International Real Estate Business Scenario and Digitalizing Trends and Focus

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1 International Real Estate Business Scenario and Digitalizing Trends and Focus Chapter I Basics of Real Estate and Investment Opportunities Definition Real Estate from Investors Perspective Benefits of Investing in Real Estate Present Real Estate Investment Scenario Real Estate Market Performance in Europe Real Estate Market Performance in US Real Estate Market Performance in Asia Pacific Region Chapter II Impact of Information Technology on Real Estate Businesses Internet and Real Estate Brokers Real Estate not Geared Toward Internet Yet Chapter III Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Challenges Inherent to CRM in Real Estate Business How CRM initiatives can help CRM Software Implementing CRM in Office Environment CRM Success Stories Conclusion Chapter I Definition Real estate is generally hard to define. However, in business terms it means land and building and may also include resources like water, mineral, crops and other immovable properties in it. The definition of real estate varies from country to country. Real estate business includes the following activities professional appraisal, brokerage for facilitating transfer/renting/leasing of property, development of raw land (making land usable), managing property on behalf of owners, marketing of dwellings (including office, commercial and agriculture farm land) and investment in properties. Construction is generally considered as an independent activity though some businesses are into real estate as well. Real Estate from Investors Perspective Institutional investors however look at real estate from a different angle for them it means commercial properties exclusively and involves office, retail, industrial and leased properties. Owner occupied

2 property is not viewed as real estate. Residential properties are not considered as real estate in some countries, and therefore don t find favor with investors. In the UK, for example, there is very little institutional investment in residential properties, where as the contrary is true in countries like Netherlands, the US and Switzerland. Investors generally get into real estate investment through 2 routes providing loans to commercial buildings and by making investment in debt instruments like bonds that are secured against real estate. There are also other forms of investments called Out-come oriented funds which aim to extract maximum mileage from factors like capital return and income return. Yet another way in which investments flow into real estate is through derivatives. They are highly developed in countries like UK. The trend began in , but, in recent times it is not finding favor due to uncertainties regarding pricing, market volatility and the higher risk factor involved. Benefits of Investing in Real Estate Returns in real estate are stable and high because they are linked to general performance of a country s economy They are ideally suited for long term capital gains and therefore are ideal for parking pension and retirement funds Real estate is generally good for funds that seek to diversify funds deployment due to the security they offer Returns from real estate are relatively stable as compared to investment in other investible venues The market for real estate funds does not suffer from volatility as does some investments in other economic activities However, the real estate does face some challenges, they are Real estate properties cannot be converted to cash at short notice Real estate is liable to mismatch between real value and perceived value Real estate purchase and sale takes longer time to complete in real time Present Real Estate Investment Scenario The real estate sectors that currently find favor with investors include hotels, leisure facilities, and retirement homes for retirees, student accommodations. As a rule, however, investors in developed economies prefer investment in real estate in emerging economies where growth prospects are tremendous due to the higher returns funds are able to get. It has also been found that investors generally prefer domestic markets for investment if the risk perceptions are high. It is also the general expectation of investors to demand a higher than normal premium when investments are made abroad. Global investment is preferred by some investors because of the following reasons: 1. Opportunities are vast and keep growing exponentially

3 2. Offers good scope for diversification of real estate assets 3. Opportunities estimated at $ 13 trillion against US domestic at $ 140 billion 4. It offers a better hedge against inflation rates Historically too real estate investments have proved to be fruitful viz-a-viz inflation. Facts and figures for some countries: Australia Investment returns 9+ %, inflation rate under 4% Canada Investment returns 9+ %, inflation rate under 3% UK Investment returns 9+ %, inflation under 4% US Investment returns 7+ %, inflation under 3% Thus it is possible to see a big opportunity for US investors to make real estate investment in overseas markets. The principal risk that deter real estate investment overseas are risk arising out of currency exchange rates, local tax rates, cross-country profit dispatch and lack of benchmarking standards. Real Estate Market Performance in Europe In Europe, generally, the chief method of investment in real estate is through the debt route. Overall Europe performed well in real estate and regulations are considered as fairly transparent, more notably in the UK. The preferred real estate properties in Europe are offices, retail and industrial assets. Within the office space sector, financial sector is the most preferred. The major areas where real estate investment flowed are Amsterdam, London, Frankfurt, London, Paris and Madrid. Incidentally, London s office market space is considered the most liquid and more than 10% of all transactions in real estate are accounted for by this city. What attracts investors to London are transparency and attractive tax structure. On the negative side, London s real estate properties are more keenly tied up with the financial sector which means that its health is determined by the overall performance of financial related activities. Industrial and retail is relatively smaller as compared to office space. Comparable facts and figures on returns (annual) in Europe s real estate markets compared with equities and bonds (toward end of 2011) 1 years investment real estate 6%, equities negative, bonds 14% 3 years investment - real estate 5%, equities 8%, bonds 7% 5 years investment - real estate 7%, equities negative, bonds 8% 10 years investment - real estate 6%, equities 2-3%, bonds 7% 15 years investment - real estate 9+%, equities 8%, bonds 8+% Real Estate Market Performance in US In the US, real estate is broadly split into 4 categories office, retail, industrial and multi-family apartments. Like in the UK, office space is the dominant real estate category into which investments are

4 made. They are estimated to corner 35% of all investments made in real estate in the year Office space in the US is highly prone to cyclic changes and there is some volatility in the rental. The retail category is reputed to be the most highly segmented of all real estate categories. Typically retail categories are segmented into neighborhood shopping centers, grocery shops, regional malls, lifestyle centers and power centers. There is generally a strong tendency on the small shop owner to buy the property rather than taking it out on rent. It means there is little scope for institutional investors to make a foray into this particular segment. Returns (annual) for real estate properties in the US are (toward end of 2012) 10% for 1 year investment, 13% for 3 years and 4% for 5 years. Real Estate Market Performance in Asia Pacific Region The Asia Pacific region refers to the following countries Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. What makes this region so exclusive is it rapid growth phase. But the limiting factors that plague the region is the lack of transparent laws which make it difficult for institutional investors to pour in their resources. But the whole region has a vast potential for real estate growth, especially emerging economies like China and India, and there is also a marked improvement in their transparency index. With an emerging middle class, China and India are considered as potential growth regions of the future. Internet and Real Estate Brokers Chapter II The way business is transacted in real estate dealing has undergone sea changes with the widespread use of internet resources for completing real estate deals. The first casualty is of course the intermediaries who have historically assisted buyers and sellers arrive at transactions. Real estate watchers are of the firm opinion that the market place in the foreseeable future will go fully electronic and most transactions will be completed online itself. Perceptions however vary whether brokers will be replaced in full. Studies show their services are indispensible even in a totally digital world. The reason why customers don t want brokers is because of the high commissions that brokers and facilitators charge for completing deals. This is especially true of the real estate market in the US where commissions are almost double that in other countries like South Africa, New Zealand and the UK. Brokers are already feeling the pinch and a sizable number are already leaving the brokerage business, it is observed. Most of those who bought or sold real estate ask that if they can sit before a computer and start to negotiate why they should pay a fee to brokers. This is an opportunity for brokers though, because they will be able to shift to computer based facilitation in the future. However, another section of real estate watchers are of the opinion that real estate are unlikely to be adversely affected by the internet. In fact they feel that brokers are more likely to embrace information technology to their advantage and facilitate transaction faster and seamlessly. Real estate will require brokers for a long time in the future because of the extensive steps involved in real estate transactions. Typically there are 7 steps involved

5 1. Listing a property for sale 2. Marking the listed property 3. Finding a buyer 4. Helping buyer select the property 5. Negotiating a contract 6. Finalizing the contract 7. Closing the deal All the 7 steps involve contacts and make the service of broker indispensible. Though information technology can give a fillip to providing information, they cannot provide a full and comprehensive service like brokers can. It may be a far time off before internet comes of age to take over all the functions of a typical brokerage business. Real Estate not geared Toward Internet Yet Yet another reason why the internet is not fully geared to change the situation wholesale is that real estate transactions are expensive, properties are infrequently bought and sold, and they are tangible, easy to differentiate and requires significantly higher level of experience to complete deals. This is not to say that internet is insignificant to real estate. On the contrary all stake holders in the real estate business are embracing internet technology to harness a better share of business. In fact they get an opportunity to add value to business. The Internet is revolutionizing real estate retail industry, it is evident, and buyers are increasingly using the online shopping facility because they are more transparent, they get more choice, they are flexible and generally transactions costs less. Studies are proving that sooner or later the entire business is likely to shift to digital means than any other channel. Driving this factor is the mobile user. There are no longer any fixed hours of working like the earlier days, studies indicate. Secondly transactions can be completed in multi locations which are again a big advantage for all concerned. Real estate watchers believe that the transition to digital will take approximately 15 years to accomplish. Chapter III Customer relationship management in real estate business is particularly important and internet has a broad role to play unlike in other industrial sectors. Challenges Inherent to CRM in Real Estate Business Here are some challenges that real estate has to grapple with in relation to CRM. Lack of centralized data for disseminating information to stake holders Access to CRM data base is highly restricted and is not generally open to all Sales forecasting is highly unreliable due to lack of documentation Too many forces working simultaneously in the field Younger sales forces combined with younger buyers

6 Back office management too complex to understand document High level of communication requirement with existing tenants Non-standard business practices make documentation difficult How CRM initiatives can help By centralizing data exchange in a single location through internet technologies Digitalizing information to brokers, buyers and sellers Training brokers in the use of software for use in CRM By building a central repository for information on property availability Extend the use of CRM to tenants and property owners for timely information Manage relationship with prospective property buyers and tenants CRM Software Some CRM software currently available in the market: ACT ACT has been around for quite some time and is one of the most popular and affordable for CRM managers. It has all major functionality, especially suited for small and medium type real estate managers. Some of features included in ACT are meeting notes and task reminders, and that is besides the marketing automation capabilities that will help to create successful campaign. It is generally ideal for marketing real estate. ACT is widely used in the US as well as other countries. Team Support Team Support primarily aims to give client support. It generally helps to keep the communication line intact for the sales team, preventing miscommunication, addressing client enquires and complaint resolution. Some special features of this software are assigning tickets to customers, ability to flag messages, timely attention to enquiries, flagging message based on keyword usage, collaborate with buyers and sellers, and easy to features. There is only a small learning curve to this software. PlanPlus Online Though PlanPlus Online is primarily aimed at real estate business, it also finds wide application in diverse, but related activities like insurance and finance. It provides the user to automate online property sales, marketing, project management and integration with broker s website. Users can take notes instantly, prepare plans for immediate future, manage leads from websites and generally integrate it to a database. It is ideally suited for labor saving. Implementing CRM in Office Environment The first step to successfully implementing a CRM is in understanding an organization s objectives and goals of real estate business. The general objectives are Build a solid relationship with clients Provide value added services proactively Respond to needs on a timely basis and accurately Improve staff awareness and provide training

7 Resolve client issues within minimum time lag Arrive at decision based on facts at hand The steps that the management needs to take to make CRM successful are Educate staff on the important objectives of the CRM Articulate within the organization the importance of CRM Engineer a philosophy commensurate with the objectives and CRM CRM Success Stories In several case studies it has been revealed that CRMs have helped organizations to Improve productivity and transparency Bring in new customers Build successful relationship with existing customers Help stay ahead of competitors Deliver services on time and build confidence with customers Build a solid database of property availability Keep track of changes worldwide Find profitable venues for investors Conclusion: Real estate business is still in the process of evolution as far as integration with internet is concerned. On one hand brokers and other business professionals are concerned by the internet and software making inroads into an arena that was exclusively their own. Though on the face of it, it may seem that they are going to replace brokers and professionals, facts are otherwise. The need of the hour is professionals in real estate need to take to digitalization lest it overwhelms them. Digitalization provides big opportunities for professionals as well as consumers of properties and the idea of being displaced by the internet is purely imaginary and unwarranted. The contrary appears to be true.

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