Pakistani women make a substantial chunk of decisions regarding their homes, from choosing the colour of the living room curtains to picking out cutlery designs. However, while women exercise authority in domestic affairs, not many have the chance (or have the right information) to call the shots when it comes to matters like making a real estate investment. In fact, generally speaking, while it is acknowledged that a woman turns a house into a home, most women are left out of the initial process of acquiring that very house.
• Too many men? Buying or building a home requires networking with external stakeholders, including, but not only, government officials, brokers, builders, labour and vendors. Added to this it is challenging for women to go from one office to the other, one area to another, one broker to the next to gather the requisite information and find an option to suit one’s preference and budget. In cases where women have invested in real estate or built a home of their own, the decisions have mainly been based on advice given by male relatives who may have received an inside tip from a broker, or through the supervisory services of a husband, brother or father. Although assistance from male relatives has gotten the job done for many, it has not exactly empowered female investors in the true sense of the word.
• Changing times: The internet has become a powerful tool for communication and information and people now have a space to learn and to voice their opinion, and technology in Pakistan is being increasingly (albeit slowly) harnessed by local businesses to make dealing with the public easier. The same is true for the real estate sector where web portals such as Zameen.com have made house-hunting almost as easy as a few swipes of the thumb. With exclusive, real time information available round-the-clock, it’s no surprise that Pakistani women are increasingly taking the lead in making real estate decisions. For example, female traffic to Zameen.com registered a considerable hike following expositions held across Pakistan in 2014 and 2015. In fact, female web traffic spiked by 33% following the first expo held in Lahore in 2014, and went up by 1400% the following year.
• Preferences: Most brokers agree that commercial properties across Pakistan are an ideal investment avenue, offering the best rental and capital value gains. Conservative estimates show that the ratio of commercial to residential properties in Pakistan is 20:80. However, as profitable as commercial properties are, they command higher prices and require far more oversight than residential units. This is the reason why most women venturing into the real estate realm prefer to invest in residential assets. In the case of Zameen.com only five percent of traffic generated from female users was dedicated to commercial real estate, while a clear majority was on the lookout for residential plots and units.
The increasing interest by women in Pakistan’s real estate sector is not attributable solely to technology. Another major contributor is the fact that more and more women have professional careers and as a result have acquired financial independence in decision making. Online portals like Pakwheels.com and Zameen.com, which provide services such as market reports and price comparisons, have empowered women to make informed choices with their disposable incomes.
Clearly, the internet is another great opportunity for Pakistani women to keep informed and be able to break stereotypes.
Azam Butt is Editor, Zameen.com