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The ‘proptech’ champion the digital revolution of real estate

Just a few years ago, linking the concepts of electronic commerce and real estate It sounded like little less than utopia. The real estate market has always been characterized by being a very traditional business in all its processes. From the loan, through the appraisal or promotion, to the sale firm itself. However, the transformation of the sector championed and catapulted by technology companies, especially as a result of the pandemic, has introduced the click culture into the DNA of home buying and it has drastically shortened the generally long times that I suffered thanks to the development of software, apps and digital solutions.

This new reality has been settling as the ecosystem of proptech (las start up operating in the real estate field) has also been evolving by leaps and bounds. Without going any further, the world panorama of newly created technologies has shot up 300% over the last decadeuntil reaching the figure of about 8,000 companies, according to data from the consulting firm JLL.

The phenomenon is especially significant in Spain, which has established itself as one of the most interesting markets. In fact, it is the second country on a global scale that has received the most investment in technology companies in the real estate business. In just five years, he has gone from being 50 start up from real estate to more than 500. Between July 2020 and June 2021, these new business ideas captured 856 million euros, a figure only surpassed by a giant like the US, according to the Proptech Global Trends 2021 study, prepared by ESCP Business School.

What is striking about the case in our country is that the expansion of proptech it has only just begun. So believes Carlos Blanco, founder and president of Nuclio, who stresses that “market share online in Spain it is just over 1%so there is still a long way to go, since other European countries are close to 10%”. This entrepreneur and private investor argues that the great dispersion and fragmentation that exists in a market such as real estatewhere there is still a low level of digitization, “always represents an opportunity for a start up“.

The round of 30 million euros in Housfy recently closed confirms the international interest in investing in the proptech Spanish. But most of all, it stands out renewed mentality of the buyer and seller towards the channel onlineto avoid traditional agencies and get comprehensive services. Not surprisingly, it is a technological platform that offers all the functions related to housing: property sales, mortgage and financial intermediation, residential rental and home services. And that, as Blanco believes, translates into “technology is mainly helping to lower costs for the end customer“.

NEW INVESTMENT MODES

Although these companies were already growing before Covid-19, they are now a core of the most important trends that are shaping the business, as well as an attraction for investment. As Diego Bestard, CEO of Urbanitae, explains, it has a lot to do with the fact that, apart from the already existing talent, “the collaboration with the great players of the sector has favored the emergence and consolidation of such successful companies as Clikalia or Housfy“.

Your company is an example of the opening of new investment opportunities in the real estate market. The kind of crowdfunding that Urbanitae uses “is based on bringing together many investors of all kinds to, together, contribute that capital, thus reducing the barrier to entry into the market. Now, With only 500 euros it is possible to invest in large real estate projects and participate in the returns they offer”, he asserts. Promoters such as Gestilar or Inmobiliaria Espacio have already chosen to finance themselves on this platform, which in 2021 grew more than 400% and that this year, according to Bestard, is expected to register an advance of more than 300%.

In his opinion, real estate crowdfunding has become “one of the sectors with the greatest potential”. Above all, he explains, because access to traditional financing “is now more complicated than it was a few years ago, either because of the restrictions on developer credit established after the 2008 crisis, or because certain projects, despite being profitable, do not fit the business model of other financiers [como los fondos de inversin y de deuda o los propios bancos]”.

The revolution generated through this type of initiative is based on the dynamism and flexibility that the disruptive technologies of recent years have brought to the field of play. Mara Matos, Director of Studies and spokesperson for Fotocasa, highlights “virtual reality, the big dataartificial intelligence or the Internet of things like those that have taken force in the universe proptechoffering more agile and innovative solutions”.

USE OF ‘BIG DATA’

An example of this is the commitment to the use of data on a large scale that Fotocasa itself has carried out with the recent launch of an appraisal tool online. His goal, says Matos, is “help users to perform a simulation of the current price of their homeAnd along the same lines, at the end of 2021, this marketplace was the protagonist of the purchase of the proptech PixiePixel, a tool of big data which includes updated data for each area, both supply and demand, and also the valuation of real estate and the evolution of the price, both for sale and for rent.

But data analysis has not been the only revolution in the sector. As Matos acknowledges, the toughest months of the pandemic “represented a change in consumer habits”, including in the sale of housing. That, as he states, caused the Fotocasa Pro brand (which brings together the Fotocasa, Habitaclia and Milanuncios portals) to deploy a series of solutions that are already established in the market today. Between them, “the photographic and production service in three dimensions, to publish quality advertisements for real estate, as well as the virtual home visit tool, that allows us to offer an innovative experience to customers”, he details.

Las proptech They have put on the table not only the possibility of trading a property or any other asset at the click of a button, but also of visualizing every inch of them with this type of digital disruption. In the same way, Matos mentions digital twins (digital twins) as another virtual reality that breaks into the sector with force. Increasingly present throughout the industry, these virtual replicas “offer multiple opportunities for professionals in the real estate sector in terms of simulating scenarios or prediction of adaptability of the asset”. And all this, he adds, “based on artificial intelligence and the machine learning“.

The emerging use of the algorithm in the real estate sector has given agility even to the world of reforms, which have skyrocketed in recent years. Around this idea, the proptech Casavo has designed a line of business that consists of an agile and simple process of buying a house, to later reform it and put it up for sale again. According to Francisco Sierra, its general director for Spain and Portugal, the start up “carries out instant real estate appraisals, accompanied by a purchase offer in 48 hours and the purchase within seven days from both owners and agencies”. This, he says, is thanks to Eva, an algorithm patented by the company that “founds each and every one of the instant valuations thanks to the crossing of multiple variables”.

The tool allows, among other things, to receive a purchase offer from Casavo through virtual visits. Thus, Sierra argues: “In this way we find ourselves before applications that have revolutionized the real estate sector, since they allow users to know what the value of their home is instantly and at the market average.”

RESIDENTIAL RENTAL

Another reflection of the extent to which start up real estate are setting trends with this type of technology is their irruption into such conservative niches as rental. Over the last ten years, platforms like Airbnb have digitized vacation rentals.

However, residential is still a long and very traditional process. And that is precisely the challenge that Jeroen Merchiers, a former senior Airbnb official, now faces with the creation in 2021 of Zazume, a platform of which he is CEO and which digitizes the entire life cycle of Spanish residential rental. The idea, he says, is that “in just a few clicks you get intelligent, centralized and efficient management of homes and real estate for small owners, property managers, coliving o family offices“. That, according to nuances, takes the form of a marketplace with more than 50 services “to make the tenant’s stay more comfortable”, such as the management of supplies, the rental of furniture or the search for babysitters or massages at home.

As he assures, this model tries to respond to this new generation of tenants, with the millennials to the head, that “looking to rent a lifestyle instead of a mere spaceIn fact, according to Elogia Research, more than 80% of Spaniards would hire a platform that, through a appintegrate different services for the home that increase their quality of life with an experience to this.

METAVERSE AND ‘TOKENIZATION’

Merchiers also sees new opportunities in emerging technologies like the blockchainsmart contracts and tokenizacin of assets. In this line, the arrival of the metaverse has opened a niche for the boom of the digital brick through virtual reality. Not in vain, there are already real estate companies that have promoted initiatives for the sale of properties on platforms such as Decentraland and even the recreation of their headquarters in these virtual worlds to offer real land to the avatars of customers.

In terms of tokenization, this year several proptech ready to transform traditional rental contracts into NFTs. This is the case of Nash21, from where they explain that, with this technology, “that dormant asset” that is the contract becomes something that now acquires value. According to Gabriela Roberto Bar, co-founder and chief business officer from the company, “can be bought and sold freely, as well as used as collateral to apply for a loan and even send the NFT of the contract or rent to a third person anywhere in the world”. One of the paradigms of this new business model, as he underlines, is that “the figure of the notary is not necessary because the whole process is done through technology blockchainwhich provides trust and transparency in the transaction”.

In his opinion, this also implies the challenge “that people understand that this technology makes it possible to take your rental contracts out of the drawer to make them liquid“.

A LEGAL FRAMEWORK TO IMPROVE THE ECOSYSTEM

The colonization of the sector by the ‘proptech’ brings a disruption that makes “Inevitably, there will be a certain gap between reality and the legislation“, considers Diego Bestard, CEO of Urbanitae. After all, real estate law has many elements.

In this sense, Bestard believes that “measures such asto entry into force of the ‘sandbox’ in November 2020they have enabled a very interesting test bench for the development of ‘proptech‘”.


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