Property technology – or proptech – has tremendous potential to improve efficiency and increase transparency, but the real estate sector globally has been slow to adopt the emerging innovations.
This is now changing, and at a 7 October webinar organized by HKGCC and the PropTech Institute, experts discussed the latest proptech developments and how they can help buyers, landlords, investors and building managers.
“It’s an emerging space, it’s an exciting space and it is very diverse across the region,” said Arshad Chowdhury, Managing Partner at Betatron Venture Group, which invests in innovative companies in Asia.
He explained that the development of proptech can be broken into three stages: Proptech 1.0 allows online viewing of the inventory that is available, while Stage 2.0 uses technology such as the Internet of Things (IoT) to manage buildings and provide data. Proptech 3.0 is the next stage, and involves the use of blockchain-enabled technology.
“We haven’t seen much of this yet in the property space,” he said, “but it is coming, and will change how we manage and buy real estate.”
Growing intra-Asia trade is a major trend, and is also being seen in the real estate sector. “Tools that help with cross-border transactions are going to be increasingly important for real estate,” Chowdhury said, “such as helping to manage currency risk, and payments across borders like collecting rent.”
Another trend is climate change and the prospect of disruptions due to severe weather events like floods and drought. Investors and developers will need to understand the likely impact, and also demonstrate how they are protecting their assets against these risks.
The following three speakers each introduced their proptech solutions. Gary Walter is Co-founder and CEO at Realinflo, which provides live information about building and transaction data. He explained that a key problem in the sector was the lack of information available.
“If you want to buy a building, you want to know about things including ownership, tenants, zoning, expiry dates and rentals,” he said. “The process to acquire this basic data is very painful.”
To get hold of such information requires dealing with many different players, so assessing the value of a building can take many weeks. The Realinflo platform combines multiple data sets from agents, valuers, developers, land registries, town planning portals and as well as public data to give a clearer view of what a portfolio is worth.
Vishalsai Daswani, Founder and CEO at MyPropty, comes from a software engineering background. But on realising that the Hong Kong real estate sector was in need of a technology upgrade he got real estate broker licence to find out more about the industry.
“There is so much money locked in this space but it is so inefficient,” he said. “That baffled me when I moved to Hong Kong.”
He agreed with Walter that poor data management was a major hurdle and there is very little transparency for landlords. “They don’t get any market information about pricing and are heavily dependent on agents.”
Daswani gave an example of a Hong Kong banker who owns five properties in the city and another two in Vietnam. The lack of transparency means she needs to spend a lot of time dealing with tenants, arranging repairs, and filling vacancies.
MyPropty focuses on SMEs, including individual investors and family offices, providing them with up-to-date information, helping clients save time and giving them realistic view of the value of their properties and the market.
RaSpect is a proptech solution that uses predictive AI in buildings management. Harris Sun, the company’s Founder and CEO, explained that the current way of operating is very time-consuming, with physical inspections of escalators, lifts, ventilation and plumbing. RaSpect is working on a fully automated solution that uses data from drones and IoT.
“You can now understand all the properties that you are managing without needing to visit,” he said.
Sun explained that there are four core analysis – visual, infrared, vibration monitoring and magnetic. Infrared, for example, can spot water and even air-con leaks from a building.
“Of a building’s maintenance costs, around 40 to 70 % comes from air conditioning,” he explained. The technology can even spot which window panels the air-con leaks are coming from, helping businesses to improve their sustainability as well as save time and costs.