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The Covid-19 pandemic has not dampened demand for private properties, at least among the wealthiest buyers, some of whom have been snapping up prime real estate across Asia-Pacific – even without virtual tours.
But for most property seekers, virtual tours are a must at a time when property showrooms are shuttered, prompting property developers to speed up their digital initiatives. These could be virtual reality showcases that offer a glimpse into a property, along with fly-by views of the development and its vicinity.
Sensing this market opportunity, PropertyGuru, a Singapore-based property technology company that serves 24.5 million property seekers across Southeast Asia through its online property portal, has built a new feature called StoryTeller into its FastKey property sales platform that enables developers to showcase their properties digitally to prospective buyers through 3D visualisation.
“From a property industry perspective, it is clear that consumers want an immersive viewing experience for their comfort and safety,” said Jeremy Williams, chief business officer of PropertyGuru. “Behaviours are going to change to some extent post-Covid-19, and while the consumer will still want to physically see the property, we believe the number of physical viewings will reduce.”
Jason Gregory, managing director of FastKey, a platform that automates the property sales cycle which PropertyGuru acquired four years ago, said StoryTeller is being powered by Foyr's cloud-based visualisation software.
“We’ve been planning this for a while, but we accelerated our investment to get it to market because of the Covid-19 situation,” said Gregory. “And this stuff is not easy – it’s an extreme specialisation, so rather than build, we went with the partner route.”
Gregory said StoryTeller can be integrated with a developer’s inventory management system through application programming interfaces (APIs), enabling property seekers to get real-time information on whether specific units in a development are available.
During a demonstration of StoryTeller, Gregory showed off immersive views of a condominium’s facilities, including the gym and swimming pool, before zooming in on the interior features of an apartment. With data supplied by developers and other sources, prospective buyers can even visualise the views from an apartment’s windows.
Gregory said this data could include property brochures, floor plans and CAD (computer-aided design) files. “If developers are ready to build a sales gallery, then they’re ready for StoryTeller, because we take that same information and we’re digitising it, because it’s important that the property looks the same when you visit the sales gallery,” he said.
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At the sales gallery, said Gregory, buyers could also use StoryTeller to get an augmented reality view of a development to identify individual units – which developers would otherwise display using a separate whiteboard or digital screen.
To ensure data privacy, Gregory said the personally identifiable information of StoryTeller users is encrypted and sent to developers, while data about buyer interest related to specific aspects of a development gleaned from browsing behaviour is anonymised and aggregated.
PropertyGuru is launching StoryTeller in five Southeast Asian markets – Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam – and has already seen “spectacular interest” in the new feature during a webinar attended by 750 property developers.
“We really think this is a big opportunity, and we’re approaching this in some ways as a little bit of a land grab,” said Williams. “We will be very aggressive and leverage our relationships with developers across various touch points in the business to drive mass adoption.”