Transparency is the flavor of the season, as businesses understand the tremendous benefits and value addition it offers to stakeholders. One sector which especially benefits from a fresh breath of transparency is the real estate industry.
Emerging technology drives transparency in reality, at all levels. The widespread application of real estate disruption gives stakeholders, from fund managers to real estate agents and from investors to end users’ critical insights into not just static information regarding the legality surrounding the property, but also live and actionable information on the actual performance and status of the building.
Integrated Big Data
Information with regards to ownership prices, occupancy levels, and more are critical when making investment decisions in real estate, especially in new markets. However, the availability and quality of such information have traditionally been insufficient and suspect.
Technology is slowly but surely offering solutions to such handicaps. Fund managers, for one, are increasingly making data-driven decisions, relying on high-quality real-time data available to them.
The sophistication of cloud platforms and associated applications has become a game changer for the industry. Hitherto, reality-based data came in multiple systems and several silos, making integrations impossible, especially in a timely manner. However, of late, several real estate stakeholders see the benefit of moving to larger single platforms with unhindered connectivity to other systems.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things enables investment managers to monitor the efficiency of properties at a deep level. Traditionally, real estate managers and stakeholders make their investment and operational decisions based on static data, much of which was obsolete by the time it reached the hands of the relevant stakeholder. The deployment of IoT sensors and related technology systems now allow stakeholders to measure everything from CO2 emissions to the performance of HVAC systems, and from the exact number of footfalls in a commercial building to the state of the walls, and much more, with a high level of preciseness and relevancy. Several new-gen buildings are now fully digital, with all information monitored and processed from a central cloud-based database, accessible anytime, anywhere.
The deployment of drones enables inspecting buildings at a much deeper level, compared to what human eyes or static cameras can offer. The deep insights offer new perspectives on the real asset to investment managers and other stakeholders Drones can enter hard to access places and make explicit the exact status of key installation such as pipes and roofing. It also enables potential buyers to get a real feel for the facility or land, as opposed to ground level cameras.
Blockchain and Digital Tools – Real Estate Disruption
Technology now allows stakeholders to develop comprehensive real-time database regarding the use and ownership of buildings and other real assets.
Here, Blockchain enables a big push. The Blockchain distributes multiple copies of the database across a network of computers, removing the need for intermediaries who store the information. The model also ensures the integrity of the database and enhances security manifold. The net effect is a fresh level of transparency for transactions. Blockchain also transcends national borders and propel open data, which could help semi-transparent markets leapfrog the normal process of transparency.
Leading global level real estate companies such as JLL have complemented the technology push, by introducing tools based on emerging technologies. Online marketplaces, online property management tools, increasing digitalization of local agent practices, self-service apps for clients, precise digital mapping, building inspection using drones, e-contracts, and much more are manifestations of such a trend.
At the macro level, transparency in real estate prices increases accountability and quality of governance and promotes an overall productive business environment. Several countries across the world are now making a push towards transparency. The push for transparency is in part, the fallout of the Panama Papers revelations, which broke out in early 2016. With real estate been associated with money laundering, black money and several other vices, organizations and watchdogs such as Transparency International began to place the sector under greater scrutiny. As such, stakeholders of the industry have no option but to make the fight against corruption a priority. Transparency is increasingly seen as the tool which enables such a fight.
A good case in point in India’s RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Authority) which aims at making explicit the full price of the property, regulating brokers, rendering clarity on building classifications, and several other particulars, aimed at curbing corruption and “black” money. Likewise, UKs proposed beneficial ownership register and European Union’s Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive are other cases in point.
Technology is central to transparency initiatives. The United States, one of the most transparent property marketers in the world, has adopted technology in real estate faster than anywhere else, and other countries are fast catching.
Dubai, with a slew of tech initiatives such as building classification project, improved regulatory procedures, new and enhanced online apps for managing contracts and broker information, and unified lease forms offer a good case study on how to apply technology to infuse transparency in the real estate sector. Another good case study is Netherland, which has pushed innovation around blockchain and open data initiatives.
Transparency in real estate markets not only benefits the direct stakeholders through increased dynamism and productivity gains but also has a profound impact on economic development and the quality of life of citizens. Among other things, it confirms and protects ownership, and keeps a tab on the enforcement of building regulations. The improved efficiency brought about by tech-based tools also allow real estate agents, asset management companies, and other providers deliver better service at lesser costs, enabling them to remain competitive in a highly challenging market.
JLL’s Global Real Estate Transparency Index (GRETI) which tracks transparency in real estate markets reveals the top 10 most transparent markets attract 75% of global investment in the commercial real estate space. It also predicts capital allocations to commercial real estate growing from $700 billion to over $1 trillion within a decade, with increasing transparency a key driver to such gains.
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