Technology is causing a paradigm shift within the real estate sector in Pakistan. Long gone are the days when people used only traditional methods to find a new property.

In Pakistan, there are now over 30 million Internet users and 15 million smartphone users. In fact, recent statistics showed a staggering growth in Internet use of over 550 percent between September 2014 and April of this year, with the total number of 3G subscribers crossing 11 million. Pakistan’s tech device market is predicted to grow by 15 percent in 2015, according to market research firm GfK.

With the increasing availability of online portals, affordable smartphones, plus 3G and 4G services in Pakistan, house hunters are searching the Internet for properties. Consequently, real estate agents and developers are having to adapt their marketing efforts to keep up with the shift online.

In my experience, those in the real estate industry are still predominantly using offline marketing methods, such as newspaper advertisements, billboards and fliers to promote their properties. However, there has been a recognizable move online as the industry begins to see the potential of this medium.

You cannot ignore the benefits of online marketing, which is already a commonplace practice in developed countries. Online marketing leaps over traditional methods in this area because it provides a clear, accurate way to monitor campaign performance.

The real strength is in the ability to target users regardless of where they are, and then analyze their behavior onsite. Emerging markets, including Pakistan, have yet to embrace these new technologies fully. But change is coming, and it is coming fast.

Many Pakistani agents and developers have already found success via this online medium. For instance, Abdul Majeed, CEO of the Property Club agency, said that using online real estate portals has been very helpful for reaching a global audience. Where previously he was only able to target the local property market, now he can secure deals with overseas Pakistanis as well.

Similarly, Wafa Umer, director of Quality Builders Limited, which has developed several residential and commercial projects in Karachi, says that using a digital platform is just as important for a builder as it is for a real estate agent.

By using the services of these websites, Quality Builders has secured a huge number of leads for its ongoing projects from both local and international investors. Moreover, they consider the response from using these property portals to be on par with that of any leading newspaper.

Now, many in the real estate sector have acknowledged the importance of online tools. According to a survey of real estate agents conducted by Lamudi in 2014, 45 percent of agents surveyed reported that the Internet is frequently used in the house-hunting process. This number is expected to accelerate over the next decade as Pakistani house hunters increasingly embrace these modern tools.

By contrast, in the U.S., 84 percent of agents polled by the National Association of Realtors said they would use social media to promote themselves. Although online property platforms are widespread in developed countries, emerging countries are not far behind — and there are significant opportunities here for tech-savvy agents, brokers and developers to be ahead of the curve.

Real estate professionals in Pakistan are gaining access to a wider number of people, both domestically and internationally, by embracing online marketing and building a positive reputation along the way. This trend is the future for our industry, and agents who do not keep pace with these trends will soon be left behind.

Saad Arshed is the Managing Director of Lamudi Pakistan, a real estate marketplace for buying, renting and selling property in Pakistan. You can follow him on LinkedIn at Saad Arshed and follow #LamudiPakistan at Twitter here.

Email Saad Arshed.

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