Thursday, 16 April 2015

Virtual realty

Internet-savvy real estate companies using online to push sales find the results most encouraging.

Virtual Realty:
Move over electronics and apparel, welcome real estate. Realty companies across India are adopting the digital media platform to tap customers aggressively. They are scouring the skyline for buyers looking to book homes online, people who want to avoid visiting residential project sites. And the results are more than interesting.

In other words, launching an app, and tying up with real estate portals like Housing.com, Commonfloor.com and 99acres.com to list their properties are pass̩. Property developers are linking up with e-commerce portals to sell their properties and flats as commodities on this online space. For internet-savvy realtors using online and becoming part of an advanced digital marketing technology platform, is an experience worth its weight in money Рliterally.

Consider this:
BSE-listed Kolte-Patil Developers, Pune’s largest real estate company, recently sold 1,150 apartments in various sizes at its residential projects spread across Pune, Bangalore, Mumbai and Goa for a total cash of Rs 750 crore.

Amura Marketing Technology, one of India's largest digital marketing companies, conducted some of the most successful digital campaigns for real estate companies. For Panchshil Realty, they conducted a full digital launch of their Kharadi project, Panchshil Towers. This project was advertised only on the digital platform.

Recently three customers also bought luxury villas worth Rs 10 crore online. Kolte-Patil Developers sold three such super luxury properties online after it tied up with Amura Marketing Technology. Two of these buyers were NRIs while the third was from Pune city, where the 7K super luxury residential project at posh Kalyani Nagar is located. It is not a ready-to-move-in property but will be fit for possession by 2016 end.

A Tata Housing National Home Buying Week between February 11 – 22 this year, offering projects and a special interest rate has sold over 1,500 apartments online, translating into over a million sq ft of sales.

Vikram Kotnis, founder director of Pune-based Amura Marketing Technology told Financial Chronicle, “We marketed and sold Panchshil Towers online for around Rs 100 crore.’’

Sujay Kalele, CEO at Kolte-Patil Developers concurs: “We sold 250 units online, valued around Rs 150 crore, during a three-day Nest Fest home buying festival that included a digital as well as on-the-ground sale of our properties. ” Interestingly, none of these homes are ready to move; they are two years away from possession.

Kelele admits he expected online sales in the under-Rs 50 lakh category but was pleasantly surprised at customer response in the premium homes segment. “We were delighted at the great response for our projects offering homes in the Rs 70 lakh and above category,” he coos.

The difference was stark. Kolte-Patil Developers had put up for sale a total of 13 projects in the Rs 30 lakh-Rs 10 crore range at the Nest Fest. The number of visitors at Nest Fest totaled 30,000 and online? A healthy 15-lakh web visitors a day!

Kelele takes his hat off. “We received bookings from 25 cities across 80 countries, which shows that a typical real estate customer is moving from the conventional physical to online and the market is slowly but surely moving to the digital platform,” Kelele said.

Mumbai-based Tata Housing Development Company, one of the pioneers in online sale, has also succeeded selling properties online. “Tata Housing pioneered the concept in 2013 when it partnered Google’s The Great Online Shopping Festival to launch the real-estate segment online and launched its flagship online property National Home Buying Day (NHBD) soon after in February 2014,” Brotin Banerjee, managing director and CEO at Tata Housing Development Company told FC.

Encouraged by the huge success in its inaugural edition, the company recently announced the National Home Buying Week (scaled up from NHBD) between February 11 - 22 and offered 25 projects in eight cities at a special interest rate of 7.99 per cent for five years on its website www.tatanhbw.com. Till date,Tata Housing has sold over 1,500 apartments online.

Online space and e-commerce platforms have opened the market to national and global buyers. While shopping for apartments, the buyer has direct access to the company - without needling brokers. “While selecting an apartment, we enable complete transparency. Our consumer has the option to take a virtual tour of the property online, which cuts through geographical barriers of the physical touch and feel. He also has the option to go through the entire project on our YouTube page and the website. We decided to integrate a secured payment gateway to enable ease of transaction and safety for our consumers across the globe,” Banerjee explains.

Amura Marketing’s Kotnis states that his firm has developed a product for real estate developers called “Sell.Do”, a real estate data management and campaign execution platform. “It won't be long before the real estate market sees only digital launches and this is likely to be a game-changer for the sector,” he predicts.

Kotnis says his company has tied up with 50 developers across India, many of them heavyweights, such as Shapoorji Pallonji, Sobha Limited, Omaxe Ltd, Oberoi Realty, K Reheja, Provident Housing and Xerbia. “We handle over 2,500 enquiries a day on our digital platform and till date we have sold a total inventory worth Rs 4,000 crore across the country,” he points out with a sense of pride. With trusted and well-known brands, it makes the job easier for the company and the buyer.

Buoyed by a two-fold jump in property listings on its website over the past one year, online classified portal Quikr.com is also planning to launch a separate website just for real estate. To be called quikrhomes.com, the new website will be launched in the next four to six weeks, Pranay Chulet, CEO at Quikr.com, told this newspaper.

The Mumbai-based company claims about Rs 15,500 crore worth of real estate transactions take place through it portal every month, accounting for half of the transactions for all products on the website put together.

The portal has about two million active real estate listings, up from about a million a year ago, Chulet points out. These include listings for sale of residential units, plots and some rental accommodations. No surprise then the new website by Quikr will have listings not just for homes but also for plots and commercial spaces.

To analyse the number of transactions and their total value through the website, Quikr queries people who have listed properties on a regular basis and if a person decides to disable his or her listing after a sale, the website resends a query to check whether the property sold has been transacted through Quikr or through other sources.

The website has about 31 per cent listings for apartment rentals, 27 per cent for apartment sale, 22 per cent for land sale and about 8 per cent for commercial properties, as per its data.

“My group has tied up with Snapdeal.com to offer online booking of our real estate project – Unnati World Residences. The tie-up with Snapdeal will offer customers increased flexibility and unique offers at the time of booking. We are happy to have tied up with Snapdeal and look forward to a long-term relationship that will benefit customers immensely. Our aim is to strategically enhance our sales channels while offering our customers greater ease and convenience,” says Anil Mithas, chairman and managing director at Unnati Fortune Group.

To add further spice, Unnati is offering exclusive discount and Snapdeal vouchers worth Rs 70,000 to buy property online. It aims to become the most trusted channel for customers buying apartments online. It has tied up with developers like Tata Value Homes, Godrej Properties and Kolte Patil, among others.

“Large, listed developers with credibility are enjoying a certain degree of success with online bookings,” Anuj Puri, chairman and country head at JLL India, international property consultants, told FC. He said many developers are investing heavily into the technology back-end and are making all relevant documentation - an important consideration for property purchase - available online.

He goes on: “I expect that the highest success for the online route would be among NRIs familiar with a certain developer's track-record for quality and timely delivery. In particular, online booking of super-luxury homes is likely to pick up, especially considering it can be the fastest way for investors to secure a property in a project with very limited units. The ongoing success of online sale would depend on how much developers are willing to invest in relevant technology in a fast-paced environment which is changing constantly,” Puri said. As fast as the internet?

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