Living in a virtual world

Technology advances having huge impact on housing market

There was one direction Canada’s real estate and home building sector could have gone last year when the world shut down.

With open houses banned, sales centres unable to open and uncertainty the norm, builders, developers and real estate agents were suddenly facing what many predicted could be a grim future.
Fortunately, it has not turned out that way, not by a long shot.

In fact, StatsCan stated earlier this year that “prices for new houses were up 1.3 percent six months into the pandemic (between February and August) in comparison to a 0.2 percent drop observed during the same period in 2019. Prices have risen in 23 of the 27 cities covered by the New Housing Price Index since the onset of the pandemic.”

They may not have been solely responsible for the price increase, but technology advances have had a huge effect on both buyers, sellers, developers and builders, particularly since the onset of COVID-19.

According to Anshul Ruparell, CEO of real restate brokerage Properly, “long overdue innovation has been accelerated in many industries, including real estate. An example of that, he says, are “home showings, which were always disruptive for the seller, but today, having people in and out of your home poses serious safety concerns.

“As people are becoming more comfortable with virtual viewings and with purchasing sight unseen, the process of buying and selling is changing in ways that will long outlive the pandemic.”
How technology is helping to change an entire industry can be seen in three distinct software offerings below:

Properly Polish powered by Jiffy: In February, Properly announced it had partnered with Jiffy, an online home maintenance and repair application, to launch a service that provides sellers with a “$20,000 interest-free advance for home upgrades and improvements in order to maximize the sale price.”

According to the two companies, the seller only pays back the costs of the upgrade after closing the “sale of their home, eliminating the financial burden and stress of managing home upgrades prior to listing.”

Home improvements include refreshing a home’s interior with a “fresh coat” of neutral-coloured paint to hide the “wear-and-tear that comes from years of normal house use, installing new light fixtures, landscaping the front and back yards and installing a new tankless water heater.

Sellers of a property can then access Properly Polish powered by Jiffy, which contains a list of recommended home improvements. Once a job is selected online, the work is then completed within a week or so, the two companies say.

Red-Carpet VIP-VTRM: Fortunately, pandemics don’t mutate in the virtual world, which is a bonus for Mississauga-based NEEZO Studios, the creator of LiveSiteTM, a virtual sales application that “offers homebuyers the exact same user experience as being in the sales centre.”

The company, which was part of the HGTV series The Property Brothers development team — the furniture and accessories flythrough scenes in each show was the work of NEEZO — created an app that allows homebuyers to explore and compare floors plans in 2D or fully furnished in 3D and filter selections by unit size, geographic placement and number of bedrooms.

It also provides them with the opportunity to observe the development from day-to-dusk in order to assess sun/shadows, check out area amenities and how close they will be to their new home and, in the case of a condominium project, explore building amenities.

The company’s latest application is Red-Carpet VIP-VTRLM, which contain a series of interactive touchpoints that enable users to download, listen-to or view 3D elements of the sales centre.
The app, which this month won gold at the National Association of Home Builders’ 2021 awards competition, was created out of necessity during the pandemic, says company founder Marvin Maalouf, a professional electrical engineer by trade.

“Just like any red-carpet event, you need to RSVP to gain access, which is something that is expected for a builder’s pre-launch as well,” he says. “Now, it can be offered virtually.”

SaleFish: This software suite caters to both homebuyers as well as residential real estate developers, buildings and agents.

For buyers, SaleFish “provides a web site that allows them to browse, select and buy a home online,” the company says, and as for the sellers, they can use it to digitally centralize all documents digitally, capture electronic signatures and review floors plans with purchasers.

“Whether for high-rise condos, stacked or standard townhomes, or single-family homes, there is significant demand to give buyers the option to purchase online,” it says.

“Post-COVID, this will continue to be imperative for a builder’s success as many buyers, and especially investors, show a preference for buying online. Sales centres will always be important to some buyers, but this can no longer be the only method for selling residential properties.”

Rick Haws, co-founder and president of SaleFish, defines the firm as a real estate transaction software company that thinks of “acceleration and advancements in terms of new features, improved efficiency and more simplicity.”

Asked whether there a learning process involved when it comes to SaleFish, he replied, yes, but “we have been developing our product for over 15 years. “Time plus experience has resulted in simplicity and simplicity provides value and reduces the learning curve.”

Pricing, meanwhile, is dependent on features used, and can range from $5,000 up to $50,000.


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