Digital Sales Are the Future of Real Estate, And it’s Time to Close
For nearly 20 years, Ben Smith has dreamed of selling property online. Not just marketing it, not simply qualifying a buyer – literally selling property over the internet.
And in June 2020, the President of AVESDO did just that.
Of course, Smith hadn’t joined AVESDO at that point, he was still a client. But he was so impressed with the real estate services company (and they with him) and its new technology that less than a year later he would be leading them.
Having earned his stripes in Vancouver over the past two decades, Smith started out as an Ad Rep. Working mostly on real estate, it didn’t take him long to fall in love with it. So much so, in fact, that he ultimately left the ad work behind to become VP of Marketing at Polygon Homes, one of the region’s leading home builders.
“I didn’t come from the industry, I came from outside the industry… I had different ideas,” Smith says of his success at Polygon. Being an outsider has its advantages, and as Smith moved toward becoming an industry insider, he continued to employ those powers of external perspective.
Case in point: in the early 2000s, Smith remembers one of the questions that kept coming up with people he’d speak to (both in the industry and outside of it) was whether or not he thought people would ever buy homes online.
“And I said ‘1000% we will,’ and everyone thought ‘You’re out of your mind.’”
But this idea — that Smith was wrong to believe in the future of digital home buying — stuck with him and, in his own words, was “pretty pivotal” to where he’s ended up today.
“I remember saying to my wife, ‘this is the future.’ And I want to be the one who knows how to do this, because we will not sell real estate the way we did before.”
Fast-forward to June 2020 and Smith and the project team were the first in Canada to do it. Call it motivation or call it motivating, but that’s one heck of a bookend to be proud of. Only it’s not a bookend, it’s just the beginning.
Digital Marketing vs Digital Sales
Until you transact, you haven’t done sales.
This is a point Smith stresses. The difference between digital marketing and digital sales is the close – the ability to close the sale online (as differentiated from a real estate closing which doesn’t happen till the project is built).
“We’ve gotten really good at digital marketing,” Smith says of the industry. “But there are very few of us working on the sell – the actual transaction necessary for a sale to have taken place.”
Real estate — as it should surprise no one who’s ever been involved in a buy or sell — is complicated. There are regulations, and strict levels of compliance that must be followed. Not to mention full disclosure statements and guaranteed buyer remorse periods. All these things make it much more difficult to transact. Buying a pre-construction condo isn’t exactly the same as ordering a t-shirt through Instagram.
“Whenever I’m asked,” Smith says, “‘Who’s your biggest competitor at AVESDO?’ I always say ‘paper.’”
But AVESDO has figured out how to make it easier. How to make the entire experience more tangible.
“We have the ability to email you a unit. This unit, 101, this is your unit,” Smith says of the process. That means the buyer isn’t just throwing their money behind a brochure, they’re putting it behind an actual property that they can digitally see and understand. It’s the real estate equivalent of a first ultrasound; you can see what’s coming even if you can’t hold it just yet. And investing in that clarity can make all the difference.
“Our core product is digital contracts, but this isn’t just DocuSign; our contracting platform collects large amounts of data and organizes it in a way that allows you to pull it out so you can start to see it and you can gain reporting and intelligence. And then you can improve your data and level of understanding with every new launch.”
By moving the transaction moment a little further up the funnel with their allocation product, and by introducing a more complete sales product (i.e. the actual unit), AVESDO helps developers close their properties faster, with less fallout, and with more enthusiasm from buyers and investors.
The only “buyer’s remorse” around here is that this hasn’t been an option before now.
This article was produced in partnership with STOREYS Custom Studio.