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How tech can save real estate business in COVID-19 times

The original interview with Luka Lajovic, Zwelo CEO, was first published in Marketing Magazin. Zwelo is a Slovenian part of our portfolio company CityExpert. The company is an advanced online real estate agency that uses cutting-edge technology to help users buy, sell or rent properties. As an industry game-changer, it introduces the online business model that cuts excessive costs and saves time for all users. The article below describes how they took the pandemic lockdown as a chance to improve their business model.

“It was a great opportunity for us.”

At Zwelo (Slovenian part of CityExpert) the market really stopped completely for the first two weeks during the epidemic, but then the interest of buyers began to slowly awaken. “Because tours of the real estates were not possible, we recorded less than a tenth of the usual customer activity. We quickly realized that this situation will take longer than first expected and that this was actually a great opportunity for us. We were able to further highlight two key advantages of our business model, which is not a classic real estate model – we are the first online real estate platform in this part of Europe,” says CEO of Zwelo Slovenia Luka Lajovic.

View the property from the living room couch

An important advantage in the midst of the COVID-19 restrictions is the possibility of a virtual tour of the property. At Zwelo, in order to provide customers with a pleasant experience of researching the real estate offer and save them time and make it easier to choose the right real estate, they create a multimedia interactive presentation for each property. They highlighted this with video ads on social networks inviting buyers to view the property safely right from the couch. “Another big advantage that our clients especially commend is the fact that as a platform we directly connect buyers and sellers of real estate. Therefore, we encouraged customers to register online for viewing. Our intention was to contact the sellers during the quarantine and to establish contact with the sellers, express their interest and ask them any questions, and in this way take the first very important step. The actual inspection was then carried out after quarantine or when both the buyer and the seller felt safe enough to do so. The model, which does not include an agent on the first visits, but connects customers to each other online, proved to be excellent in this situation.”

Their biggest project is in Belgrade

The time of self-isolation was used at Zwelo to think about improving their services and preparing a marketing strategy and to redefine the tone and way of communicating with customers. At the same time, they went a step further in their development plans. Thus, they have already started actively adapting the website to the additional broadcasting service, and they are also preparing everything necessary for expansion into all Slovenian cities, by maintaining the office exclusively in Ljubljana.

The company’s biggest project at the moment is not in Slovenia but in Belgrade. “The new buildings in the centre of Belgrade – the residence of Knez Miloš and Gnezdo Vračar, whose marketing and sales were taken over by our parent company City Expert, would currently count as our biggest project. Due to our specific model of operation, which is otherwise free of charge for sellers and enables online registration for viewing, we are preparing interesting project offers, which we will soon be able to offer to Slovenian investors. They will include a competent marketing plan for promotion and sales for a favourable cash investment, with an excellent perspective for fast and efficient sales. We have prepared various “packages” of cooperation for investors – from the classic agency to purely real estate advertising, it all depends on their needs and desires, “says Luka Lajovic.

Expecting a return to the pre-crisis state or do we face less optimistic times?

At the end of the conversation, Luka says that the market is already very lively: “Otherwise, we are somewhere halfway to the” pre-crown “number of views and sales, which is good or better than we expected, given the situation. Real estate prices also remain relatively high, and the buying will of buyers, who are not yet postponing their plans, waiting for a change in real estate prices, is also strong.

The establishment of a pre-crisis situation depends on several factors, among which the support of banks by financing buyers and investors and the general economic climate are of key importance. We believe that in the last quarter it will be clear whether the general economic situation will encourage markets to return to pre-crown levels or whether a possible economic recession will slowly begin to affect the real estate market, where changes are happening more slowly and with a lag. If banks will resolve loan applications and consumption is stimulated, the pre-crisis situation is almost at the door. In the case of a negative economic and political climate and the denial of bank support, less favourable times await us.”

You can find out more about Zwelo and their innovative solution on their platform or visit them on their Facebook or Instagram profile.