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Pandemic propels proptech in Asia

Real estate companies have ramped up their investment in technology in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, finds a survey of some of the biggest property players in Asia. The survey by independent news source Mingtiandi, in collaboration with technology company Yardi Systems, finds 70 percent of real estate companies are scaling up their investment in property technology, or proptech.

The results of the survey, Tech adoption in Asian real estate, builds on a similar report from Mingtiandi in 2017.

“Our latest survey results unearth a major shift towards proptech adoption in our region,” says Yardi’s Regional Director, Bernie Devine.

“Change was underway well before 2020, but COVID-19 has heightened the urgency and amplified the risks of inaction.”

Proptech – innovative technology that reimagines property’s core processes and business models – is turning real estate on its head. Metaprop, one of the world’s largest early-stage proptech venture capital firm, predicts that proptech innovation will deliver $205 billion of new value to the global real estate industry over the next five years alone.

“Real estate leaders are rolling out technology to support more frequent and accurate reporting, deeper data analysis, and technology that underpins safety and efficiency,” Devine explains.

A total of 180 real estate specialists – more than a third with assets valued at over US$1 billion – took part in the survey in August 2020. Thirty-nine percent of respondents were from Hong Kong, 26 percent from Singapore and 12 percent from China.

Among the key findings, 35 percent said Asia was still trailing the West in terms of tech adoption, but this was down from 56 percent in 2017. Thirty percent said the region was leading the way – up from 12 percent three years previously.

“There’s a growing perception that Asia is closing the gap with the West. Location shapes perceptions more than any other factor, with just six percent of respondents in mainland China believing that Asia lagged the world’s leaders,” Devine says.

Respondents named big data analytics (55%), artificial intelligence (42%), business process automation (32%) and the Internet of Things (32%) as the top technology plays for Asia’s property industry over the next five years.

However, Mingtiandi’s survey also suggests some quarters of the real estate sector remain skeptical of the power of technology as an agent of change, with 77 percent believing real estate trails other industries.

The region’s real estate companies, many of them family-owned, are still slow to adopt new tools. In the era of big data, 56 percent are still reliant on Excel spreadsheets for their work processes.

“But as we start to achieve far superior levels of efficiency and insight from more sophisticated software, digital will dominate. We expect the property companies that seize the lead now will establish an unassailable position in the market in the years ahead,” Devine concludes.

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