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS Thanks to the digitalisation of the real estate sector, the use of predictive analytics is turning the business of property sales into virtual e-commerce ventures. Here, analytical data is used to come up with predictions about the needs of buyers and sellers – and this in turn makes it far easier to pair the right buyer with the right seller.