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AI is revolutionising the Indian real estate sector by enabling hassle-free property buying and selling

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With more than 1.8 crore registered users across regions, NoBroker.com, a tech-based brokerage-free real estate platform, is the world’s largest P2P real estate platform. As India’s first property tech unicorn, the firm focuses on removing information asymmetry in the real estate sector in India with the use of cutting-edge technology. Akhil Gupta, Co-founder and CTO of NoBroker.com, shares with Express Computer, how his firm has democratized property search by removing the middleman from the process

Please tell us about some of your recent tech-based developments?

As India’s first proptech unicorn, we focus on how to deploy technology to optimize the property value chain and make life easier for home seekers. Every new feature, service, or update that we roll out is geared towards this.

We started by democratizing property search by removing the middleman from the process. Our first aim was to save customers from paying huge intermediation fee as brokerage. Real estate platforms had been around for a while and although they focused on solving the problem of property discovery, none of them had addressed the customer pain point. As a result, a lack of transparency, information asymmetry, pressures and biases of middlemen have been characteristic of the sector.

We tackled this challenge by eliminating brokers from the NoBroker.com platform, using AI-based algorithms to ensure that home seekers and homeowners connect with each other without any interference. This approach helped us remove information asymmetry in the real estate space and bring down the cost of transaction for our users; other proptech companies are now beginning to replicate this, underscoring the relevance and efficacy of our broker-free approach.

NoBroker.com is ahead of the technological curve in the real estate space, as is amply demonstrated by the tech-centric features and services that we have launched to streamline the customer journey on our platform, such as:

– Rent-o-Meter, which uses machine learning and in-depth data analytics to present the most accurate rent projections to prospective tenants. These rent projections are developed by combining and evaluating both historical pricing trends and the real-time data about market demand, consumer interest, and current monthly rental range in the locality.

– Travel Time Search, which uses locational and navigational datasets to help home seekers get insights about the connectivity to and from a prospective home to their most frequently visited places, such as school/college or office, as well as nearby amenities such as hospitals, community/recreational centres, etc. Such in-depth information empowers users to make more informed decision and choose a home that is more aligned with their needs.

– Flixer, which was launched to further refine the digital real estate experience. The feature uses cutting-edge tech such as advanced image intelligence, attribute recognition, and text formation engineering to identify and convert high-res property images into an immersive video experience. Key property information such as rent and available items is automatically embedded into the video, as is other locality-based information such as nearby amenities and landmarks, schools, hospitals, and businesses.

– Rent and maintenance payment, which allows users to pay their rent and maintenance payment online even via credit cards and get instant reconciliation. It is quite a relief from traditional bookkeeping that MC members have had to do.

– Neural recommendations- It is an AI based recommendation engine that captures users’ taste of properties and recommends similar properties.

– Smart camera- A camera app that allows users to take good quality images of their properties.

– Smart RM- It is a virtual agent that understands users’ personal subjective requirements and identifies properties relevant for them.

– Property scores- Intelligently generate scores for properties using location data about things such as commute friendliness, lifestyle friendliness, nightlife friendliness, foodie friendliness, etc.

What are the major real estate technology trends that will drive the growth of the industry as a whole?

There are several trends that will shape the future growth trajectory of real estate but, if I have to pick three top trends, they would be:

Artificial Intelligence:

AI is already revolutionising the Indian real estate sector by enabling hassle-free property buying and selling in a hitherto fragmented and unstructured market. It is being used by platforms to keep brokers out of the transactional value chain and address issues with information asymmetry. It is also being used extensively to empower and streamline the user journey by curating a list of homes to match the user’s exact needs.

What AI will do next, I feel, is change the way that real estate players – from property developers to financiers – function by helping them optimise backend operations. For instance, AI can help real estate companies make sense of the massive quantities of consumer data that they have access to, allowing them to make more informed decisions across the board, from project development and planning to sales and marketing.

As a result, we will see an evolution in the questions asked across the entire value chain. Instead of asking “how do we sell this project”, stakeholders will pose more incisive queries such as “what kind of homes are buyers looking for?” and “what in-society amenities should be considered necessary for this project, and what can be offered as a value-add?” In such cases, projects will be designed to meet the specific needs of a target demographic, with AI-based tools additionally helping in pricing the project/unit more transparently.

Blockchain:

Blockchain is touted as the next big disruptor in the real estate sector – and it is easy to see why. The technology is already being used to power smart contracts and transactions in the global real estate space. Over time, we are likely to see blockchain documentation completely replace paper and even other forms of digital recordkeeping due to the benefits that they offer. Immutable and auditable, these blockchain-based records are enabling swifter and more efficient property transactions while minimising property fraud. Other legal requirements, such as certifications and compliances, can also be managed and vetted through blockchain-based records.

On the business end, blockchain-based smart projects will ease the process of financing a real estate project. These smart projects will enable financiers and banks to disburse the approved loan capital in several tranches, which will be triggered when certain stipulated milestones are met. Not only will this significantly improve the project completion and progress tracking but also reduce the chances of a loan default by developer in case of insolvency.

More importantly, blockchain will open up non-conventional real estate ownership models, such as fractional ownership, up to a much larger section of the common masses. The tokenisation of real estate assets as fractional shares will open the real estate market up for massive investment opportunities, where retail investors can trade their share in a property for a profit as easily as they trade stocks.

Augmented/Virtual Reality and Immersive Technology:

Immersive technologies such as AR/VR have been in play within the real estate sector for a while but the last few years have seen a rapid ramping up in terms of their capabilities and application. For instance, while the home purchase sentiment increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, prospective buyers across the country were unable to physically visit their chosen property before finalising the deal; still photos uploaded on online platforms were unable to give a sense of the actual dimensions of the home or the current condition of the house.

Video tours became a rage during this time. They are a great way to shortlist properties and cut down on time, effort, and cost massively. If we can take any cue from there, AR/VR will not be futuristic for long but become a standard ask.

Moving ahead, as the digital migration within the real estate sector accelerates, we can expect such solutions to gradually become more popular, offering a viable, digital-first alternative to customers to replace all in-person property visits.

Of all the challenges that the real estate market is facing today, which are the few big ones that are looming over the rest? 

The fragmentation within the Indian real estate landscape is, without a doubt, one of the biggest issues facing players in this space. The lack of transparency can be exploited by unscrupulous entities to defraud unsuspecting consumers.

Then there are behavioural challenges, such as the lack of familiarity with tech and digital tools. This is a major issue; while a significant percentage of current homeowners in India are above the age of 50 years and, therefore, are not as proficient with online platforms, a majority of their prospective tenants and buyers belong to the younger millennial and post-millennial demographics.

House hunting has been historically managed by agents. There is lack of transparency about a lot of things when people are looking for homes from a distance. To address this gap, real estate portals consistently work towards simplifying their platform’s user experience to allow even first-time digital users to seamlessly explore, buy, rent, and sell properties online. Features such as Rentometer that help predict right rent of the property and NB estimate that help get the accurate price of a property help a tenant/buyer make a more informed choice even from a distance.

Top proptech companies such as NoBroker.com are already addressing the interlinked issues of market fragmentation, information asymmetry, and lack of transparency via tech by ensuring that every property listing on their platform is vetted, verified, and authentic.

How adapting technology will help drive the future growth of the real estate market?

Given the multiple issues with the traditional process of buying, selling, and renting properties, it is slightly surprising that it took an unprecedented cornerstone event such as the COVID-19 pandemic to accelerate digital adoption within the real estate space in India.

However, now that an inflection point has been reached, we can expect digital adoption to continue to increase. Many reasons have been listed above explaining why technology will shape and drive the growth of India’s real estate ecosystem. In essence, it will:

– Improve transparency by enabling swifter, more authentic, and traceable transactions

– Address information asymmetry by providing all the rent/purchase-related information relevant to prospective home seekers via easy-to-access dashboards and easily consumable formats, in real-time

– Reduce fraudulent transactions by identifying and minimising suspicious activity, as well as proactively suppressing fake listings

– Enhance the ease of buying, selling, and renting by taking over time- and effort-intensive tasks such as vetting and shortlisting prospective home seekers, streamlining legal documentation, and speeding up the entire process from discovery to completion

– Make the entire real estate value chain more efficient, accurate, and immersive by using tech to improve the pace and precision of conventional processes and systems

By driving these transformations across the entire value chain, technology will increase the trust and transparency within the Indian real estate sector. The pandemic already gave us ample proof of how this tech-centric approach can not only drive the industry’s growth but also make it more resilient; while most sectors are still coming to terms with the market disruption caused by the pandemic, the demand for real estate has only increased over the last two years.

Leading proptech platforms such as NoBroker.com have created a comprehensive digital ecosystem around the needs of India’s real estate market. As a result, more and more people across age groups are keen on purchasing a property, whether for personal use or as an investment; according to the NoBroker.com Real Estate Report 2021, more than three-fourths (76%) of Indians considered real estate as the best investment option and indicated their willingness to purchase property in the next couple of years. As technological adoption improves over time, we can expect this growth to continue to accelerate at a healthy rate.

What are the unique features of NoBrokerHood app that leverages technology to enhance safety and security?

NoBrokerHood, the society super app by NoBroker was launched with one aim in mind: to make the society living experience safer, secure, and convenient for society residents via technology. All of the app’s features are designed to fulfil these goals. Listing some key features below to explain how technology helps NoBrokerHood improve resident safety and security while making their living experience more convenient:

● Launched at the height of the pandemic, the Touchless Entry feature uses facial recognition technology for visitor/staff entry management while eliminating the need to touch physical surfaces. Not only does this minimise accidental transmission but also improves security by enabling residents to swiftly verify the identity of their visitors.

● The Guest Preapproval feature allows residents to upload the profiles of frequent visitors, such as domestic staff or close friends/family, for more streamlined entry and approval. All of this has helped us bring down the average time taken for visitor entry from 3-5 minutes to just 5 seconds while also improving the safety and security of society residents.

● The Guard Patrolling feature which uses geo tagging with QR codes ensures that guards patrol the society area everyday.

● The Rent Pay feature allows for rent and maintenance payments to be transferred online via credit card, debit card, UPI and Net Banking. It offers instance account reconciliation.

● The NoBrokerHood app also comes with an Intercom Calling feature that shields residents’ phone numbers. This protects user privacy without compromising their ability to seamlessly communicate with each other or the society’s security staff via the app.

● Boom barrier for vehicles entering society premises prevents impostors from sneaking in the complex. It is not a conventional boom barrier when someone just presses a button. It works like Fast Tag but with NoBrokerHood RF ID.

The app is consistently upgraded with more features to ensure resident safety and a hassle-free living experience.

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