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New technological trends in the real estate industry

R + D + i

The real estate industry has always been very traditional and conservative, with methods that have hardly changed in the past 100 years. From printed flyers to classified ads, to billboards advertising houses, apartments, offices, and other properties, real estate promotion and sales has consisted of the systematic application of methods and techniques that could easily be called old school.

In the last two decades, this industry has evolved from the proliferation of real estate portals on the web and the use of modern tools such as CRM applications — for customer relationship management — and social media. It can be said, however, that it has been one of the last economic activities to undergo a digital transformation in this 21st century.

In this context, one of the most important tools has been the use of renderings, 3D images of interiors and exteriors produced from the digital designs that architects and designers work with, which allow to guide the customer, giving him an idea of what their future home or office will be like, not only before purchasing, but even before the design is finalized.

This technology has evolved in the direction of real-time 3D, which includes both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).  AR technologies have been used with greater success not only in the real estate industry, but in multiple other industries.  In the case of Amazon, for example, the user can use the camera of his mobile phone to visualize in real time what a new sofa would look like in the middle of his living room, and how it would match his environment. In the case of real estate, it is implemented so that the user can better explore the spaces in 3D and in real time.  This way, the end customer can imagine a real estate project and support its creation, in addition to knowing all the details.

The VR experience has been geared more towards the entertainment and video game industry, but still many real estate developers see it more as a fad than a practical tool. Many have tried to apply it, but overall it has not increased sales or made significant improvements in their marketing efforts.

Industry Trends

The real estate industry — like all others — will seek new ways to meet the wishes and demands of its end customers, but at the same time improving their response times in the most efficient way possible and reducing costs. It is an important challenge that will require creative and innovative solutions and their subsequent adoption by those who participate in this market so that they can overcome the new challenges that these technologies represent.

Sapiens consulted Dan Burdman, partner and co-founder of Hauzd – a company dedicated to the development of tools for marketing in the real estate industry and winner of multiple awards – about the technologies that are trending in this activity.   In this regard, Burdman commented:

“I feel that everything 3D /VR/ AR will definitely continue to be used, especially 3D visualization. Real estate purchasing and selling sites will have to evolve into new technologies beyond traditional listings.”

This includes providing additional, updated and timely information according to the needs of the market, in addition to facilitating access to said information in an accessible way for the user.  

Regarding home automation technology, Burdman believes that “in Latin America home automation is still undeveloped. There are very good options in terms of automation, security, biometrics, facial recognition.  However, costs are still somewhat high for the Latin American market. The United States and Canada have several years of advantage, but eventually it will take off in Latin America and will be part of the end user’s purchase decision.”

As for the buying trend, real estate developers are beginning to understand that their products should be more modern and technological in terms of amenities. For example, Burdman tells us about a 170-apartment project in Panama focused on millennials, which includes a smart office, book center, and a content production studio.

Dan Burdman, Partner and co-founder of Hauzd.  Val Dess, CEO of Hauzd

As for Hauzd, Burdman tells us how the idea of applying technology in the real estate market arose. When they started in 2016, they observed that there was only “static, printed, obsolete, outdated material: price lists, very basic renderings.  We combined technology with 3D programming and architectural tools. We developed the first prototype of our application, initially targeting real estate developers, with our team of in-house programmers.”

After the application was created, they added functionality, thus achieving their first customers in Panama.  The next step was to offer the application in a software, as a service (SaaS) scheme, an economic model where the customer pays for the functionality he needs, when he needs it.  This freed them, by licensing their software to 3D visualization studios, from having to manage customers project by project.   In addition, they turned their potential competitors – who until now were the ones who did the renderings in an artisan way for the final clients – into business partners.  Burdman explains that “these 3D studios who already have the know-how, use our software to then sell to local real estate developers. It is expanding a business line, better positioning your company, attracting new customers. In taking this path, we have managed to expand globally to 15 countries and work with more residential, commercial, and mixed-use projects.   ”

On Hauzd’s tool, Burdman comments that pre-made tools, such as Unity or the Unreal Engine, which were not optimized for real estate, but for video games, had been used in the market so far.   Val Dess, the CEO of Hauzd, comes from that industry and knows the limitations of these tools. With that know-how they developed their own 3D engine from scratch. Licensing the third party would have required additional programmers for each application; the Hauzd tool does not have this requirement.   With it they can build an application in four to five weeks for a medium tower project, whereas with traditional tools they would take longer and incur additional licensing costs.

Even so, the tool continues to grow in functionality, the challenge is to do it along with the existing commercial tools. Winning a recent SENACYT call, helped them to keep evolving.  In addition to being able to import 3DS Max files, they can now work directly with BIM tools, which Unity recently incorporated.  Because they can choose which functionality to integrate and align with business objectives, they can iterate faster and incorporate new capabilities.  In highly specialized projects in which new functionalities are requested, these are incorporated into the system and can be leveraged by future customers, which has required growing their work team and has led them to launch a new round of investment to acquire the necessary resources.

The incorporation of BIM (Building Information Modeling) technologies will greatly help not only Hauzd but the entire sector, that way they will be able to launch a new product, aimed at architects.  “With the integration of BIM we will be able to enter the design stage, so that the architect will be able to directly import the BIM files and show them to his customer, the real estate developer, how his project is evolving.  The developer will see it in an interactive environment that is easier to understand.  Before, the modeling in tools like Revit was very heavy, whereas a PDF file is static and does not provide real-time information.  Working directly with BIM files will be light and intuitive, and it broadens the field and can also reach architectural studios,” said Burdman.

Hauzd’s experience in the City of Knowledge

On his experience as part of the Innovation Center of the City of Knowledge, Burdman comments that “From the beginning they have been very supportive.  We have been part of the Acceleration Program and they have helped us greatly in the start and orientation.  It has provided us with industry contacts, mentors, events, participation, all of which in the beginning helps tremendously. The company was evolving and it left the acceleration program on track.”

It should be noted that Hauzd was part of the first projects to receive the support of the Startup Investment Program of the City of Knowledge Foundation.  According to Burdman, “the support of the City of Knowledge has helped us greatly because it is important and well known in Panama and Latin America, and it has a weight to attract potential investors that we are now looking for. “

At the end of the interview, Burdman stated that his goal is that in every project that needs to sell and that uses 3D technology, he sees Hauzd as a necessity.  His company has other plans, projects and products in the future that will be implemented as they are developed.

The real estate industry is one of the most recent to be subject to digital transformation.   Through new tools and the integration of 3D technologies, BIM and AR will benefit the entire ecosystem, from the real estate developer to the end customer, when it comes to making better targeted purchases of more efficient properties and designed with the consumer’s most important needs in mind.

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