Property developers look to tech
The property sector is using online sales and cryptocurrency to prop up the market
Amid a property market slowdown and travel obstacles, developers are adopting digital tools to boost residential sales from local and foreign demand as well as tapping into a new generation of buyers offering sales via cryptocurrency.
Kromchet Vipanpong, chief executive of SET-listed developer AssetWise (ASW), said the company joined hands with Thai cryptocurrency firm Bitkub Capital Group Holdings last week to launch a digital currency exchange service for home purchases.
"We want to have a variety of money transfer channels in addition to cash, bank transfers and credit cards," he said. "Our customers can use cryptocurrencies for payments and the fee is lower than credit cards at only 0.25% compared with 2-3%."
Mr Kromchet said the partnership with Bitkub will help it expand to a new market -- a younger generation familiar with digital money.
"Since we launched last week, two customers have made monthly down payments using Ethereum, which we swapped to baht in our account," he said. "They are customers at Kave TU, a condo project targeting university students."
Bitkub is the country's largest local digital exchange, with the number of applicants for trading accounts totalling more than 1.5 million and a maximum trading volume of over 1.2 billion baht per day.
As the value of the digital asset market hit US$1.64 trillion (52 trillion baht) globally and 213 billion baht in Thailand in May 2021, up from 165 billion baht in April, ASW last week set up Digitonize Co to explore opportunities in this market.
Next month Sansiri Plc plans to allow customers to pay for home purchases and common area fees with four digital currencies available through Bitazza, a local digital asset broker.
"Foreign buyers are not currently allowed to buy Thai property with cryptocurrency," said Sansiri president Srettha Thavisin. "If this changes, we can tap the foreign market immediately as our sales to this segment rank as the largest."
SC Asset Corporation Plc is another residential developer that took up Bitkub's offer of an investment portfolio worth up to 1 million baht for those buying a unit at two luxury condo projects: 28 Chidlom and Beatniq Sukhumvit 32.
Online sales channels, which many developers have sped up since April last year, will become a normal tool in the post-pandemic period, according to SET-listed Sena Development Plc.
Athika Boonrodchoo, vice-president of Sena's capital allocation and investment department, said the company needs to develop digital tools to facilitate online sales channels such as virtual tours of housing projects.
"Customer behaviour has changed," she said. "People now make one or two visits before deciding -- compared with three to four times in the past -- as they study projects and units through online channels."
Ms Athika said virtual tours should be conducted with sincerity because customers will eventually visit projects to see physical units before nailing down their decision.
"A home is a high-value item. It will not be viewed only on a screen before a deal is struck," she said. "Online channels are a tool for customers to shop around on before making a site visit to see a clearer picture."
Piya Prayong, chief executive of residential developer Pruksa Real Estate Plc, said online sales channels have helped support offline sales.
Since the pandemic, sales from online channels have risen by 70-80%.
"More customers are using search engines to view and study our projects. This medium rose by 20% after the third wave of Covid-19 in April this year," he said. "We need to design our products and provide information via online channels to attract more customers."
Phattanan Phisutvimol, president of the Phuket Real Estate Association, said Phuket properties remain attractive to foreign buyers, particularly those from China and Hong Kong.
"Phuket property transactions including sales and down payments via online channels look promising, but transfers were limited as overseas buyers were unable to come and receive units," he said.
According to property website DDproperty.com, Phuket's Thalang district was ranked second for most receptive feedback. It saw a year-on-year jump of 164% in April this year, following Rayong's Muang district with a rise of 174%.
In third and fourth were the Kathu district in Phuket and San Sai district in Chiang Mai, with growth of 151% and 128%, respectively.
"Developers should target both local and overseas buyers," said Kamolpat Swaengkit, the website's country manager. "Do not stop online marketing activities as they help build brand awareness among potential buyers."
Yanyong Thaicharoen, head of the Economic Intelligence Center, a research house under Siam Commercial Bank, said online sales and marketing channels are appropriate strategies for property developers to adopt.