Prop-tech and the Future of the Maltese Property Industry

on Wednesday, February 6, 2019

 

Written by Alan Grima, CEO

 

 

The Maltese property market has experienced one of the best years in the past decade. It was also a year during which the word ‘bubble’ was, perhaps, overused. And yet, the property market has continued to perform really well.

 

Throughout the years our industry has changed substantially, both from a macro as well as micro perspective. And the players who survive and thrive in this constantly changing environment are undoubtedly those who anticipate and respond to these changes.

 

What is in store for the property industry in the coming years?

 

We have to expect ‘disruptive’ technologies to change the way we work because we are living in a technology-driven world. The real estate industry may have been slow to start when it comes to adopting new technologies, but this will definitely change as we now know that technology is not just a trend, it’s a way of life.

 

The banking industry is a typical example of how tech can disrupt established business models. We therefore expect our industry to be disrupted in a way similar to how fintech revolutionised the entire banking business model.

 

 

Dhalia embraced the first wave of prop-tech by introducing Malta’s first mobile app, and shortly afterwards bringing 3D scanning technology to the islands. Today these features are considered standard in the property industry. We have also truly embraced the concept of a flexible workday by giving our agents remote access to our database.

 

Today, data is the new oil. According to the Economist, data is now considered to be the world’s most valuable resource. Companies who are not using their data to understand their customers and predict future behaviour will most likely not be here much longer.

The concept behind big data is now more important than ever because we rely on the resulting insights as the basis for our decisions. Machine learning systems and artificial intelligence can therefore help us in making better decisions by providing us with broader insights resulting in additional opportunities.

 

From a social perspective, it is fascinating to observe the effects of the sharing economy concept. Start-ups such as AirBnB and Uber have become global giants through applying the sharing concept to their industries. Dhalia will also be introducing an innovative room-share platform to the Maltese Islands, in response to the growing demand for co-living rental spaces.

 

Concepts and technologies like big data, machine learning, AI and blockchain are the main drivers that will revolutionise various industries, including ours. Developments in prop-tech are so promising that giant global companies like Google and Amazon are investing in these technologies.

 

Let us consider residential property valuations. Experts predict that within the next five years, all residential valuations will be completed online, accurately, through the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning systems. This is a huge opportunity for a property company with an extremely solid database.

 

 

This year, Dhalia will be launching an innovative online valuation system that will allow clients to get an indication on the market value of their property using artificial intelligence and machine learning technology. The system will analyse our data together with market information to come up with an estimated market value of the property. Through this system, clients will also be able to request a professional in-person valuation.

 

As I have said, we believe that our industry will be going through a transformation that is similar to what is happening with fintech. We expect our industry to be disrupted.

 

Real estate agents need to realise that we are experiencing another revolution in tech where the smart home, autonomous cars and sharing economy concepts continue gaining popularity within the next five to ten years. Emerging technologies will also become mainstream very soon resulting in new business models that will challenge existing ones. Proptech is therefore expected to catch up with fintech in the near future.

 

Technology is fantastic - it enhances our lives. In our industry, it can’t replace a real estate agent, but like all meaningful tech, it will enhance the client experience. We are therefore looking forward to very interesting times ahead and embracing change with open arms.

 

This article appeared in the Sunday Times of Malta.