The American investment management company specialising in real estate, Jones, Lang, LaSalle (JLL) Inc., published the report, The Growing Influence of Proptech. The report notes that PropTech–the use of technology to create or renovate services offered in real estate as effective solutions to challenges in the real estate sector–has witnessed a swift adoption around the world, but most notably in the Asia Pacific region.
Released in April of 2018, the JLL report observed that of the $7.8 billion USD invested globally from 2013 to 2017, $4.8 billion was raised by 179 PropTech startups in the Asia-Pacific region. These numbers are expected to increase with the growing demand for property and due to various factors such as a growing middle class, rising salaries, rapid urbanisation, increasing smartphone penetration, government support for smart cities, and corporate collaboration and engagement. The report also provides noteworthy findings focused on Southeast Asia’s real estate sector which, while still facing some hurdles, is rapidly catching up as a dynamic PropTech market.
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The Smart Nation | Singapore
Awarded top ranking in JLL’s “Global Real Estate Transparency Index,” Singapore’s PropTech is more advanced than its neighbours and is becoming the regional leader, in large part due to its supportive “startup ecosystem.”
In February of 2018, the Singapore government launched the Smart Nation Initiative, which includes a “Real Estate Industry Transformation Map.” The Map establishes a workgroup to focus on creating and streamlining standardised processes by 2020, including the implementation of digitalised-contract templates and checklists. The action is a result of the state’s largest property brokerages undergoing numerous mergers and acquisitions, consolidating Singapore’s established real estate market. The Smart Nation initiative proposes to recruit innovative technology in an effort to “drive professionalism and skills in the workforce.”
Property firms are recognising the need to innovate for long-term growth in their business. However, Singapore’s limited population and size are not ideal for scaling. In order for the Singaporean PropTech industry to continue its growth trajectory, the JLL report predicts startups like PropertyGuru–which has raised $440 million SGD (+$325 million USD) in five rounds of funding so far–will need to expand regionally.
Changing consumer habits will also need to be tackled as the primary challenge in the region is the population’s reluctance to make transactions on high-value assets–like property–with minimal human interaction.
Other Emerging Markets
Southeast Asia’s PropTech sector is notably smaller compared to the behemoths of China and India. Following the regional trend, brokerage and leasing activities spearhead Malaysia’s PropTech industry, receiving 96% of its total funding with most of it going towards budding startups.
Malaysia has a couple PropTech players in the region’s top 12: iProperty.com, and Common Ground. The iProptery.com website brings together buyers, sellers, renters, and agents in this online marketplace across 16 Malaysian states. The iProperty group was acquired by an Australian-based News Corp, a real-estate website company, for $580 million AUD ($414 million USD) in 2015. Common Ground is a coworking space that offers hot desks or private offices. They have locations in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand. Common Ground raised $20 million USD in Series A funding in June 2018.
The JLL report indicates that, for PropTech to make inroads in other Southeast Asian countries, governments and banks need to address financial hurdles preventing homeownership. While larger cities in Thailand have witnessed the appearance of some PropTech innovations such as co-working spaces (Malaysia-based Common Ground, for one), measures like loan assistance for home purchases valued over $10,000 USD need to be taken before PropTech can effectively occur in Thailand. Thailand has some local property search portals but proving their impact continues to be difficult given the limited sophistication of their products and the relative lack of development in their real estate markets.
Property markets in Southeast Asia are hoping to take off with new technologies, but market forces are influencing its potential to transform the wider industry. The report predicts that PropTech is not likely to be a disruptor in Indonesia anytime soon, but it could catapult change in the country’s property markets as it evolves along with growing developments in the real estate sector over time.
The market is already showing promise with EV Hive, an Indonesia PropTech startup reporting $24.3 million USD in three rounds of Seed and Series A financing since 2017. EV Hive is a coworking space that offers entrepreneurs networking opportunities and business services with private meeting rooms, event spaces, and free-flowing coffee.
Despite the challenges, PropTech startups in Southeast Asia may become a windfall in the long run. In 2015, there were reportedly 260 million internet users in the region, and that number is predicted to grow to 480 million by 2020. And technological developments–such as blockchain technology, which is helping consumers overcome a lack of trust and their reluctance to engage in high-value asset purchases with minimal human interaction–are propelling PropTech’s future in Southeast Asian nations.
One such success story, the Philippines’ Revolution Precrafted, has nabbed contracts in several international markets worth over $8 billion USD. They supply “designer, collectible, transportable, and limited-edition homes, pavilions and other structures,” with projects in Myanmar, the Philippines, the Caribbean, Dubai, Bahrain, Puerto Rico, Japan, and (soon) Spain.
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The future of PropTech will likely build on the innovations offered by blockchain, cryptocurrencies, AI, virtual reality, and the internet of things (IoT). With these thriving disruptive technologies, an enormous transformation in the real estate industry can be expected globally and, specifically, in Southeast Asia.