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During the financial downturn of 20082009, the real estate industry struggled and no matter which side of the table you were on, both selling and leasing were tough. But in those stormy years, when the realty sector was re-engineering its business models in Dubai, technology was growing, driving our professional standards to a new level. It was technology that paved the way for our success, which translates into success for anyone looking to rent, buy or sell real estate in Dubai.
Mobile technology, enterprise systems and the cloud changed the way we transact real estate. Mobile tools help agents access information anytime, anywhere, which is crucial in Dubai as you are working with clients across multiple time zones. We even need to have access to language translation applications. Plus, clients are also using mobile tools to search for properties quickly. Some mobile apps that have become useful for any real estate agent include Google Maps to locate properties, Mortgage Calculator to estimate mortgage payments, Dropbox for shared documents, Vert to convert measurements and Cam Scanner for scanning documents on the go.
There are many small businesses in the real estate industry here. These firms need to implement enterprise systems to gain company-wide access to business knowledge, increase employee productivity and minimise the duplication of company data. Enterprise systems allow a small business to reduce the cost of information technology and minimise the manual input of data. They also enhance teamwork, improve response to the market, increase work quality and drive employee collaboration and efficiency.
Enterprise software engages industry professionals and clients to collaborate and share information quickly, which translates into faster, cleaner transactions between agents and clients. Applications development, data warehouse and reporting, systems integration and web services and database architecture are all part of the enterprise system.
An example of an enterprise system is Propspace, which is created by a Dubai-based developer. Around 450 real estate companies in Dubai use Propspace, which serves as a data manager, CRM system, calendar and provides SMS notification events such as an open house.
Cloud storage means storing data online, where it can be accessed from many distributed and connected resources. Cloud storage provides greater accessibility and reliability, rapid deployment of data, strong protection for data backup, archival and disaster recovery, and lower overall storage costs as a result of not having to purchase, manage and maintain expensive hardware. Again, very beneficial to small businesses.
Up in the cloud
In our case, we saved over $4,000 (Dh14,691) in upfront costs by moving to an entirely cloud-based solution for email, web hosting, virus protection and more. We were also able to substantially reduce our power bill and the costs needed to maintain and upgrade hardware. As a non-IT person, I find cloud-based applications easier to set up and use than many computer applications, and I don’t need to rely on internal IT support as much for assistance.
Once a power surge nearly destroyed our in-house email server. Had we not recovered it, a great deal of historical knowledge and valuable information would have been lost forever, not to mention the lost productivity for days or weeks. Now we have a secure, redundant, cloud-based email system we can access anywhere, anytime and with a consistent interface. It’s made our business stronger. To be sure, small businesses looking to cut computing costs and improve efficiency are finding the many benefits of internet-based software and services increasingly attractive. In fact, companies with 100 or fewer employees are expected to spend $5 billion on cloud computing services this year.
Another important benefit of using cloud storage is accessibility. Files stored in the cloud can be accessed at any time from any place as long as you have internet access. A cloud application is an application that functions in the cloud, with some characteristics of a pure desktop app and some characteristics of a pure web app. A desktop app resides entirely in a single device at the user’s location (it doesn’t necessarily have to be a desktop computer). A web app is stored entirely on a remote server and is delivered over the internet through a browser.
Cloud-based apps are also leading the way for increased efficiency. Apps like Evernote, Dropbox, various CRM systems such as Salesforce, Maximizer, GoldMine and Propspace have been huge in helping agents and clients keep track of notes and files. iCloud is another great example. E-signature technology is very popular too, helping clients around the world to get their documents signed quickly and easily via an iPad, for example.
Technology support is critical for today’s real estate agents. With clients there is usually a lot to track. There are thousands of contacts, changing schedules, contracts, information on listings. At any given time, an agent’s plate is full with a huge amount of information.
The Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) could also use enterprise technology to advance its testing levels with technology such as blackboard. Furthermore, Rera could increase the competency level requirements by utilising a sharing system online with companies that specialise in writing test question.
The real estate industry has become a leader in innovation and speed to market because of its proclivity for using modern technology.
Source: Haytham Al Habashi, Special to Property Weekly
The writer is the Managing Director of Mountain Gate Realty and is a regional expert in construction, real estate development, sales and leasing and hospitality.