Apps by developers now offer direct virtual access
What happens after you book your home? You periodically follow up with the project-related person for updates on construction and completion. You save the sample design of your flat and the property to show it to friends and family. And of course, you keep track of paperwork: separate files to store every approved document. Surely there’s an easier way to keep it all together?
Some real-estate developers believe an app might be the solution. Firms like Mahindra Lifespaces, Kalpataru, Sunteck, Raheja and Runwal have separate apps to connect with customers. It notifies you every time a floor level is completed. It connects you with interior designers, contractors, plumbers and other technicians for your future home. It also allows you lodge a complaint or query with their customer-support team.
“A customer who has invested in a project relies on verbal information from the project team,” says Deben Moza, executive director and head of project management services at realty consultancy Knight Frank India.
“With the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA) in force, developers are supposed to keep the buyers updated. And buyers have the legal right to know what is happening. The access to technology benefits both the parties. Apart from bringing in transparency the apps make sure the customers don’t have to rely on an individual for confirmations or queries.”
Mahindra Lifespaces’ app, MLife, gives regular construction updates, generates receipts, provides payment options and registers complaints.
“Educating the customers about the app, getting them to download and use it beyond the payments and receipts has been the toughest part,” says Sunil Sharma, the company’s chief customer officer. The young buyers take to the app quickly, almost seamlessly. Older ones still tend to place a call and speak to an actual, real person.
The developer has tied up with suppliers and vendors for furnishings, electrical works, fittings and interiors. These could be availed of in the later stage before or after possession. The app also doubles up as an amenities manager and takes care of maintenance of the indoor games court, clubhouse and their multi-purpose hall
The company says that the app has sped up operations. “Earlier, my team had to record each query on a spreadsheet and we had to go through them one by one, resolving complaints. Now that step is eliminated. All issues are directly logged into the system and I can supervise the time taken by the team to respond and solve issues,” says Sharma.
The Baya Company, which has projects in Mulund, gives a detailed overview of the brickwork and slab construction process. They even upload photos. “Not all buyers have the time to make visits to the site. But they want to know what’s going on, so the images help,” says Kunal Agarwal, the development firm’s assistant general manager.
Once customers have moved in, the app also serves as a platform for house maintenance issues such as leakages and replacement of fixtures.
Customers can raise a complaint on the app, upload photos and videos of the problem, and can track the response. “They will know at what time the technician’s coming, his name and contact details through the app,” says Agarwal.
Rajiv Chavan, 34, who works in a logistics company in Mumbai, invested in a project by The Baya Company in 2018. He uses the app and has found it to be of immense help. “I get to see pictures of the project: the brochures, artist’s impressions are all there and I can show glimpses of my future home to my relatives,” he says.
“They have a feature called paperwork. Right from RERA registration to loan sanctions, there’s everything and I don’t have the fear of losing any documents,” adds Chavan.
However, there are challenges when using such apps, says Deepali Shah, 32, a homemaker from Borivli.
“I use the app’s services for home repairs. And every time I feed the issue into the system, I feel they should have a call option too. It is difficult to explain the entire problem through a message,” she says. Sometimes, the wrong technicians are sent and then the process gets delayed. The app often hangs and crashes too. And of you’ve updated your phone, all the details have to be entered again, says Shah.
Mumbai-based startup Lockated has been researching ways to bridge the gap between developers and buyers since 2015. “Real estate wasn’t regulated and was very transactional back then,” says Chetan Bafna, founder and CEO.
“Once the buyer books a house, the relationship ends there. And after that it is the buyer chasing the developer for updates, queries and so on. After the Real Estate Regulatory Authority came in place, this online platform ended up being the most sought after for communication between buyers and developers.” However, such apps have a limited lifespan. They last only till the projects are completed. “So we integrated community-management features such as security, society administration and events in the building on the app.” Right from booking tickets for events in one’s society to lining up festival celebrations in the clubhouse, everything is done through the app.
They also have home automation services, interior designers and other services on the platform. Lockated has worked on mobile applications for Runwal, Godrej, Raheja, CBRE, Suncity, Sunteck and other developers.
Deepesh Moolchandani, assistant general manager, strategic initiative, at Kalpataru, explains how technology has made their work easier and faster at Kalpataru Park city. “Earlier there were offline channels like calling or writing emails to customer care for resolutions which would be cumbersome and a slow process.”
Their app , ‘Communiti’ now has features through which customers can log in complaints, ensure security via visitor management, do bookings of club house amenities (just like Bookmyshow) and can even express their preferences on different events such as musical or comedy shows.