Guest Column: Content marketing helping home seekers to be more informed than ever
The internet is possibly the most powerful innovation that humankind has witnessed in the last century. The internet has brought about a silent revolution by simply democratizing information and thus reducing the information asymmetry. And while new billion dollar businesses got created out of this core benefit of the internet, it also eroded businesses built on information asymmetry, e.g., pure arbitrage trading or intermediary agents. Another way to look at it is that it eroded businesses, where the premium charged was much higher than the value added because the premium was for the information the seller had and not the knowledge.
It is a bit unfortunate then that though it has been 34 years since the internet started, this opaqueness of information remains in the real estate sector. And what makes it especially hard for home seekers is that real estate is the most significant investment that they will make in their lifetime, and they are forced to play blind.
Having said that, real estate tech has been slowly chipping away at this hegemony of information asymmetry players. So, whether it is price discoverability or actual real estate valuation, like what Zestimate by Zillow does in the US, home seekers are now more informed than ever before.
In fact, in India, real estate tech companies are doing a lot to reduce this asymmetry. So nowadays, when home seekers are looking for a house to buy or rent, there is content available which drills down from city, locality and right down to the exact project of interest.
Typically, home seekers research for at least six months before zeroing in on a property to buy. Most of this time is spent on looking for the options, price discovery and gathering information. Seekers are seen to follow a specific pattern before purchasing a house.
1. Discovery Phase
The very first stage is that of discovery. In this phase, seekers usually understand their own needs and begin searching for their ideal property on various real estate tech portals. Browsing housing options over a map or a list of options filtered by configuration and budget is the very first time when a consumer interacts with content on most real estate sites. This phase helps in deciding some broad parameters, making price discovery regarding locality and looking at the market outlook. A Google-Zinnov survey done in 2013 shows that internet research influences about 53% of decisions in real estate. But with annual growth in search volume in this category, I would say the figure now would be closer to 65-70%. It is important to say that in this phase or any other phase if there are black swan events like demonetization the content consumption on market outlook simply goes off the charts.
2. Consideration Phase
As the home seekers progress to the consideration phase, they now zoom in on a few properties and look for detailed project descriptions. This is where companies with good content marketing practices can differentiate well from others. A comprehensive, honest and an easy to read summary of the housing and the locality goes a long way in helping consumers take a decision. Content in the form of videos, images, reviews, and comparison tools are now a must when describing a project. The reputation of the builder or real estate agency precedes the property. Through online portals and social media, seekers can get an informed, impartial perspective of the builders and their projects. User-generated content on forums and discussion boards contribute towards helping a seeker move to the next phase.
3. Decision-making phase
Finally, the seekers head to the decision-making phase, which usually involves physically visiting the property to get tactile information. Once the seekers review all alternatives, they decide to purchase. This triggers another cycle of information gathering around finance, tax, and legal matters. There is an extensive amount of content available on the legal/tax/finance aspects of purchasing real estate. Specialized content written by domain experts helps customers understand the finer nuances. Many real estate portals arrange live chats, and FB lives with domain experts to answer specific user queries.
Even after the seekers have made the purchase and are awaiting possession, the journey of information seeking continues. It is essential to appraise seekers with the latest information that concerns them. Timely broadcasts of construction updates, most recent infrastructure developments, changes in taxation regime or regulatory environment even after post-purchase is essential. Real estate websites use newsletter and emailers to timely update their customers.
The government is also doing their bit by making the real estate industry more and more transparent. The government has recently launched RERA websites that contain all the information about projects and promoters after realizing the importance of content in home buying. Users can now log into their stateâ€™s RERA portal and look for verified information.
The era of transparency in real estate is here though perhaps a few years late, and it will be interesting to see how home seekers consume and respond to content promoted by the government, developers and real estate tech companies.
Neeraj Chaturvedi is, Group CMO, Housing.com, PropTiger.com and Makaan.com
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of exchange4media.com
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