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Has COVID-19 been catastrophic for real estate or has digitisation saved the day?

By Chris Keane

There are so many ways COVID-19 could have been catastrophic for real estate transactions in Australia, but crisis is the mother of invention and abnormal circumstances the father of rapid adoption.

You see, many of the solutions that were necessary for agents to help buyers and sellers do deals in the immediate market hurdle of lockdowns already existed. These solutions just hadn’t been practically accepted into most of our industry, because the status quo was working perfectly well pre-pandemic. After all, it’s human nature to adhere to what we know over the unknown. If it ain’t broke…

But at Ray White Lower North Shore Group we’re always interested in the innovations that improve what we do, so we are well placed to make changes in order to not lose momentum in a property campaign.

In a pre-pandemic world, it was commonplace for auctions to be set in a conference-style room filled with bidders and buyers agents, real estate professionals and occasionally press. That buzzing atmosphere was perceived as central to creating competition in order to ultimately arrive at a premium price for the sellers. In a pandemic world, physical gatherings in public places present a new threat and thus auction practitioners had to pivot, and fast.

In some cases, auctions were barely inconvenienced by restrictions of a limit of one person per two square metres, if there are more than 25 people in attendance. And while mask wearing was mandated and a COVID-safe plan became compulsory, auctions carried on largely as per usual.

In other cases, when a snap lockdown is announced, agents have to act decisively in the best interests of their clients and the safety of the community. Sellers have to choose between bringing the auction forward, delaying it or digitising it. Virtual, remote and over-phone bidding make all of this possible. Technology has enabled the same time-sensitive atmosphere for a traditional auction to occur, while ensuring bidders from further afield – or locked down nearby – can feel as though they are in the room.

The intuitiveness of platforms – where buyers don’t need to be hand-held to log on and make a bid – allows online auctions to happen with the same effectiveness as a traditional in-person auctions. This innovation has been central to much seller success in such a prosperous property market.

Consider these two properties which were up for virtual auction in July. Our auctioneer was in the room at our in-house auction facility at our Mosman office, whilst our lead agents facilitating the bids over the phone were zoomed in from our Cammeray and Crows Nest offices. This virtual auction was like no other, as our whole team united to help all parties buy and sell safely.

And what were the results? First up was 5 Greens Drive, Cammeray which sold for over $3 million as four registered bidders competed for the three-bedroom property. The bidding began at $2.75 million but it was a young family from Chatswood that cast the final bid. All four were bidding via our own sales team over the phone in what was a second to none digital experience.

Bidding began at $1.85 million for the second property, 71 Colin St, Cammeray which had been lovingly held in the same family for over 69 years. There were 11 bidders registered and it sold for over $2.3 million. The results achieved far outstripped everyone’s expectations.

Similarly, open homes in their conventional form were no longer an option in a pandemic world. Under restrictions, hosting upwards of 30 people at a property can be a slow and onerous experience with additional staff needed for check ins and sanitising, and fewer buyers allowed inside the building at a given time drawing out hour-long inspections into multi-hour affairs. Buyers too, though buoyed by low interest rates, were deterred by inefficient inspections.

Organising one-on-one in-person private inspections has been one part of the solution, and in some ways particularly with prestige property, this helps further validate the suitability of the buyer to the property. Virtual reality, 3D mapping and even the humble application of Facetime make digital inspections an appealing alternative for prospective buyers, particularly the many eager expats aspiring to return to the Lower North Shore.

Digitising processes that were once done in person in an office has transformed traditional processes, improving ease, accessibility and simultaneously making the sector smarter. Our ability to analyse more data, be accessible online and be responsive in real-time while making the process more efficient and user friendly has been greatly improved by technological advances in our sector.

In parallel, the digitisation of the borrowing process is making the end-to-end experience of buying more seamless than ever before. New ways of funding aim to make it less complicated, more accessible and increase liquidity for both the demand and supply side.

The way the many parties in a property transaction interact is undergoing a shapeshift too. Platforms that connect to allow users to interact with stakeholders, such as buyers, sellers, conveyancers, solicitors, mortgage brokers, agents, owners, tenants, maintenance providers, are increasing collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

If you would like to find out how we have adapted and helped our clients in the current market, contact Chris Keane.

Chris Keane
Senior Sales Advisor
0497 102 114

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