Can NRIs rely solely on the internet for their property purchase?
Non-resident Indians (NRIs) may often find it impractical to physically come and see a property, while scouting for one, even if they have a keen interest in the Indian property market. Hence, developers are now increasing their online presence. From digital advertising and other connected platforms, to offering virtual tours of the property, developers are leaving no stone unturned, to attract NRIs.
Several facts suggest that the trend of online property search and buying, has grown significantly among the NRIs.
- A majority of the NRI buyers, connect to developers directly through online ads.
- Underscoring the importance of online sales to NRIs and HNIs, Tata Housing has said that it has sold a villa worth Rs 5.5 crore, online.
- Google’s Great Online Shopping Festival also attracted many NRIs buyers.
These facts seem to indicate that the digital medium is an ideal source for NRIs, to connect with the Indian property market and buy homes online. However, the extent to which the online medium helps NRIs to communicate successfully and result in sales, remains debatable.
NRIs rely heavily on the online medium for home buying
Manju Yagnik, vice-chairperson of the Nahar Group, maintains that online communication is crucial, as the NRI community relies heavily on this space, for their home buying in India. It is not physically possible for them to inspect the property, considering they are based abroad. Consequently, they use the internet as a medium to check the property and connect with the developer. Developers also utilise this medium, to connect with Indians living abroad.
“The internet offers a very cost-effective way, of creating awareness about your projects and reaching out to a wider global audience. It also enables developers to provide a complete insight of their projects, to customers across international markets, through virtual reality and augmented reality tours,” elaborates Yagnik.
Explaining the process, Kaizad Hateria, brand custodian and chief customer delight officer at Rustomjee Group, says that NRIs first search online, to understand the Indian property market and find contacts of various property development companies and channel partners. “Once they register their interest on any website, they start to learn about different locations, developments, companies, etc., through phone calls and meetings with property advisors and consultants in different countries and regions. Even after closing a transaction, they rely on online searches, local property advisors and consultants, to follow up on the investments made,” says Hateria.
Online medium needs to be complemented by offline services
Nikhil Hawelia, managing director of the Hawelia Group, argues that online exposure is effective, only for communicating and connecting with NRIs and cannot influence a property purchase.
“For NRI buyers, online leads will get translated into sales, only if there are friends, family or peer groups, to endorse the project and the developer. Online advertising or online reputation management, is not enough to freeze the deal. Once they finalise the deal, they also need a local agent for hand-holding,” says Hawelia.
With the sudden growth in the penetration of the internet and social media, in particular, developers are doing everything possible, to boost their online presence and manage their reputation in the cyber world. Nevertheless, NRIs still need a local partner, who can advise them on the past performance of the developer, the specifications of the project that is delivered, as compared to what is advertised on the digital platforms, the property options available according to one’s budget and the infrastructure and connectivity in and around the project.
Online media and its role in NRIs’ home buying process
- For NRIs, an online search is the starting point, to communicate and connect with others in their home buying process.
- Developers are using online ads, virtual property tours and augmented reality and resorting to online reputation management and sponsored games, to connect with NRI buyers.
- NRIs tend to cross check online leads with local contacts, friends and family and peer groups.
- A local agent is needed, to guide the NRIs and for cross-verification.
(The writer is CEO, Track2Realty)