Face-to-face deals giving way to online transactions – report

A new report from HSBC Bank found that face-to-face transactions involving industry professionals like real estate agents and mortgage brokers are gradually waning in popularity, amid a growing number of deals being made via online channels and the popularity of the applications that facilitate these.

Fully 74 per cent of Canadians surveyed in the study have searched for financing options online, and 77 per cent said that they used online tools to find mortgage products that they can afford. Meanwhile, 27 per cent of the respondents said that dealing with other people is their biggest pet peeve when buying a home, with price negotiations (22 per cent) and legal work (20 per cent) not far behind.

The HSBC study further found that 29 per cent of Canadians deal with agents completely or mostly online, a proportion rapidly catching up with the 39 per cent of respondents dealing with agents completely or mostly offline. 32 per cent used a combination of face-to-face meetings and online transactions.

This is despite Canada somewhat lagging in terms of giving opportunities for consumers to complete transactions online, according to RateSpy.com founder Rob McLister.

“The trend is starting to pick up steam but we are nowhere near the point where the average (person getting a mortgage) is going to close a mortgage online,” McLister told the Financial Post. “It is changing. You have banks promoting an end-to-end no-human-being mortgage process. You can apply online, upload your documents. You can do everything but sign the paperwork with a lawyer.”

UK-based tech expert James Dearsley, who was quoted in the HSBC report, stated that physical visits are slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past.

“Virtual reality will allow home buyers to live in a virtual version of a home for several days to truly try before they buy,” Dearsley said, adding that “artificial agents” enabling smoother and easier transactions represent a very real possibility for the industry.

“The traditional role of the real estate agent is ripe for reinvention, as we are already seeing through the rise of online do-it-yourself platforms that allow homeowners to market their own properties and negotiate directly with sellers,” he explained. “All houses may be sold this way in the future, with property websites offering end-to-end marketing, search, financing, negotiation, transaction and conveyancing services that significantly reduce the time and hassle for homebuyers.”

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