Big data applications: Why it's crucial for realtors

Tags: Real Estate

Digital information not only empowers consumers, but also fuels new ways of looking at developments and community planning

In India, real estate is the second largest employer after agriculture and is slated to grow at 30 per cent over the next decade with the housing sector contributing 5-6 per cent to the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

The real estate sector comprises four sub sectors — housing, retail, hospitality, and commercial. The growth of this sector is well complemented by the growth of the corporate environment and the demand for office space, as well as urban and semi-urban accommodations.

It is expected that this sector will incur more non-resident Indian (NRI) investments in both the short and long term very soon. Bengaluru is expected to be the most favoured property investment destination for NRIs, followed by Ahmedabad, Pune, Chennai, Goa, Delhi and Dehradun.

The Indian real estate market is expected to touch $180 billion by 2020. Having said that, the practical problem faced by the real estate sector is that it is fairly disorganised and largely untouched by the digital media. Information is generally compiled from age-old land records, bulky agreements, brokerage documents and customer details, among others.

Some organisation has developed a GIS platform, which takes up raw data from maps, land records and agreements to create separate layers to hold data and interpolate amongst one another to find required results. This provides the ease in project prioritisation, planning, reconciliation and validation.

The records are cleaned and put into a format where they can be uploaded on a GIS platform and extrapolated. The spatial maps that date back to a few hundred years have been reproduced on a cloth map resulting in distortion of shape in land parcels. A certain level of advancement has been achieved, but more linking of data banks is the call of the day.

The general working in most organisations like project planning, analysis of market trends, sales and marketing carried out with the usage of software, however, are not integrated on any platform. There is requirement for holding even greater volume of data. Banking is yet to get connected to the real estate sector. Viewing and selection of information about properties are available, but integration of banking options with best interest rates, will encourage better selection of that option.

The question is what data can be put in the system and what linkage it makes? The data can range from census data, family sizes, paying capacities, preferences, geographic influences, listing of homes for buyer/seller/rent, locational information, neighbourhood, facilities available, connectivity, political information (councillor or corporator), maintaining authority (development authorities, municipal corporations, their contacts and helpline), the list is endless and all avenues are not explored yet.

The data isn't just providing new information to consumers, its also fueling new ways of looking at developments and community planning. Buyer preferences like the size of flat or plot, the orientation, preference to a particular location, proximity to a facility (e.g. club or disco, temple, mosque), which can be derived from a pattern of the users purchasing, Facebook check ins etc, can help in zeroing on the three most favourable choices. Similarly, guiding customers about sectoral trends will offer a wide array of choices of wall and tile finishes, and furnishings.

Amongst the sources of lead generation, internet has overshadowed local newspapers and all other sources as the consumers most preferred method to learn about homes for sale.

Some organisations have gone a step ahead in the process, as cited by Stefanos Chen in The Wall Street Journal. In order to stay ahead in the competition, tech-savvy agents are purchasing data and teaming up with firms that identify potential buyers using increasingly precise metrics.

While we are moving towards empowering the customer towards a better choice, what will happen to the guy who has been earning through personal contacts? The real estate professionals are questioning whether big data algorithms can replace the human-wisdom side of property sales.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for individual real estate agents to be visible to consumers, both online and offline, as consumers follow the larger data sources online. And those with big data have more information needed to rank higher in online searches.

(The writer is director, Rudrabhishek Infosystem Pvt Ltd)

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