Is buying your house online the future of real estate?
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Is buying your house online the future of real estate?

PROPERTY developer Mah Sing Group has become the first developer in Southeast Asia to partner up with an e-commerce platform to sell their properties online.

While we all undoubtedly enjoy the convenience of being able to shop til you drop from the comfort of our living rooms, do we really need this level of convenience when it comes to buying property?

The Malaysia-based Mah Sing certainly thinks so.

“It’s definitely part of the way people will shop, browse and buy real estate in the future,” General Manager of Branding and Strategic Marketing at Mah Sing, Bernard Yong, told Asian Correspondent. “We foresee that digital will become increasingly important for the real estate purchase journey.”

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Yong appreciates that we’re a long way off from real estate becoming an exclusively online business, but he thinks, given people’s changing shopping habits, it could be a game changer in the long run.

“We do think that more real estate development companies will find more strategic ways to collaborate with e-commerce players,” Yong said.

“We need to think how we can link e-commerce into a traditional industry like real estate.”

While the idea of being able to impulse buy a house while sitting on your sofa may sound terrifying to some people, fear not, it is (obviously) not quite that simple.

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Lazada is the first e-commerce platform in Southeast Asia to sell properties online. Source: Screenshot – Lazada

The developers teamed up with Alibaba-owned, Lazada, in a partnership that sees the e-commerce site basically act like a booking platform, Yong explains. They have an inventory of units that they promote to their customers. People can only reserve the specific units and get the incentives if they do the booking online at Lazada.

It’s not quite a “one-click and it’s yours approach”; once you’ve selected your property on the e-commerce site, you still have to go to Mah Sing’s sales gallery where you complete all the paperwork. They also recommend any potential buyers to check in with their bank to make sure they can afford it.

Lazada’s site is not designed to be a property sales platform, so most of the grunt work and signing on the dotted line is still done in person. The site essentially is providing a way for developers to reach out to new audiences.

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Young Malaysians have been struggling to get a foot on the property ladder in recent years, and the newly-elected Pakatan Harapan government is trying to change that.

The 2019 Budget, announced in October, stated that the central bank must carry out programmes to make it easier for those buying affordable housing to secure loans. These include fixing the interest rate at 3.5 percent and extending the loan period from five to 40 years.

With incentives of five percent, worth between RM20,000 – RM30,000 (US$4,775 – US$7,160), Lazada hopes this new initiative will go some way to helping this cause.

“Malaysian shoppers are looking for more digital solutions for all their lifestyle needs, and we believe that this collaboration will make affordable homes more accessible to young homebuyers,” Christophe Lejeune, Chief Executive Officer of Lazada Malaysia, said at the launch of the partnership on Wednesday.

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One of the properties on offer on e-commerce platform Lazada. Source: Lazada

Both Lazada and Mah Sing believe this first move will get the ball off the ground with online real estate in the region, but they’re realistic with just how far this can take them during these early stages.

“This is highly experimental,” Yong said. “This is more to see what the market will accept [rather than securing big sales]… It’s to see how comfortable people are with the notion of buying property online”

They’re only placing a small select number of properties up to begin with so Yong doesn’t expect this to move the sales needle too significantly in the early days. But the success of their trailblazing initiative could set the course for the future of the industry.

“We may not have all the answers right now… but many developers are trying to find the best fit and you see more and more collaboration,” Yong said. “Maybe the mechanics are a bit different as they experiment in their own way, but you will see more collaborations like this with e-commerce players moving forward.”