Virtual real estate

Real estate goes Virtual on ITWeb describes a developing trend in today's residential property market, where the Internet has revolutionised many forms of buying and selling. With only one percent of purchasers buying their homes online, the medium has already proved itself.

Proven medium
South Africa's online property industry has grown rapidly over the past few years, with hundreds of property sites and portals, ranging from small players to the larger groups like Pam Golding, Seeff and Remax. Some are very complex, offering services such as three-dimensional tours of houses and specific searches based on price, location, size and facilities. This has been a boon to foreigners, some of whom have bought property sight unseen. Traditional print publications have not missed out and many have expanded their operations to include a web aspect with its mutually enhancing advantages.

Expanding markets
An example of what the web offers is the South African Property Transfer Guide (SAPTG). This Web-based application provides subscribers with information from the Deeds Office regarding all property sales (prices, buyer and seller details, erf number etc) in South Africa. The system targets estate agents, valuators, financial institutions and property developers, with its primary aim being to supply estate agents with credible information to present to their clients and to provide them with accurate obtain pricing trends in various areas.

PrivateProperty.co.za also is an example of how the Internet can be used to empower individuals, by allowing them to have access to information on which they can base their decisions without the assistance of a third party.

Home Loans
The Web has also added impetus to the mortgage origination industry, with Octagon Solutions for example offering a secure point of contact that links the banks, credit bureaus, deeds offices and other information sources in a secure environment. Although not as readily apparent, it is in the use of back end technology that software has really come into its own. Products like GhostConvey add value in that the information does not have to be recaptured by the various parties but merely imported.

For instance, an estate agent can now instruct a transfer attorney to attend to a transfer on behalf of the buyer or seller and the progress can be tracked electronically, while the details captured by a transferring attorney can be checked with the Deeds Office and be used by the mortgage originators, financial institutions and bond attorney once imported. South African home loan originators such as Bond Choice, Bond Net, and the banks are also using the technology more than ever in the credit scoring and property evaluation stages.

Speed and efficiency
The emergence of "sophisticated sales support hubs" funded by a number of agencies which will provide the engine to support sales staff in revenue streams from selling houses, home loans, insurance, personal loans, home improvements, cars and so on has also been predicted. Although the Internet will not fundamentally change the way the property industry operates, Internet usage is definitely on the increase.

There is no reason why the one percent of property transactions performed over the Internet today will grow to 10 percent in the next ten years as the latent potential of the new technologies becomes apparent.

Article on ITWeb

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