How Proptech Can Protect Against Pandemic
Auctions and open homes are now restricted, but it will take more than that to bring real estate in Queensland to its knees. Thanks to a flourishing proptech industry, real estate professionals have the tools available to help ensure it’s business as usual for Queensland’s property market.
On 24 March 2020, the Federal Government placed a ban on many non-essential groupings of people, including housing auctions. Fortunately, auctions can take place without the need for a physical congregation, thanks to products like GAVL. GAVL allow the industry to conduct virtual auctions without the risk of spreading the coronavirus (COVID-19) – a win-win in our books.
Open homes have too been restricted, which means agents will need to embrace their inner creativity when it comes to showcasing property listings. It’s important to note that private inspections by appointment are still able to be conducted using The REIQ’s best practice guidelines here, but in the interest of saving time, it would be wise to go through preliminary canvassing to determine who the most serious buyers are and then only invite a single party to view a current listing.
The good news is that those preliminary measures can be carried out remotely, thanks to an array of digital solutions. With vendor permission, you can create video walk-throughs using software such as HomeLive. Or if you’re looking to go even more next-gen, you can create a virtual tour. If your vendor would prefer to play it safe and not have you enter the property, there is still hope – Realar can generate an augmented reality property walk-through using just a floor plan of the home.
In the midst of a pandemic, many agents may sensibly opt to avoid the litany of meetings that comes with appraisals, marketing, planning and general sales solutions. The good news is proptech has an answer for that, too. ProposalPoint allows agents to send digital proposals to vendors, allowing them to uniquely showcase their services and strategies – all without physical contact. Once it’s sent off, you can organise an online video conference through services such as Skype or Zoom. Alternatively, Realtair is designed to handle the entire sales process from start to finish in a digital end-to-end environment. And while we’re on the topic of going digital, why not also consider Real Time Agent, which stands to save you hours on paperwork and administration.
For those less practised with digital solutions and virtual tours, the goal is to recreate the physical inspection experience as accurately as possible. If this means remembering to bring attention to some of the less positive features of the home, that’s still preferred to bringing somebody in for a private inspection only to have them leave disappointed because they were misled by the augmented reality experience. As with all things, practice makes perfect, and this could represent a good opportunity for agents who would normally be reluctant to try out these kinds of technologies.
In our current trading environment, it’s never been a better time to leave the physical paper trail behind and opt for a digital solution to forms, such as REIQ’s Realworks platform. Realworks integrates with all major CRMs and stores documents digitally, meaning remote agents no longer need to scan and email any forms, nor contemplate any of the risks associated with handover documents and unnecessary office visits. Most forms in Realworks can also be executed using DocuSign, a tool developed to digitally sign documents.
For property managers who are subscribers to Realworks, One Touch Execution (OTE) can be used to fill out, send, receive and sign Form 18a tenancy agreements. Switching to digital will help minimise the need for contact, but OTE alone can’t help with the other aspects of property management, which include:
- Vacant Rentals: Those trying to find tenants for vacant properties can use many of the same measures as sales agents. Video walk-throughs, virtual tours and augmented reality all work wonders for giving prospective tenants an idea of what a property is like, and then just as with sales, interested tenants can book private inspections by appointment. Again it would be wise to limit such inspections to only those who vetted as serious tenants in an attempt to minimise human proximity.
- Active Tenancies: The situation becomes slightly more complicated when the rental property has tenants living in it. The occupants may be under quarantine having recently travelled or come into contact with a person suspected of contracting the coronavirus (COVID-19), or they may simply feel strongly about avoiding physical contact in the midst of a crisis. Regardless, the key at times like these (and in fact all times) is communication. Keeping those lines of contact open is imperative when the environment is so rapidly changing. Tenants who were okay with inspections yesterday may not be comfortable with them tomorrow after certain developments.
In instances where existing tenants decline prospective renters entering the property, property managers may still have clearance to take photos or carry out video tours, as mentioned earlier. If the tenants are uncomfortable with having even a property manager enter the home, it’s acceptable to request they take photos, or even a video, of the home to show prospective tenants. It must be stressed that at all times, clear communication between all parties is absolutely key.
- Routine inspections: Carrying out routine inspections can pose another difficulty during times of social distancing and quarantines. If the tenants are comfortable with property managers entering the home for inspection, then it will simply be business as usual – though taking into consideration social distancing restrictions and proper hygiene practices. If, however, the tenants have been instructed to quarantine entirely, or are simply uncomfortable with having others enter their home, property managers should ask the tenants for videos or photos of the properties, taking care to include common problem areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. Importantly, many tenants are not aware of what property managers look for during routine inspections, so it’s well worth drafting up a list of things they should be including in their photos and/or videos. Again, communication is key.