According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, human beings are motivated by various levels of requirements. The most basic motivation is for their survival and meeting their physiological needs, including having shelter. Finding somewhere to live is a necessity. In the COVID-19 era, however, finding suitable homes and business properties has become more challenging as restrictions have been placed on movement, making it more difficult to tour a building to see that it meets the requirements. However, a new generation of proptech startups in Southeast Asia is rising to fill the gaps allowing the previewing of properties, managing of real estate portfolios, and meeting the needs of the region’s population.  While the proptech trends in Southeast Asia may change in response to the ongoing pandemic, it appears as though this sector will rebound from the transformations brought forth in 2021.Virtual meetings on the rise

The pandemic has affected proptech in myriad ways, such as developing novel adaptations to meet real estate agents and viewing properties safely. These adaptations have galvanised an ever-growing cohort of photographers, web developers, and allied tech professionals who can translate the 3D experience of strolling through a property into an immersive screen-based world.

Many companies are harnessing virtual touring, including one of the region’s biggest agents, PropertyGuru. It created the StoryTeller feature as a pivot after Singapore outlawed in-person property viewings to reduce the spread of COVID-19. StoryTeller’s features allow high-end real estate developers to showcase their properties—and their locations—even before the digging of foundations for the property are complete.  Mass purchasing of upmarket parcels of land might lead to speculation, should the market slow down. However, the 3D technology of StoryTeller is advantageous for sellers, buyers, and even individuals who are casually interested in an area, providing a window into the property’s potential.

Exploring the state of proptech in Southeast Asia and how it is changing

Non-luxury housing and commercial spaces are also witnessing a rise in tech-enabled viewings for prospective buyers and renters.  Agents in Singapore are utilising Zoom to show properties to interested parties.  Even though the trend towards virtualisation encountered some initial resistance, its popularity is accelerating. Virtual meetings allow communication between sellers and clients, allowing buyers or renters to view properties while social distancing.

The role of AI and data analytics

Another trend attributable to COVID is the rise of AI and data analytics for real estate developers and agents. PropertyGuru’s FastKey is an example of the data analytics’ vanguard, synchronising all properties a developer or agent has onto a single, convenient platform.  FastKey generates graphs and has appointment-booking software built into its interface, allowing agents to easily keep track of their buyers, sellers, and available properties.  While AI is not brand new to proptech, its acceleration on the global scene is notable and envisioned as early as 2016

An ageing population

Another significant trend in the realm of proptech in Southeast Asia is the older demographic’s growing needs for housing specific to their safety and lifestyles. 

Many ASEAN societies use an intergenerational housing model where possibly four generations live together or adjacent to one another. This model is shown to have positive mental and physical health outcomes for all members and brings a sense of closeness to the intertwined family units. As grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow up, grandparents can provide cherished—and often free—childcare for their descendants. In turn, ageing parents will receive help with household chores and other tasks that might become difficult for them. Through proptech, finding homes suitable to meet the whole family’s needs has become less complicated. The rise in smart homes and senior safety products for the home has also helped meet the older generation’s needs. Meanwhile, the property sector data could help form governmental policy and developmental plans for future projects. With the emergence of an online workforce in response to the pandemic, some city dwellers might be able to return to the towns and villages where they grew up. This move could reunite families that typically wait for holidays to see one another while putting pressure on housing resources in the area. Agencies are having to think fast and find ways to adapt to fit the needs of consumers.

Through proptech, they can find short or longer-term rental solutions for those returning to their home towns or looking to find a new location outside of the cities now that they have the freedom to work from home.
COVID has changed the landscape of nearly all business and social endeavours worldwide.  This effect, by all means, includes real estate and proptech.  As with the upcoming merger between ecommerce companies Gojek and Tokopedia, proptech startups in Southeast Asia will also likely consolidate as the market absorbs shocks and rebounds in response to the global pandemic. These changes will inevitably see a change in the proptech trends in Southeast Asia and around the globe.