PROPTECH-X ‘Proptech & property News’: Can the housing market ever embrace e-commerce?

The housebuilding market is one of the few sectors yet to embrace a fully online buying experience. There are numerous reasons for this, with the most prominent being the nature of the purchase – it’s a house after all! Steve Smith, Co-Founder and Director of Pixel, makes the case for the digital buying experience.

Housebuilders and developers have adopted multiple technologies in recent years, from the capture and use of data to the integration of IoT and smart technologies, further improving construction processes.

Despite this, little has changed in the marketing of houses and developments. The laborious process of listing the property online, conducting multiple house viewings and negotiating the house and its contents is still the industry standard way of selling a new-build property. This raises the question, why can’t the house buying process also be better optimised with new technology? 

It’s easy to assume that most homebuyers will want to see their potential new home in person before they buy. Buying a house is the most important and significant purchase of anyone’s life. But when properties are yet to be built, you can’t see them. New-build sales have always relied on physical show homes that may (or may not) be representative of the property a particular person wants to buy.  

So, is building a showhome and printing off physical marketing materials, the most effective way to sell a new build property?

Well, probably not. A digital showhome offers customers 24/7 access to the house viewing, allowing users to browse the contents of the property for as much time as they’d like. While the physical counterpart can only have one or two viewings conducted at a time, a digital showhome can accommodate multiple viewings without the need to book. In fact, Pixel’s data indicates that its online solutions average 10 hours of daily online engagement time, a feat hard to achieve using physical show homes. 

Going a step further, digital show homes allow people to take a virtual walkthrough of the house with the additional benefit of customising it to their style. Potential buyers can mix and match different splashbacks, cabinets and worktops to best meet their taste, helping them envision the home they hope to live in.

The added customisation doesn’t just benefit buyers, it also helps developers. By tailoring the property to a target demographic, developers can better work towards boosting the property’s online engagement rate. To top it off, this process can be automated, meaning the process of preparing a customised showhome has never been quicker or more convenient – all the while better meeting the expectations of the modern buyer.

By conducting the house viewings online, developers can also work towards reducing their carbon footprint and save up to 800kg of consequent carbon emissions per property sold – a key consideration for developers that fall under the UK government’s Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) policy (there’s a full break down of how digital show homes equate to massive carbon savings here)


With those benefits in mind, what’s stopping the industry from embracing full-on ecommerce?

A key barrier to the adoption of any technology is risk aversion – being the first of anything is always daunting.  However, our online platform has been designed to make the transition as seamless as possible for both the user and our clients. For homebuyers, the process of making a reservation on a house is a far less daunting process when it’s integrated into the online viewing experience. And we all know that, when new technology emerges, the early adopters reap the benefits sooner and thus gain a competitive edge. 

What about cost? You might be sold on the idea of the benefits of ecommerce; the data it provides, the money it saves by not needing to build, fit-out and maintain a physical showhome, and the carbon it saves by not having potential buyers travel to and from the site. But are those benefits worth investing half a million pounds to develop you’re own digital showhome application that you must then maintain and keep up to date?  

Almost definitely no, fortunately though, companies like ours have white-label software you can brand as your own, which is updated regularly and fully supported and provides all the insightful metrics you could think of, such as time spent looking at the property, most popular room, most popular add-ons and the highest viewed house types, giving developers more information to help inform key decisions and better tailor their portfolios to their target demographic.

So the final question is consumer behaviour then, just because we have the capability to sell houses online, will anyone buy them? 

Yes! In fact, in a recent study conducted by Capterra, it was found that out of 1000 people, almost a fifth (19%) bought a property based on a solely virtual viewing experience with no ‘real-life’ viewings in the later stages. It comes as no surprise then that housebuilders who have already embraced online reservations are seeing more than 50% of their sales coming in remotely. To find out more about Pixel’s digital showhome solutions and their benefits, visit:

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