Singapore Proptech: challenging the status quoBy Rhonda Wong
Real estate is the largest asset class in the world, worth over US$200 trillion. It is an industry that is traditionally conservative, old fashioned and largely dominated by wealthy corporations or individuals who are often older in age.
Those in this age group had, for many years, been comfortable with the ways that things have been done and hence, it is no wonder that the waves of disruption in the property industry is only taking shape now, even though it is an extremely important market - not just for providing shelter but also for investment purposes. The waves have now begun, and is here to stay.
Whilst worldwide financing into startups have declined, investments into proptech have been on the rise. Given the market size and the value of services spent surrounding a property - from sourcing to purchasing to management, the quantum of spending in this sector have become so enormous that in the past, it would have sounded silly if a company claimed that they could disrupt and dominate this segment.
Today however, it has become clear to investors that anyone who succeeds in this area could make extremely huge returns on their dollar.
Here in Singapore, we are home to one of the most expensive per square foot rate of real estate, which makes it a beautiful sample ground for proptech disruptions. It’s also a challenge in itself to get people to make major decisions on big-ticketed assets with minimal human interaction. Areas ripe for disruptions include sourcing, construction, valuation, sales, virtual viewing, crowdfunding, mortgage/ lending, conveyancing, facilities management and home services.
Highly energetic, bright-minded young entrepreneurs are looking for ways to change the world, by bootstrapping through, to provide more efficiency and transparency to the market whilst lowering costs at the same time. This is a new leap for consumers and real estate businesses, as they now have an alternative option that was not available before.
We’ve seen tech in 3D floor plans, which allows you to visualise a property beyond a 2D floor plan, and even drag and drop furniture to visualise how things would look like before making your purchase. Virtual viewing of a property saves time on browsing and is a bonus for customers based overseas.
Another innovation is having robots on construction sites to significantly reduce a firm’s manpower requirements. The robots are able to perform simple tasks such as taking photos and checking the ‘work in progress’ on site.
We’ve also seen DIY transaction portals, which allow homeowners and home searchers to connect directly, enhancing the experience of home search whilst saving time and costs. Once the world gets used to digitised contracts, printing documents and sending them via express mail would be a thing of the past. Right now, facilities bookings and management are just a few clicks away.
The amount of time saved has already amounted to hundreds of hours per day. It is extremely exciting to know that this is only the beginning of the proptech era.
In years to come, we can confidently say that the physical aspect of property transactions, such as face-to-face meetups with consultants, in-person viewing of properties, running from banks and law firms to enquire and sign documents or even walking into your MCST office to book a tennis court – would certainly be on the decline.
Proptech will transform how all of these activities can be done, within a few short taps on your mobile phone. Security will also be enhanced and will no longer be a factor for worry.
Whilst technology cannot ‘gift’ us more time, it can simplify processes, which will help time saving become a lot more effective.