As incredible as the statement may have once sounded in the early 70s and 80s, it is true that the real estate market has largely shifted online in today’s world. There is no avoiding this fact, or its many implications–both for good, and for the bad. We can also agree that this trend is set to continue towards a state of complete transference, until it becomes commonplace for people to buy property after partaking in a virtual real estate tour or two; a very linear, and a very credible, path for this chain of events to unfold. Gone will be the days (soon) when realtors needed to visit a plot of land, apartment or house on foot to determine its real value. The internet, if you didn’t already know this, has largely seen to this eventuality.

That said, and for the purpose of this article, the current state of technology responsible for fostering this transition is a critical development of the modern age that deserves attention. In any case, this piece tries to answer the question of how the internet–like in so many other walks of life–has taken over the global real estate field (comprised of the property markets of individual countries). More property data is available online now  than it was in any other period of history, or than what any individual investor would be able to attain from elsewhere(at least when you’re talking about free data!).

The Rise of the Online Real Estate Marketplace

In the US, the internet took over the residential real estate market more than 10 year ago, but people were buying and selling their homes online even a decade before this entrenchment. By 2013, up to 90% of Americans professed to using the internet for looking up suitable real estate options than seeking them out in the traditional ‘on foot’ manner..

Over the years, similar trends have been replicating around the world.

In Pakistan, for instance, while the situation may not be exactly the same, local real estate agencies are increasingly turning towards the internet as a secondary–if not their primary–platform for advertisement. Moreover, an increasing number of real estate portals have sprung up over recent years, such as the wildly popular recent contender for the audience-centric space, Prop.pk. These sites not only list property ads of all categories (residential, commercial, shareholding concerns, etc.), they can also, on occasion, demand a certain ‘cut’ from established construction and real estate companies on every successful instance of customer engagement.

Interestingly, in the absence of much official data (published by the government), it is these online avenues, with their sprawling national reach, that have been able to gather incisive data pertaining to the individual holdings of the real estate sector from around the country; information that an average Pakistani is normally hard-pressed to find almost anywhere else.

The Importance of ‘Snap’ Market Research for Real Estate Investments

Whereas in the beginning the internet served to advertise real estate to only a small audience (not many people had dedicated computer systems back in the days of its initial prime), its appeal on this front has grown on a mammoth scale when considered in the light of today’s context. The network, in a nutshell, has completely changed the dynamics of real estate investments like it has for investments in almost every other sector–retail, stocks, cars, you name it.

While it has made data more accessible, the internet has also caused the market to become more competitive. Having recourse to timely market information can significantly change the value of returns that you can expect–turning your losses into high profits, and vice versa.

This makes it all the more important for the prescient investor to stay up-to-date on all kinds of information. Even where exact data may not be available, the internet can help you build your own pool of actionable statistics, which can then guide your investment decisions. 

On The Timeliness of Information

This matter is not all too different from the ‘availability of information’ real estate consideration detailed above. In the ‘going’ way in which investments typically work, on most occasions you may end up obtaining the information you seek; but if it does not become available on time, it may not serve any fruitful (read: monetizable) purpose.– Because time, after all, really is money; when taken in this sense.

Only a disconnect of a few days between when the critical factors (pertaining to a real estate investment) change and when you ultimately get the news regarding this development through offline resources can cause  you stand to miss the crucial cut-off point essential to gaining a distinctive advantage in property transactions.  A serious business.

The amount of rent that a tenant or the total property price that a buyer may be willing to pay, can change significantly depending on some minor shifts in the overall situation. The internet, for its part, can allow landlords or sellers to determine better–due to the quick information access that it grants –whether or not they should be selling or renting their property at a particular price figure, or in a given moment. 

The Most Critical Source of Advertisements

The two most important and traditional modes of real estate investments are concerned with buying and selling property, or buying a property and renting it out (the former case can also include the pursuits of construction and sales for this purpose). In either case, the total price figures and the price margins in the purchase (or sale) of property, as well as the amount of rent, you eventually get on your property, will be partially dependent on how well you can sell it.

This, in turn, will most certainly depend on how well you can advertise the said property on the internet–or whether you even utilise the online advertisements route at all.

The internet, as a further tribute to its publicising potential, is so ‘good’ in that it also allows you to choose the audience demographics that you want to market your property too; and therein comes the decisive advantage for someone who is internet-savvy. Moreover, the scale of your margins will also depend on whether you are able to get your listing online yourself, or whether you have to make your way to an online platform through a commission-taking intermediary.

An internet-savvy property advertiser (and potential investor), as such, is someone who is willing to go the entire way into the online realm of real estate investment, data, and marketing; a thespian of the current age who will have a clear-cut advantage over someone who cannot – or is not – willing to do the same.