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Then and now: How technology has changed property investment since 1969

We all know that tech has changed the property game. But VR can really disrupt things, writes Ronovationz coach and founder Ron Hoy Fong.

Ask any person buying a house in the City of Sails, or anywhere else in New Zealand, how they’re looking for their property and you’ll likely get the same answer – TradeMe or other online methods. They’ll also probably lament how impossible it is to buy in today’s market – which is not accurate, but that’s a whole different story – and how much easier we had it back in the good old days.

While saving for and purchasing the property itself may have been easier when I first started – I bought my first Auckland property for $11,000 in 1969 - technology has completely changed the process of finding, marketing and managing properties in today’s market, with numerous benefits for investors, real estate agents and property managers alike. Emerging technologies are impacting not only the new, digital landscape; but shaping existing traditional sectors such as healthcare, financial services and government, and property is no exception.

Then and now

So, before we get into drones, VR and AI in the property market; what did investing in property look like in 1969, compared to now?

At the time, the two main sources of information were daily print property listings in the Auckland Star and the New Zealand Herald.  Besides these, you relied on traditional physical signboards and referred back to local listing agents. 

I can’t even remember if there were local suburban newspapers and there were no property magazines, such as the Property Press. There was certainly no such thing as searching online yourself, because you didn’t have access to computers - they didn’t exist. A search would usually start by going to your local agency and perusing listings via black and white scanned documents, or a random list of properties that the real estate agent would have. Quite often, finding the right place wasn’t a process of elimination with vendors and agents but more a case of finding one agent who was keen to work with you individually to sell you a property. Potential properties usually wouldn’t be ones you’d chosen yourself, but ones the real estate agent chose to show you – and often you’d need to look at about a dozen places before an agent could understand what you were looking for.

Property search now goes high-tech

Now, plug in your list of non-negotiables and price range to search engines or mobile apps such as TradeMe and you’re instantly presented with a list of properties that match your requirements. Click into a listing and you’re able to take a virtual tour of the property via video or drone footage, from the comfort of your own home. NZ websites are frequently using new technology to help buyers value particular houses and areas, such as homes.co.nz and TradeMe’s Insights, which give buyers control over the valuation process where they would have had to formerly rely on official requests to council or real estate agents.

CV’s and e-values are both accessible online, and certain information about each property is quite often backed up by photographic evidence - whereas in the old days, you might be told a place has been recently renovated and find that they had just changed the curtains when you saw it in real life. It’s also incredibly simple to find out how long a property has been advertised, vendor motivation for why they may be selling, when they last sold it and for how much, and access aerial shots of the location via Google Maps and Google Earth. Technology has given buyers a more holistic view of what’s available on the market and the ability to control their own property hunt, and provided real estate agents with the tools they need to streamline the marketing process.

A recent study by European research agency The Future Laboratory predicted that by 2025, there will be crowdfunded mortgages, ‘big data’ house hunting that matches individual buyers to houses based on their online footprint and social media activity, and digital beacons embedded in properties that alert potential buyers when they walk past one that matches their preferences. Virtual Reality has already landed in New Zealand, with some property developers using it to allow potential buyers to ‘experience’ apartments that are yet to even be built - giving a new freedom to property investment, and the concept of buying sight unseen a completely different meaning.

Information at your finger tips

Not only has technology changed the way buyers search for property, but it’s also having impact on the way people obtain information about property investment. In 1969, learning about property was very much trial and error, and for me, fortunately trial and success. Trying to find out about property investing was difficult - it almost felt like a secret that was held within families, unless you were born into it. There was no such thing as education on property clocks, mortgage interest understandings, or leverage of equity, and most real estate agents, which were one source of trying to find out about property, weren’t even investors themselves. Most people’s attitude was to buy one property and to spend the rest of your life paying off the mortgage. My source was a Japanese lady who gave insight into an investment property that she had bought. I took it further and read books written by Olly Newland and Bob Jones - one of the property bibles of the day was a book called Wealth In Real Estate. 

Now, online platforms and forums offer a wealth of advice at the mere click of a button. While the internet has provided inarguably easy access to advice, you could argue that there is sometimes too much, making it difficult to know which strategy to follow. Behind a keyboard, anyone can be an expert – so to this day, you shouldn’t knock getting advice from an experienced, professional property coach who can provide real life advice tailored to your personal situation.

Aside from investors and real estate agents, technology also has its benefits for landlords. Collecting the rent electronically is certainly a lot easier than receiving the rent in the mail, which is really a delaying tactic. Likewise, property managers can look after multiple properties seamlessly using online services, taking all the hassle away. 

Ron Hoy Fong is coach and founder of Ronovationz.

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