In the last decade, technology has disrupted countless businesses’ models and the speed of these disruptions keeps growing by the day. According to Forbes, technology has grown exponentially over the last century, and the speed at which reliable and stable industries are disrupted is indisputable. The real estate tech sector across the globe is gradually being redefined by ever-changing market conditions and shifts in consumer needs and behaviors. The Kenyan real estate industry continues to expand as investor appetite grows alongside the customer base. Consumers of real estate products have evolved from only using non-technological solutions like physical blueprints and physical site visits to now incorporating technology in their decision-making.
The current real estate customer’s investment needs are accompanied by questions such as, does the house have internet? Can I find the house and developer online? How can I see what I am investing in without physically being there? These types of expectations and needs have pushed real estate firms to apply strategies and technological innovations like the use of virtual reality, renders and fly through videos that align with emerging trends to enhance efficiency and meet consumer needs to remain competitive.
The application of technological solutions in the Kenyan real estate sector is and will continue enabling the players in the sector:
Understand investors’ needs
Investors in the real estate sector are now demanding smart and energy-efficient homes that are designed with technology in mind to reduce costs, boost automation and ensure security. This has pushed real estate firms to strive to provide solutions such as renewable energy in the form of solar panels to appeal to investors who are conscious of green building. They are also building smart homes that support use of smart apps for security and other home functionalities like turning off lights or closing curtains remotely.
Investors are also looking to see, explore and experience multiple housing projects, even before construction kicks off, through having virtual tours enabled by virtual reality and fly through videos. Virtual reality and fly through videos have further helped boost diaspora investor confidence since they are able to visualize and understand their potential investments.
Efforts are also in place to exploit the use of technology for data analysis to understand current and future investors needs vs wants. This means having a clear understanding of who the investors are, the kind of property they want and its location, their budget, and the best ways of reaching out to them. This analysis is done by making use of different technologically enabled means such as machine learning algorithms to identify patterns and build predictive models that can be interpreted to influence future decisions and projects. Developers are also using data analysis to cement their decision to diversify their projects by having high-end, mid-market and affordable housing projects.
Adopt use of digital tools
According to data from the Data Reportal for the Digital 2023 report, there were 17.86 million internet users in Kenya in January 2023, an 8 percent increase between 2022 and 2023. The growth in internet use has led to an increasing need for leveraging the digital space to share information and market products. According to the National Association of Realtors 2021 survey, 96 per cent of home buyers used online searches to find homes. The surge of internet use by investors when house hunting has led to increased use of social media and websites by real estate players to provide information. This has encouraged investors in the diaspora to invest back home since they can easily access information.
A wider access to social media has also contributed to an increase in the online search for information. With the opening up of the internet space, investors can easily get updates on either previous, ongoing or upcoming projects. The digital space also enables them to read reviews and testimonials from fellow investors. Through the real estates’ social media accounts, investors can interact with the firms, ask questions and understand their investments. For individuals who are unable to attend physical site visits, technology is being used to give weekly and regular updates on social media or through webinars that are used as member education forums. Customers can ask questions, give feedback, and get access to online newsletters that further increase their trust in the developer.
Increase construction efficiency
Technology is reshaping the face of the construction industry from its conventional perspectives to the modern era. As construction demand continues to grow, real estate players are forced to keep up with the new trends in the market. So many technological advancements have evolved in the industry that seek to make it possible for construction developments to last a lifetime. The application of technology in construction enables huge improvements in productivity, efficiency, durability, and safety. Technologically enabled materials like aluminium formwork, prefabrication, and 3D printing have allowed for faster delivery of construction projects. These technologies help in speeding up construction thus increasing efficiency and timeliness while avoiding macro-economic factors that could affect costs.
Have you ever visited a website, and there was a pop-up message asking how you can be helped? Technology has enabled the real estate sector to automate its activities thus enabling firms to differentiate their products and services therefore building customer loyalty. Potential investors are able to easily interact with developers and get access to their contacts from their websites increasing the conversion rate. In addition, unlike before when getting approvals for construction was done manually, developers are now able to simply visit an online website to apply and upload documents for approval.
Advancement of technology does not merely add something; it changes everything, and to remain competitive while offering quality service delivery, real estate companies in Kenya ought to continuously embrace these changes.
The writer is Safaricom Investments Co-operative Housing Unit Manager, Daniella Nyakuraya.