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Estate agents should view digital disruption as an ‘enabler’

09 Oct 2017

The arrival of digital real estate solutions like LeadHome and PropertyFox does not spell the end of every property agency in South Africa, but rather numbers the days of those agencies that do not offer an exceptional service to their clients.

Vining says that technology does not intimidate companies who are willing to learn, grow and adapt.

This is Charles Vining, Seeff’s MD in Sandton’s view on digital disruption on the real estate marketing space. “While the launch of internet banking certainly changed the way that many clients do their banking, it has not shut the doors of all traditional bank branches and the same can be said about the arrival of online marketplace Airbnb - it has surely created a digital industry and new possibilities, but it has not closed down every hotel or guest house in the country.”  

He says start-up tech companies in real estate pride themselves on a stress-free and more affordable experience, and these are attractive selling points as some people have had previous bad experiences and are looking to test a new method. 

“In the case of reputable property agencies, however, this will only serve as motivation to further up our game and to demonstrate to clients exactly why we earn the commissions that we do and why personal interaction in any property transaction will remain non-negotiable”. 

Vining says that technology does not intimidate companies who are willing to learn, grow and adapt. 

"At Seeff we choose to view digital disruption as an enabler. We have already made advances in this regard and are constantly reviewing the way we work, a sharp focus being on online solutions, without losing the personal touch that is so necessary”. 

Vining says that Seeff Sandton has been testing virtual reality engagement for the last 12 months, and will be promoting this shortly. 

“It was vital that the process be refined, and a dedicated full-time videographer was employed. Cameras and equipment were imported from the USA and certain digital construction and development was outsourced.“ 

The advantage of a virtual reality, says Vining, is that it allows buyers the opportunity to get an actual feel for the property, particularly with regard to spaciousness, as it is often difficult to accurately understand space based on still photographs.

He says many agencies offer ‘virtual tours’, but these usually consist of slide shows of pictures stitched together.

“In our case we offer an actual virtual walk-through of a property where you can enter a different room at the click of a mouse. 

“You can swivel, look up, look down and ‘walk around’. This is especially useful for our overseas clients or those unable to attend viewings, and we have already had superb feedback from buyers based abroad.” 

Vining points out that you can’t manipulate these virtual reality videos in the way that pictures can be manipulated, so virtual reality offers viewers a very accurate image of the home - for example, if the grass is not very green it will be reflected as such in the video and won’t be enhanced like it would be possible to do in the case of pictures. 

“There are security and privacy considerations and because we have had almost a year to refine this process we have decided to only show key areas of a home as opposed to every nook and cranny and valuable possessions.”  

The advantage of a virtual reality, says Vining, is that it allows buyers the opportunity to get an actual feel for the property, particularly with regard to spaciousness, as it is often difficult to accurately understand space based on still photographs. 

“Naturally, one cannot forget the convenience of doing this from the comfort of your home or office, or anywhere else, as it is desktop and mobile friendly technology that has been employed”. 

Vining says that these virtual reality videos have been uploaded on the appropriate listings on Seeff’s website and that a dedicated section for virtual reality only will be on imminently. 

“We are excited about our virtual reality and other progressive online solutions that will be launched in the coming months”.

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