Property and the unstoppable VR Headset Hype

Once considered the realm of Sci-fi movies, and although still very much in its infancy, property developers are now looking for ways to capitalise on a technology that is sure to have a huge impact on the way we purchase off-the-plan and new property. So what’s all the recent hype about?

There are some high-quality immersive virtual reality headsets hitting the consumer market for the first time. These devices could end up having a societal impact as substantial as the introduction of smartphones.

The biggest challenges working with such new technologies in the Real Estate industry is getting the consumer experience just right.

The questions we must first ask, does Virtual Reality add or improve the sales process?

This is the fundamental question when looking at any technology. If you can realize an ROI – it’s worthwhile. If it’s just for a gimmick, the money may be better spent elsewhere. Of course that gimmick might be the reason the prospect walked into your display suite, and met with your sales agents rather than a competitors display suite, but the question is will it help make the sale!

Will a prospect still feel the property is a spacious 67sqm two bedroom apartment after they’ve seen the living room packed with furniture in a render that looks a little too crowded?
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We use VR technology extensively in our touchscreen and App solutions, with Augmented 3D buildings and virtual walk through of apartments being very powerful sales tools.

We believe the best use of VR headset technology at the moment lies within visualisation of large masterplanned communities. It is a very effective means of ‘virtually’ standing on the front lawn of a future home, taking a peak at what afuture neighbours house will look like or for going for a stroll through the community facilities. This is now perhaps the best way to explore / visualise these masterplanned communities, but do require extensive 3D rendering of course so it is still costly.

So in conclusion what do we think about VR? We love it and already use it extensively in our Apps and touchscreens. Watch out however for the gimmicky VR Headsets and new technologies that are launched as the overall technology evolves. Most of the VR Headsets that we are seeing now will be gone relatively soon as the technology rapidly evolves. Like most new technology we can expect a rapid period of technologcal explosion followed by a period of consolidation as it matures. It is at this stage that readily available and commercially viable VR Headsets will become commonplace.

Check out Microsoft’s Hololense – this is really exciting new take on VR Headset technology and we think going to be a big hit!

Real Estate Agents warned against breaching Spam Act in Australia

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We have long advocated the use of opt in only databases used for email marketing. You simply can get far too much negative feedback, poor publicity and can even get blacklisted if your email marketing becomes SPAM.

Regardless of how you built your database, you simply must always include the ability to unsubscribe or instructions on how to unsubscribe. This is simply good business practice, and in some countries, a legal requirement. In Australia it has been law for some years now to include the ability to unsubscribe from any bulk marketing email and it is not starting to be rigorously enforced.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued a formal warning to an Australian Real Estate Agency for breaching the Spam Act. Danielou Pty Ltd, trading as Elders Real Estate Wollongong, breached the Spam Act by sending emails without an unsubscribe facility.

The full press release is provided below:

“Real estate agency breaches the Spam Act

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has issued a formal warning to Danielou Pty Ltd, trading as Elders Real Estate Wollongong, following an investigation that found the real estate agency breached the Spam Act 2003 by sending commercial electronic messages without an unsubscribe facility.

‘This is the first enforcement measure taken against a real estate agent since an ACMA awareness campaign about unsolicited communications targeted at the real estate sector,’ said Chris Cheah, acting Chairman of the ACMA.

The campaign was held in response to the ACMA’s concerns about widespread non-compliance with marketing obligations by members of the real estate sector. The ACMA wrote to more than forty head offices of leading real estate franchisors and companies in 2009, informing them of key obligations and providing links to online training and resources to increase awareness of legal obligations and of the consequences of non-compliance.

‘It is disappointing that some real estate agents do not appear to have taken the opportunity to understand the requirements for complying with the Spam Act,’ Mr Cheah said.

The ACMA has a tiered approach to compliance and enforcement. While education is the first step, stronger enforcement action will be used if compliance is not achieved.

‘Real estate agents should consider themselves to be on notice,’ Mr Cheah added. ‘Members of the industry need to understand that, even when they are dealing with potential buyers on a one-to-one basis, these interactions are commercial and they need to comply with spam and telemarketing laws.’

Commercial electronic messages must be sent with the recipient’s consent and include a statement that the recipient can use an electronic address, provided in the message, to send an unsubscribe request. During the course of this investigation, the ACMA identified messages sent by Elders Real Estate Wollongong that did not contain unsubscribe wording to this effect.

The ACMA has taken a wide range of enforcement action against non-compliant ‘spammers’ in the last twelve months, including recent action in the Federal Court which resulted in significant penalties being imposed on both individuals and companies.

Under the Spam Act, potential penalties of up to $1.1 million per day may be imposed by the Federal Court for repeat offenders”

The simple rule is always include the following text or something to this effect:

Important Information: If you are not the intended recipient, please ignore this email. This communication has been prepared by . To unsubscribe from this email please reply with ‘unsubscribe’ in the subject line.

To tweet or not to tweet!

The property industry has been pondering for some time the importance of being active on twitter. I personally have equally been skeptical as to its benefits. I really question agents or consultants who think that there are a large pool of people who want to be bombarded with regular tweets on new listings, price changes etc. As a consumer, and a technically orientated one at that, I just can’t see how I benefit from that. Email alerts will do just fine and I get to read them when I want (the one exception I would make here is for rentals in particularly tight markets. In some cities I know of instances where people pretty much fall over themselves to find out about new rental properties when they come available. A tweet would be great for that).

However, as a technical company, we needed to give it a go so we set up a couple of Twitter Accounts a few months ago and got started.

Not much feedback and quite a few followers and then, out of the blue, a genuine enquiry! Yes that is right, a genuine enquiry from a real estate agency that had come across one of our tweets and then contacted us.

So I guess the proof is in the pudding as they say. Not a huge number of leads but certainly it is a start. So maybe my thinking on twitter and the value it offers is starting to change…..

By the way you can find us at @brightfoxhq

If you are targeting Asia, you need Brightfox!

A recent article in Real Estate Business (see it here) interestingly talks about the amount of business Victorian agencies are doing with Chinese buyers at present.

Brightfox has been doing business in Asia for over 9 years, and we can successfully market properties and projects to Asia.

One of the suprising facts that most people wouldn’t appreciate until they start marketing to Asia is the fact that most languages require the PC to be Unicode  compliant. This requires the CRM software and the website to be similarly Unicode compliant.

Both foxAdvantage and foxEnterprise meet these requirements and can market your properties and projects in the native language of your target audience – a key requirement to successfully penetrate these markets.

 

Bing taking market share from Google

A recent article in The Australian Newspaper commented on the sucess of Bing and Yahoo in taking market share from Google. Now in Australia that isn’t going to be hard initially, as Google has around 90% of all search engine traffic. Making a significant dint will be much harder however.

You can see the full article here.

There is no doubt Bing is a good search engine – far far better than Live and a real potential threat to Google. In a recent interview by Tech Crunch with Steve Ballmer, Ballmer commented that they have over 5000 people working on search. A pretty extraordinary number but it shows how serious Microsoft is about competing with Google.

You can see the full interview with Ballmer here.

Cityscape Dubai 2009

Cityscape Dubai 2009 launched today and I was in attendance. Numbers are vastly down on last year – I would guess about 75% down. Having said that it was still busy, which says a lot about how crazily busy it used to be!

This is the first time in 4 years that we have not had a booth at Cityscape Dubai, primarily because we choose the exhibit at Cityscape Abu Dhabi earlier in the year.

It will no doubt be a more subdued year in terms of visitor numbers and deals done, but I am sure it will come back stronger next year, and we will be there again.

Even though we are not exhibiting at Cityscape this year we are running some great Cityscape specials, so if you are looking to purchase a new software solution for your business, I encourage you to contact us asap.

Brightfox Launch New Mobile Website Service

Brightfox today announce the launch of a new service called R.E.Mobile to build websites compatable with and optimised for viewing over mobile phones. The new R.E.Mobile service makes it very easy and cost effective for any property firm to quickly create a full mobile compatable website within weeks. Brightfox will take the existing content, including dynamic listing data for real estate offices, and build a searchable mobile friendly site that will enable the millions of mobile phone users to visit and search for properties or projects.

For more information on this product, and an example of a R.E.Mobile website, go to http://www.brightfox.com.au/au/remobile.asp

Dubai Property Sector continues to consolidate

Further mergers and consolidations are bringing clarity to the Dubai property sector as developers look to restructure debts and the government reorganizes developers under it’s umbrella.

At it’s high RERA, the Real Estate Regulatory Authority, recorded 447 approved developers, however this number is now being scaled back as it developers look to best manage assets and resources and deliver on projects, such as middle income housing which have greater momentum amidst the current economic climate.

Emaar, the largest developer in the Middle East, and now close to completion of the worlds tallest tower, Burj Dubai, stated last week that it is in talks to acquire the property interests of Dubai Holdings. This would bring three large entities – Sama Dubai, Tatweer and Dubai Properties – under the Emaar brand, creating the largest property developer in the MENA region.

“Consolidating these three companies with Emaar is a natural progression in the evolution of the Dubai real estate landscape, providing benefits to all stakeholders,” said Mohammed al Gergawi, the chairman of Dubai Holding.

Dubai World, also last week said that it was in the process of consolidating Leisurecorp, Dubai Maritime City and Dubai Multi Commodities Centre under the Nakheel brand.

“The move aims at consolidating activities of the same nature to better accommodate current market conditions and optimise resources and expertise,” a Dubai World spokeswoman said.

Also still on the cards, is the continued discussion of a merger between Deyaar Development and Union Properties.

“Consolidation is gathering momentum, driven by structural, market and regulatory factors,” said Dirk Buchta, the Middle East managing director of the management consultancy firm AT Kearney, in a report this month. The firm is said to be advising Deyaar and Union Properties on merger options.

From it’s high of 447 registered property developers, it will certainly be interesting to see where we end up. However, one thing is for certain, these mergers are for the good of the Dubai property sector in the short, medium and long term and will help deliver stability for both these companies and their clients and investors.

So, the only question is, who’s next?

All your essential property news in the one location

Searching for the most update to date and topical news on the property industry is always hard. That is why we developed www.propertymash.com. This site brings together property news from around the world so that you don’t need to go looking for it. Its nice and simple – but it works.

I know – we built it so we have to like it! But seriously, I use it everyday to find out what is happening in property markets around the world and find it invaluable. Most of the information I reference in this blog, whether they are opinion, articles or market commentary, all comes from www.propertymash.com

So I suggest you try it out and see what you think.

Which property markets are most susceptible to big price falls

In a post back in April I talked about the forclosure rates in the US and how these were predominently (87%) occuring in a select number of states. It is an interesting paper and well worth a read, but todays post is about another item that really caught my attention in that paper, namely the relationship between foreclosures and the reduction in housing affordability leading up to the crash. So this got me thinking. One would assume a relatively linear link between falling housing affordability and foeclosures. A simple eqaution – when housing affordability falls, an increasing % of the individual or family’s income must go to meeting mortgage payments.

Another report on topic, the 5th Annual Demographis International Housing Affordability Survey said:


“Much of the reduction in prices has occurred in markets that have experienced the greatest loss in housing affordability in the past. The largest house price decreases over the past year occurred in susceptible Ireland, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, where housing affordability in nearly all markets had reached “severely unaffordable” (Median Multiple over 5.0). In the United States, the house price declines have been far higher in those markets that had experienced the greatest housing price increases, while markets that experienced much smaller price increases experienced far more modest losses.” For the full report go to  http://www.demographia.com/dhi-ix2005q3.pdf

And yet in the University of Virgina report, the writers find the following:

“Restoring balance between house prices and incomes is complicated by imbalances between a shortage in supply of dwellings where people prefer to live and an overabundance of dwellings in other locations. Metropolitan areas vary in the range in their political jurisdictions of house value to family income and in foreclosure rates. San Francisco provides an extreme, but clear, example.

In 2007 the ratio of house values to family incomes was excessive in each jurisdiction. The lowest house value to family income ratio, 5.7 to 1, was in Solano County which also had the highest foreclosure rate, 3.69 percent of housing units. The house value to income ratio suggests that Solano County on the edge of the metropolitan area had more dwellings relative to demand than other jurisdictions. The high foreclosure rate indicated that buyers’ capacity to pay mortgages was fragile, and, perhaps, that an accumulation of foreclosures hampered new sales.

In contrast, the highest house value to income ratios were in central jurisdictions—City of San Francisco, Marin County, and San Mateo County. They had house value to income ratios of 9.7, 8.5, and 8.5 to 1. But their foreclosure rates were the three lowest in the metropolitan area. Perhaps more residents in those jurisdictions had purchased when prices and mortgages were lower. Or, perhaps owners unable to pay mortgage costs were able to sell at acceptable prices because demand was strong (Appendix 1 San Francisco Metropolitan Area).” 

This shows quite clearly that housing affordability alone is not a guide to the success or fail of a specific market.

So what can we use as a guide. This is by no means meant to be a conclusion, as from my readings no one is really sure, but here are my ideas:

1. Housing Affordability. This has to be a factor. A Housing Affordability drops, so must demand.

2. Purchaser Profile. Without doubt foreclosures have been high in markets with high % of first home buyers. These transactions in recent times are characterised by large incentives from governments and very low (or non-existent) deposits (and therefore high mortgages). If we think of a home owners propsensity to work through troubled economic times (lets call it their Home Ownership Price Elasticity – HOPE), it is lowest in these purchasers. Owners who have significant equity in their home and a history of saving, obviously have a greater ability to weather financial difficulties, which reduces foreclosure rates and hence provides stability to prices.