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Smart City Solutions advancing Nigerian and African Real Estate into the future, Oberaifo Udoh – Managing Director, Vines Realty and Business Management Consultant.

Technological developments have had tremendous impacts on society over time. Technology is implemented in almost every human operation, making human activities smarter and more effective. The Real Estate sector is not left out of this radical change. As cities continue to grow and evolve, applying technologies in Real Estate development becomes indisputable.

Nigeria's rural-urban migration is growing at an alarming rate, making cities such as Lagos overpopulated. Smart city solutions aim to improve the growth and sustainability of cities through the use of digital technologies. It is necessary to build smart cities because it increases the quality of life of urban dwellers.

Smart Solutions That Can Revolutionise the Real Estate Industry

The digitalisation of Real Estate happened late, compared to most industries. It has also taken a much slower process because of its technicalities and specificities. However, the positive effect has been tremendous.

Newly invented smart solutions such as the Internet of Things (IoT), motion sensors and facial recognition detect behavioural patterns and collect data through digital analytics to manage Real Estate properties effectively.

In addition, Building Information Modelling enhances the building of houses. This software tracks the operations of a building and installs the energy systems required, such as air conditioning and heating.

Technological Transformation of the Real Estate Industry

Technology companies continue to introduce upgrades to increase the productivity of the Real Estate industry. These tools ease the challenges faced by agents and their clients.

They include:

  • Internet of Things - The Internet of Things links physical activities to the Internet to pave the way for productivity by creating better connectivity and automation. It creates convenience for buyers, improves maintenance, and saves energy — for example, automated lighting, ventilating systems, and security systems.

  • Online marketing and sales - Technology makes marketing and selling of properties easier; agents only have to take aesthetic pictures of properties and place them in various categories in an online image library on their website. Virtual Inspections and smart contracts also speed up transactions, reduce costs and prevent fraud.

  • The digitalisation of security - Buildings and safes use facial recognition to prevent intrusions. Motion sensors detect unusual activities; some sensors activate lasers if designed with such ability. Automated doors require passcodes instead of keys, and automated alarms with smoke detectors are installed to alert residents of any possibility of a fire outbreak.

  • Customer support - Virtual assistance and FAQs on Real Estate websites aid contactless support which helps agents attend to more buyers efficiently, saving time and cost. This has transformed how Real Estate is managed, leased, and bought. Online customer reviews on properties purchased also boost customer experience and increase business growth.

  • Automated apartment matching - Customers can input their desired apartments, specifying every detail, including prices, and the system will automatically provide the homes that match their needs. This is much faster and easier than the rigorous process of physically touring houses that might not match the taste of the buyers.

  • Payment and Insurance - Clients can make quick payments and insure their houses online; they can also take advantage of promotions by agents who provide a means for instalment payments.

Challenges facing the Nigerian real estate industry

There are several challenges facing the Nigerian Real Estate industry, and this can be generally applied to Africa.

  • Low Technological application - One of the challenges facing the Nigerian Real Estate sector is the lack or minimal use of technology to carry out activities. It’s saddening that many Real Estate practitioners do not find a functioning website important. They limit their operations to calls and texts only, making the industry lack automation, speed, and ease. Moreover, those who own websites do not give potential customers a great user experience. Customers still go through the rigorous process of inspecting properties manually.

  • The poor supply of electricity - The lack of electricity may affect the installation and effective use of advanced technical tools like the motion and facial detector, automated doors, lights, and other equipment built to make a smart home.

  • Third-party involvement - Most times, there are third parties involved in the purchase process of properties. This has created a long-term challenge, as customers are required to pay extra to compensate these third- parties. Getting an apartment in Nigeria would be easier if there weren’t third parties extorting money from buyers. Furthermore, this issue has led to fraud in the real estate industry and needs to be eliminated.

Only a few challenges facing the Nigerian Real Estate sector are highlighted in this article. Several others could be more latent than manifest. Therefore, the application of digital technology in the Nigerian and African real estate industry is essential; it is expected to foster greater development in the growing cities.

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