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How Digital Marketing is Shaping the Face of Real Estate in Developing Countries

It is amazing how real estate has gone online in the developed countries, despite its ‘real’ nature. The same has been happening in developing countries as well, although at a much slower pace. Currently, anyone who is not tech-savvy will find himself increasingly lagging in the competition for clients in the real estate, particularly if they are not able or willing to embrace the digital side of things. And it will continue in both the developing and developed countries.

This article particularly focuses on how the digital side of things, particularly the digital marketing, has changed the face of the real estate sector in the developing countries with Pakistan as an example.

Digital marketing: The Future of real estate the world over

In US, digital marketing had assumed an overarching importance very early. Around 2013, 90% of the people began looking for a home online .

Around that time, in Pakistan, online real estate portals were still only beginning to gain some traction. It was only around 2014-15 that real estate really shifted online here, partially thanks to the interest of overseas Pakistanis in the real estate. Following this, a number of new real estate portals popped around the country including Prop that continue to innovate the real estate sector of Pakistan.

While the country is still behind in the use of digital marketing – it may not always be as effective and the older generation still dominates the real estate sector – the realtors and real estate agents are increasingly looking to add digital marketing within their strategies. The influential, and rich, non-resident Pakistanis who are one of the major investors in real estate also provide the incentive for the same.

The increased influence of the non-resident Pakistanis

The relationship between the upsurge of real estate marketing on the internet with the influence and involvement of the Pakistanis living abroad has been a highly reciprocal one – with one boosting the other. Quite apart from the desire to own your own home, something which may be common everywhere, Pakistanis also love their land – perhaps an effect of growing up in an agrarian economy with its huge dependence on land. The influence of this single factor has been strong on the real estate development of Pakistan.

It didn’t hurt that, for most of its history, real estate as a business has been completely unregulated and highly profitable.

So, whenever non-resident Pakistanis looked back home, they did so to look and invest in the real estate. However, the downside of an unregulated sector was that it left the uninitiated susceptible to a variety of issues.

Whereas on one hand, the focus on digital marketing increased – at first simply to attract the overseas Pakistanis and later even the residents – so did the need for information. It started from forums and slowly transitioned onto Facebook and Whatsapp groups.

This increased influence has been game-changing for the country’s economy. The past decade, in particular, has seen the remittances to the country balloon significantly as they became a major contributor to Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves – in effect shoring up a shaky economy.

The dwindling influence of the offline local ‘experts’

As the country’s real estate sector increasingly turns towards the digital marketing, it may spell an end for the offline local experts of real estate. They will likely be easily replaced by bigger realtors with the money and influence to affect larger areas if they target it through their digital marketing.

While this may sound like it will put the smaller realtors out of business, it should not really be the case. Digital marketing has been an equalizer in the sense that it has created opportunities for people exclusively focusing on the online side of real estate. Internet has made it even easier for small business to use digital marketing as their only method of attracting clients and they can ditch the brick and mortar businesses establishments to move exclusively online. In fact this can help cut the costs for small businesses significantly.

For long, the small-time local realtors, operating in their areas, without training or certification, were the only link between the market and public but now they will eventually be replaced by those exclusively focusing on the digital side of things. So the replacement will be more along the lines of replacing the approaches instead of size, influence or financial of any business.

Availability of new data

The increased focus on digital has also meant that unlike what happened previously, where large amounts of data becomes available by default. Previously, it could conveniently be kept out of the authority’s reach. The practice of hiding prices to avoid taxation is still common online but in a large number of cases, they are made available online.

Recently, the Federal Board of Revenue (the country’s taxation watchdog) announced that it will be using the data available on local online portals to determine the market value for property for taxation purposes.

Similar factors with roots in digital side of real estate have also contributed to the government’s drive for increased regulation and control over the sector. This, in turn, has changed the character and the direction of real estate in Pakistan.