From virtual interactive tours and eSignatures to Smart Homes, drones and hyper-localized advertising, our latest industry spotlight explores the top five PropTech innovations disrupting the traditional real estate and property management ecosystems.

From the start of the very first COVID-19 lockdown, it was clear that the pandemic would disrupt every aspect of the traditional real estate journey, from searching, buying, selling, renting and more. But as the global property industry itself looked to update its traditional systems to keep pace with changing customer demands, PropTech became a magic bullet – ushering the largest wave of innovation in the midst of a crisis and uncertainty. Now, 81% of real estate organizations plan to use new digital technologies in traditional business processes.

PropTech startups have largely been behind this increase in technology adoption as PwC revealed that 64% of property businesses invest in PropTech startups. These innovative companies are developing new user-friendly selling concepts supported by new digital platforms to provide landlords and tenants with transparency and seamless experiences – and are set to fast-track the property industry into the digital age.

Here’s our top five stories and predictions for the most innovative PropTech companies bringing a digital overhaul to residential and commercial real estate properties:

  1. Home flipping becomes virtual reality with interactive 3D tour technology

Online listings, drone showings and remote closings existed long before the pandemic but the need to show properties amid social distancing restrictions has seem a growing demand for virtual home tours. Research indicates that 70% of homebuyers now watch video house tours before going to an open house – making interactive virtual experiences one of the most important trends in the PropTech space. Innovative companies such as Zillow are adding AI assistance and machine learning into interactive 3D floor plans to help customers more seamlessly navigate a home online – and it is likely that similar features will remain a key component of the real estate journey beyond COVID-19.

  1. Robotic technology covers ground to clean up Property Management processes

As safety and sanitization concerns remain high to curb the spread of the coronavirus, automatic robotic processes are fast becoming a key disruptor in Property Management – with robots already being used to clean the surroundings of buildings. This trend is set to continue as robotics become increasingly used for cleaning tasks – and China-based startup Gaussian is leading the autonomous way. Gaussian’s autonomous cleaning robots can map buildings and enable lift interaction through APIs. The robotic machines also rely on UV light to sweep large areas without the need for chemical disinfectant, which can help many businesses become more sustainable.

  1. Property essentials – the smart home

The household penetration of smart home devices is set to hit 40% in 2021 as cost saving benefits and sustainability goals drive greater investment and utilization of smart building technologies. But most recently, smart homes have been a new way to attract a new generation of home buyers. In fact, a study found that 62% of Gen-Z renters consider smart-home tech more important than traditional amenities, such as a gym and convenient parking – and PropTech companies are tapping into this lucrative market. SmartRent for instance are looking at ways to automate installation and management processes – including smart apartments, parking management, community Wi-Fi, and security control automation.

  1. Sign, seal and deliver takes on new virtualized meaning with eSignatures

The global digital signature market is projected to grow on average at 26.3% annually from 2021 through 2027 – reaching a predicted $24 billion by 2030. This growing demand has been fuelled primarily by the pandemic – with executive orders even put in place to allow unencumbered virtual notarization. With nearly 1.3 billion documents per year notarized in the U.S. alone, eSignature technology has potential for significant growth – and many startups are leading the charge. Notarize for instance, is the first platform that allows signers to electronically review, sign and notarize real estate documents from anywhere in the world – and is on track to replace in-person signatures.

  1. Widen the outreach – real estate taps into proprietary social groupings for niche advertising campaigns

With the U.S. real estate industry spending around $721.48 million on advertising in 2020 – digital advertising platforms are clearly on track to disrupt the real estate space. For example, Nextdoor is a neighbourhood social networking app used in 11 countries that can create local virtual communities. The platform can provide an entry point for local agents to connect with local homeowners and buyers to build a presence in the area – and continues to build a niche advertising market for hyper-localized campaigns.

Move into PropTech to revolutionize the entire property portfolio

Largely fuelled by new innovative startups, the PropTech industry is growing at a pace. From eSignatures to smart homes, these innovative technologies are set to enhance communication and help businesses seamlessly navigate changing consumer behaviour and market requirements. As fallout from the pandemic continues, those driving new innovation in the PropTech space will have the upper hand – and greater investment will be key to creating more connected residential and commercial real estate properties.

Hannah Watson is PR Account Executive at IBA International.

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