As more internet portals offering real estate deals come up, the monopoly the broker had over information has ended. That does not mean the end of brokers for there is no substitute to the essential services they provide.
The past two years haven’t been the best for the real estate sector that is witnessing the effects of a general slowdown in the economy. A recent study by the global property consultant Knight Frank says that during the last two financial years i.e. FY’11-FY’13, absorption levels of residential properties in the seven largest cities plummeted by 23 per cent. During the same period, launches were down 37 per cent, the result of high prices, high interest rates that have led to waning buyer interest.
Caught within this downward spiral is an important player in the sector: the property broker who has to deal with the new reality of falling transactions. It seems like a redux from what played out in the travel services industry where increasing access to information and deals through the internet led to buyers drifting away from the travel agent onto travel portals, leading to many in the profession radically reinventing themselves or in extreme cases, shutting shop.
Is the real estate broker today in the same boat as his counterpart in the travel industry not so long ago, given the emergence of real estate portals and virtual walkthroughs?
“The current times are definitely not the easiest for individual brokers. The economic slowdown has conspired to make property buyers in the budget and mid-income segments more cash-conservative. For such buyers, the brokerage involved in buying a home through an agent is seen as an expense that should, if possible, be circumvented,” says Anuj Puri, chairman and country head, Jones Lang LaSalle India.
For the broker, though, it’s time to undergo a shift. “Business is going to change drastically. It will lead to the emergence of the new-age broker who has to deliver a high quality of service. Honesty, integrity and transparency will be paramount. Property brokerage has so far been a vocation, meaning brokers were primary level intermediaries. The time has come for its emergence into a profession,” says Sam Chopra, chairman, Re/Max India, a property brokerage operating on the franchise model, present in 35 cities in the country.
Chopra adds that in the current climate, enquiries have dropped by almost 75-80 per cent, investor transactions by 40-50 per cent. The end-user segment