International Property

How technology is making house-buying abroad a whole lot easier

Hong Kong’s property agents are increasingly offering digital tools like virtual tours and FaceTime to potential buyers of overseas property

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 12:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 February, 2017, 7:52pm

Technology has made buying property overseas for Hongkongers easier with the help of online listings, digital house tours, and even FaceTime.

One Hong Kong-based investor recently spent millions on a house some 7,000 kilometres away in Australia after inspecting it via FaceTime, a mobile video calling app.

The unidentified purchaser bought an AUS$3.65 million (HK$21.67 million) home in Roseville Chase ­– a suburb of northern Sydney – late last month after inspecting the property during a 40-minute call on FaceTime, according to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Belle Property Lindfield agent Lisa Davies said the inspection of the property, located at 55 Griffith Avenue, was similar to a conventional walk-through. At first, she had her doubts that the video call would convince the buyer to make a bid, but he submitted an offer the next day.

“It was impossible to show him the full magnitude of the property from my singular phone angles and after the call I thought he surely wouldn’t actually go through with it,” Davies told the Telegraph.

Technology plays an important role in the real estate industry, and it keeps shaping the model of agency business
Steve Ming, Landscope Christie’s International Real Estate

The purchase reflects the increasing digitisation of the real estate industry, as agents seek to connect with buyers online through 360 degree digital tours or virtual reality viewings of properties and mobile listings.

“Technology plays an important role in the real estate industry, and it keeps shaping the model of agency business,” said Steve Ming, a director at Hong Kong’s Landscope Christie’s International Real Estate. “Technology also optimises our daily operation and helps us to increase the exposure to different markets.”

Digital tools allow buyers to see the interior condition and surrounding area of projects before actually visiting them, saving time for both the agent and the client, he said.

Last November, a novel online video property-viewing service launched in Hong Kong as a result of collaboration between Centaline, Microsoft Hong Kong and TFI Digital Limited, allowing property viewings to be seen through cloud-based video.

Centaline’s 4,500 real estate agents would “shoot video footage, edit and upload instantaneously by using their mobile devices, providing house hunters with unprecedented visual access to every part of their prospective home,” a press release said.

Digital real estate tools will continue to see greater adoption, particularly since property companies are no longer the sole source of information, according to Ming.

The demand by Hong Kong investors for overseas houses is linked to the city’s sky-high property prices. Hong Kong has notched seven straight years as the world’s priciest housing market in the Demographia International affordability survey.

Property services company Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) predicted prices in Hong Kong would rise by 5 per cent this year.

During periods of uncertainty, particularly in Hong Kong and Chinese markets, people will naturally diversify their assets into mature real estate markets such as those in Japan or Australia, according to Victor S Yeung, chief investment officer at Admiral Investment.

Chinese investors and developers spent US$1.7 billion in Australia in the first half last year, a Knight Frank report showed.

The trend of Hongkongers seeking overseas investment opportunities will continue in light of the “historical peak” for local property prices and the strength of the Hong Kong dollar, Ming added.