Bayshore Real Estate only opened a year ago, but has already amassed a credible portfolio of enviable listings and in-house development.
Founded by former California brokers, Arif and Zain Khan, they are part of new generation realtors who understand the significant strides made by digital marketing habits.
“Technology has emerged as the most effective tool(s) for agents in recent times,” conceded Arif Khan, who has closed over US$200 million in residential and commercial real estate transactions over the course of a 15-year career.
“Therefore, agents must embrace technology to make their service more efficient. A smart phone is a necessity to maintain a competitive edge and to keep up with the customer’s expectation of service.”
For many realtors, their listings need to make the home page of major property websites or be the lead feature in weekend newspaper supplements – two mediums that presently constitute a very small pool of providers in Fiji. And with the success of a property’s exposure now often judged by social media popularity and quality photography, property owners expect to see their products on the traffic-congested webpages of the Internet.
The limited ad space of print mediums is also matchless against the boundless photos and information availed online, and often a fraction of the cost of print ads.
Khan noted that technological applications go beyond their use as a marketing stage and should be habitually used across most processes that include photo-sharing and digital maps, as a point of convenience.
“Technology is more affordable, more useful for real-estate agents today. The modern-day consumers have a higher expectation of service with the advent of smart phones. Therefore, a realtor must use a smart phone to be able to respond to a customer’s needs more efficiently.
“Other tools to make life easier are Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Earth, a lead management software such as Top Producer and a transaction management system, especially for volume producers.”
These tools and technologies, he noted, are fundamentals of a structured real estate industry for Fiji, where agencies are mushrooming and whose Real Estate Act was only enacted in 2006.
The changing tide of advertising has widened the scope of modern realtors, forcing them to keep a tab of market trends and facilitate accordingly. While traditional agents were more paper and file-based, their contemporaries store files on Dropbox and Google Drive and transport and drive their clients to preview listings on websites first.
As noted by Khan, agents must have a drip system campaign to frequently send electronic updates to customers.
“Eighty per cent of home buyers in the United States have previewed properties before calling an agent to assist in their negotiations and contracts. There are softwares such as Redfin and Zillow that give values of houses sold in certain vicinities, which help customers make informed, intelligent decisions on starting-offer prices. Therefore, exciting times lay ahead for Fiji’s real estate industry as we embrace technology more.”
Other facets that are important to establishing a more robust and structured industry include qualifiers for aspiring agents, to maintain standards and best practices, Khan added.
“Introducing pre-requisite courses on principles of real estate and real estate practices would ensure a foundation for salespersons. There should also be a licensing test for salespersons and a minimum of eight hours of ongoing ethics and professional development per year.”
Khan also suggested the implementation of a strict Code of Ethics, which is already being drafted alongside prescribed examinations for salespersons, as part of a legislative review by the Real Estate Agents Licensing Board (REALB).
The necessities of a structured industry extend, most importantly, to agents themselves and a common voice of representation, as well as expediency for clients, despite the competitive nature of agencies amongst themselves.
“The formation of an association of real estate agents is important for ongoing development and collaboration between the agents. The industry at present is very fragmented whereby there is no level of cooperation between agents of a different company that allows an expedited sale for the benefit of seller. At the end of the day, an agent is acting in a fiduciary capacity and that is to represent the best interest of the client.”
Residential real estate provides housing for families and for many, is the single largest investment in a lifetime, while commercial properties – including apartments, industrial and retail properties- create jobs and provide sources of income.
As Khan highlighted, real estate and its growing base of agents play a key role in the Fijian economy, for which a more structured industry is vital.
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